Because It Looks Like Y’all Have it All Together

Some days I feel like I have a good grasp on this journey, this life.  It’s not an everyday thing by any means, but there are days when I feel like I’m headed in the right direction, down the right path–in raising my family, educating them, taking care of things around the house, and in figuring out what I’m going to be when I grow up.

And then there are all the other days, where I count myself lucky if the littles are fed, the math is mostly done, the dog doesn’t have an accident indoors, and the house is still standing.  Even if we have to get creative on clothing choices because the laundry needs doing, I call it a win and move on.

Oh so many days like that.

It seems like everyone else has it all together sometimes, you know?  My Daddy used to say, “You compare, you lose,” and I know he’s right, but sometimes it’s hard not to.  You all look like things are trucking along just fine for you.

And then there’s me and the cacophony of ideas and thoughts and emotions running through my heart, mind, and soul.

So not together.

I picked up a book to read about men who changed the world.  I am interested to see who their examples are, as this is a book for young people.  Since I have been concerned, wanting to be sure I’m sharing good stories and role models with Cooter like I do with our Princess, I did some searching and found this particular book.

As I flipped through for a quick minute today, I came across this quote from Badshah Abdul Ghaffar Khan, a Muslim leader who led the world’s largest nonviolent force–100,000 people–for social reform in his country.

From "Akira to Zoltan: Twenty-Six Men Who Changed the World" by Cynthia Chin-Lee  http://www.amazon.com/Akira-Zoltan-Twenty-six-Changed-World/dp/1570915806/ref=pd_sim_b_3?ie=UTF8&refRID=1W3CXFY2R8FTYB8C2KTB

From “Akira to Zoltan: Twenty-Six Men Who Changed the World” by Cynthia Chin-Lee
http://www.amazon.com/Akira-Zoltan-Twenty-six-Changed-World/dp/1570915806/ref=pd_sim_b_3?ie=UTF8&refRID=1W3CXFY2R8FTYB8C2KTB

“No true effort is in vain.  Look at the fields over there.  The grain sown therein has to remain

in the earth for a certain time, then it sprouts, and in due time yields hundreds of its kind.

The same is the case with every effort in a good cause.” 

–Badshah Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1890-1988)

Oh these words.  How they touched me–had my soul doing an about-face.  Picking myself up, dusting my britches off, and saying, Okay, maybe I can do this.

One more reminder that things won’t necessarily happen in my time, according to my “script.”  One more reminder that things won’t always be this way. One more reminder to take a chill pill and be where I am, who I am.  Making true efforts for a good cause.

Tonight I am thankful for the words of others that I write on my heart.  The ones that others say, I don’t suppose I will always know the why of their words, but I do know what they do for me.  I wish I could have words like these and others that touch my being painted all over the walls and mirrors of my house.  Where I could see them and be reminded–keep up the good efforts.  Keep planting.  You may not see the harvest right away, if ever, but it’s there.  So much going on within, even though we can’t see it.  Growing under the ground…..growing strong and one day will yield “hundreds of its kind.”

What a beautiful picture that paints for me.

Y’all, let’s go out and sow some good stuff.  What does that look like?  I’m not sure.  How about we start with smiling at someone who looks like they could use it?  Take the time to text or call or email a friend with a meaningful, truthful message about how they are loved.  Or with a joke that you know they’ll love.  Even greater things will come from it one day–maybe not on our timeline, not when we had planned, but one day greater things will come because of it.  And until then, we just keep making those true efforts in a good cause, even if that means sitting quietly.  And waiting.  *sigh* Did someone ask for patience?

Love and best wishes to all.

Why Even Bother?

Life is confusing.  And hard.

Especially explaining it to your children.  About how life doesn’t have to be fair.  About how most of the time it’s not.  And no amount of indignation is going to change that.

People make poor choices.  Every moment of every day, someone is making a poor choice.  A choice that may or may not have any consequences.  For them.

And yes, I know.  You have gotten caught at anything you’ve ever tried.  You’re the one who always gets caught and “they” never do.

It’s something of a catchphrase around here–“Sometimes it just be’s like that.”

And no amount of indignation is going to change it.

It’s like the deputy who sat at the end of our street yesterday.  Our DEAD END STREET.   And he waited.  Turns out he was watching for folks who did not come to a complete stop.  At the last stop sign before the last cul-de-sac on a cul-de-sac.  Ahem.  Slow day in town I guess.   (Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about safety, but his three hours at the end of the street seemed a little excessive-we seriously don’t have that many folks in and out around here.)  Anyway, there are people who do the California roll every single time at that stop sign and they totally missed getting caught by him yesterday.  Maybe they didn’t come home during his hours with us, or maybe they saw him in time.  Whatever, they didn’t get in trouble.  And then there were others–the mom rushing home to check on something or the dad who came home quickly to meet his daughter’s bus–who might always come to a complete stop, but yesterday, well…..not so much.  And they got a warning or a ticket or whatever.  They got busted.  And the others? Most likely will continue to roll through and maybe nothing will ever come of it.

And worrying over it won’t do any of us a bit of good.  It just is what it is.

I get being angry.  I get the frustration.  Princess thinks Cooter never gets in trouble for what he does and vice versa.  The truth is each one of them gets reprimanded when and where appropriate and repercussions follow.  But in the big, outside world, I’ve known folks who seemed charming and delightful but were mean as snakes on the inside and no one ever held them accountable for their actions.  Maybe no one ever will.  I have to let it go.  The eating me up inside only makes me hollow.  Doesn’t hurt them one little bit.  And that’s why I know I have to stop.

So why bother?  If it doesn’t even matter, maybe I can get away with it too.  Is that what you are thinking?  I guess I can understand that.  But I’ve been thinking on it and I read something today that made me think on it even more.

In “Whistling Past the Graveyard” by Susan Crandall, one character has the potential to be in real big trouble even though what happened was done to protect the lives of others and it just couldn’t be helped, really.  A friend tells this character to go on, run, that the tracks would be covered.  The person who could be in all that trouble replies, “…..A body can’t run from what they done.  They carry it with them inside.  It fester and spread like poison if it’s buried.  It gotta be out in the air where it can heal…..Someday you understand that too.”  (p. 262)

Amen.  If you done it, you done it, and you have to carry that in your heart.  It really doesn’t matter if you get caught or not.  It has to be let out for you to be able to live and breathe and move on.  For you to be whole.

So what is life all about?  Why bother? Why do the right thing, why make any effort at all if you don’t have a cheering section for all those right things you’ve done in life?  Why try if the only time you slip up, there’s suddenly a glaring spotlight on that and no one remembers everything else you did that was right?

Eula in “Whistling Past the Graveyard” had an answer for that too.

“Well, now, we can all do better.  That’s why we get up every day, to try and do better with the good Lord’s help.”  (p. 242)

That right there.  Truth.

That’s why you do what’s right.  Not so you can be noticed.  Not because we are afraid of being in trouble or getting caught or what other people will think.  Because of that.  Because we can.  Because we know better.

I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s worth repeating.  Mama and Daddy used to say quite often, “If you know better, do better, and folks will like you better.”

And another reason, from C. S. Lewis:

20130928-233221.jpg

That’s what it’s about.  No matter who is or isn’t watching, do what you know is right.  And if you aren’t sure, do the best you have with what you have in that moment.  It won’t always be easy, but it will always be the thing to do so you can get up and face that mirror day after day, look yourself in the eye and hear the echoes of folks in the past, and know that you have nothing to answer for that you haven’t already.  And that is worth more than gold or silver or whatever is the next big thing.  That is worth everything.

Does the Mayor Know About This?

Official seal of City of Macon

Official seal of City of Macon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last Tuesday was election day in Macon.  There were signs all over for the Mayoral race.  Pretty heated I think, with a former mayor running against the current mayor, with several others thrown in to keep things really interesting.  And all of this being beside the point, as I don’t live or vote in Bibb County.

However, as we drove on election day from the more affluent side of Macon to the destitute visage of downtown, I guess our Princess noticed the signs and asked some questions.  Like, what were the signs for? (election) What does a mayor do? (help run the city) She knew about voting because both she and her brother joined me during the last election I voted in.

Finally she asked, as we headed toward Daybreak for our time with our Sister Circle, “Mama, does the Mayor even know about all the people who are homeless?  All the ones who don’t have enough to eat?  Does he even care?  Does he want to help them?”

Bless her.

These questions were asked with such imperative sincerity that it made me just about cry.  She struggles with the idea that people could be without homes, even after three years of hearing their stories and getting close to people in these circumstances…..she still can’t understand why.  When she sees empty houses, she is convinced that is the solution.  All those for sale out here where we live?  That could solve the problem.

I listened to her questions and told her we could talk to our friend who helps run the programs at Daybreak to see if she thought the Mayor knew.  Then I asked her if she would talk to the Mayor and tell him if he didn’t already know.  She was reticent at first, but I believe she would.  She feels just that strongly.

Before the Sunday night suppers we volunteered with joined up with Daybreak, it was known as “Come to the Fountain.”  My littles know that, as there have been a few occasions where we gathered downtown to serve dessert and coffee on Thanksgiving or breakfast at Christmas.  But I don’t know if they knew the story of why it was moved to Central City Park before Daybreak was built.  This afternoon on our way home from Sister Circle and Daybreak, they started asking me about it.  I told them the truth as I knew it.  That some of the downtown businesses would rather not have folks who are in need, as our friends are, hanging around where their potential customers could see them.

Oh the beauty of innocent indignation!  “What?” our Princess asked.  “Are you kidding me?  Does the Mayor know about this?”

I love her.

I love that she thinks that one person in charge can make a difference and would even want to.  I love that she is on her way to being a champion for those who, for whatever reason, can’t or don’t have a voice.  She can be such sunshine and joy in our lives, but when she gets her mind and heart stuck on something, she’s much like a teething puppy grabbing one’s pants leg.  Ahem.  She just won’t let go.  She genuinely cares and her heart is troubled.  She is not going to stand by and let things just happen.  Not if she knows it’s not right.  She’s a lot like her big sister in that respect.  I am so thankful and scared to death to be raising these strong women.

I really don’t want to mess this up.  I want to do the right thing for her.  I want her to know she is being heard–that her voice matters, even at her age.  Her thoughts are important, and I want her problem-solving skills to continue to grow.  I wonder how much longer I will let these questions go on before I make a call to the Mayor’s office and set up an appointment.  And I wonder how he will respond to the advice and thoughts and suggestions of an almost nine year old.

Eh, he’s probably had worst advisors.

Just sayin’.

Folks, y’all go and let your voice be heard.  About things that really matter.  And take some time to listen to the voices of those around you.  It’s going to take all of us getting mighty creative to straighten this mess out.  As we talked about in our Sister Circle today, the seventh principle about living gracefully in community is, as written by the Magdalene women of Thistle Farms, “Make a small change, see the big difference.”

It doesn’t matter how small, whether nearly 9 or 19 or 97–all voices matter.  And can make the change the world so craves and needs.  It all starts with listening.

The 7th principle of living gracefully in community from the women of Magdalene of Thistle Farms.  www.thistlefarms.org

The 7th principle of living gracefully in community from the women of Magdalene of Thistle Farms. http://www.thistlefarms.org

I Hear Voices

One day over a year ago, we were up at the day shelter with our friends, wrapping up a meal.  Only a few folks remained, and we were hanging around visiting.  One of our friends, whom we love dearly, but who can be a bit eccentric at times was talking, and then he said, “I hear voices.”  I looked at another of our friends, who almost spit his food out, trying to hold his laughter in.  Our eccentric friend continued, “Yeah, I really like that song.  It’s by Chris Young.  It’s a good one.  Have you heard it?”  He and Aub then launched into one of their many, many conversations about country music.

Well, okay then.  I am sorry.  I was going in a “whole ‘nother” direction on that one.

It is a good song–about the voices holed up in his head, giving him advice.  If you haven’t heard it, or if you love it and want to hear it again like I did tonight–here’s the link to the video.

The lyrics are here.  A really good song.

So today I’ve been hearing voices in my head.

Our princess has been affected by the unseasonably cool weather.  I mean we’re barely hitting 90 the past few days.  This girl is ready for a picnic.  Today on our various adventures with the Zoo Crew (aka the littles and Aub), we have passed by cow pastures, complete with cows and calves and a pond for cooling off in, a manicured yard of an apartment complex, and a couple of other beautiful lawns with trees and flowers.  Each time, “Mama, let’s pack up a picnic and come back here and have one, okay?”

And each time, I said, “It’s not your property.  We can’t have a picnic there.”

Tonight as we passed one more beautifully landscaped area on our way to the library, she responded with a little bit of a whine, “Mama, how come every time I see a beautiful place to have a picnic, you say ‘it’s not your property’ and we can’t have a picnic there?  I want to have a picnic.  We haven’t had one in the longest.”  And she’s right, we haven’t.  But there’s a time and a place…..and if it ain’t your property, it ain’t the place.

Two years ago, after Daddy fell and broke his hip, he fought hard to get back up on his feet.  Unfortunately the lymphoma was affecting large motor skills, and he just wasn’t able to get up and about like he had hoped.  I spent a lot of time sitting in the living room where his bed was, visiting and talking.  One day I was telling him about how disgusted I was with the builders in this area.

“There just won’t be a single tree left when they get done, Daddy, I mean it.  I’m sick of seeing all these little copse of pines disappearing.  They could at least try to work around them.”

He listened.  And I continued on my rant. “Just like there’s a lot down the road from us–and there’s this little pine sitting there, not even three feet tall.  It could grow big and strong, but I bet you anything they’re going to just run right over it.  You know what, Daddy?”

He shook his head.  “What?”

“I think I’m just going to go over this evening and dig that little tree up and rescue it.  Don’t you think that’s the thing to do?  Poor little tree is just going to get destroyed when they start building, I am SURE.”  I was getting warmed up but good.

Daddy shook his head again.  “Don’t you do it.”  What?  “Is that your tree?  Is that your property?”

“Well…..no sir, it’s not but…..”

“But nothing.  It’s not yours.  It’s not right.”

“So Daddy, are you saying I need to ask the builder if it’s okay?”

He shrugged and then nodded.  I kept looking for a loophole.  Some of my people used to say I missed my calling to be an attorney, but that’s a story for another day.

“So Daddy, what if I can’t find him.  I don’t even know who it is.  What if they’re about to run the tree over?  Just let them?”

He looked down at his hands.  “It’s not yours to do anything with.”

And he was right.  So I set out to watching the lot up the street.  And as luck would have it, one afternoon when I was leaving my house, there was a man walking around on the lot, talking on a cell phone.  I got out of my vehicle.  He looked a little uncertain, excused himself from his caller for a moment, and said, “Can I help you?”

“Yes sir, are you the builder?”  He nodded.  SCORE!

“Well, I was just wondering, see, there’s a little pine over here on the side and I was wondering if I could have it–I mean if you aren’t going to leave it for the yard or anything–it looks like it might be where a driveway would go, but I can’t be sure…..”

I don’t know if it was to hush me up or if he really wanted to get back to his caller, but he looked and scrunched his face up in thought, looked at the sky, and FINALLY said, “Yeah, sure, you can take it.”

“Oh thank you sir, thank you so much.”

That afternoon I told Daddy my story.  He shook his head in disbelief and laughed.   When I was in first grade, each day after school he would ask me if I had told my teacher that my Daddy wasn’t old enough to have a daughter in first grade.  And each day I would reply “no sir.”  I was too embarrassed to tell her.  Until almost the end of the school year.  And when he asked just as he had everyday, and I answered, “Yes sir, I sure did,” he laughed and had the same expression as he did when I told him about my pine tree.  It was fun to know I could still surprise him.

And so that evening my crew and I rolled our wagon and a pot up the road with a shovel and I dug out our little pine.  He is still growing in a pot on my front walk, but I have a feeling he’s about ready for his new home out at Blackberry Flats, where I grew up.  He’ll have a lot of family out there.

So today, as I told my princess why we couldn’t have a picnic at the cow pasture or in someone’s yard, I heard Daddy’s voice and laughter in my head just as I have so many times in the past two years.  It’s just not our property.  End of discussion.

I also heard Mama’s voice today.  Growing up, whenever we got to scrapping with each other or complaining or in general being sassy, Mama would often sigh and say, “I’m sure you’re all really very wonderful.”  This was a line from a children’s play at Wesleyan many, many years ago.  I don’t remember much about the storyline, but I do remember there was a good witch, much like Glinda from Wizard of Oz.  When all of the characters got to bickering, she would exclaim in her high-pitched singsong voice, “I’m sure you’re all really very wonderful.”  Mama loved it.  If I had a nickel for everytime she said it over the years…..well, you know.

Yeah, I so outgrumped him today

Yeah, I so outgrumped him today

Anyway, today I could have won a grump contest with Grumpy Cat.  I have been frustrated, disappointed, upset, grief-stricken, madder than an ol’ wet hen, and…..this is how bad it was…..I almost replied to someone spreading foolishness through social media. *gasp*  I know.  Just walk away from the keyboard, Tara.  And I did, but I’m still itching to leave a good one-liner.  Only problem is, I know it wouldn’t end there.  So I leave it alone.

If it weren’t for three wise women guiding me today with conversation and truth, with their love and kindness and compassion, I probably would have really and truly lost it today.  I was headed straight for ugly.  And then I heard Mama–“I’m sure you’re all REALLY. VERY. WONDERFUL.”  Ahem.  (That was her clearing her throat there.  ‘Cause she would do that too after she said it.  And that’s when you knew it was serious.)  This was her code for step back, regroup, and act like you are somebody.  Yeah, that was another line of hers.  Very important.  Not act like you’re better than anybody–EVER.  But act like YOU are SOMEBODY.  The end.

So tonight, like Chris Young and his co-writers Chris Tomkins and Craig Wiseman, I give thanks:

Turns out I’m pretty dang lucky

For all that good advice

Those hard-to-find words of wisdom

Holed up here in my mind

And just when I’ve lost my way

Or I’ve got too many choices

I hear voices

Call me crazy, but I’m thankful I hear those voices.  Some days they’re just what keeps me sane.