the song I seek to live

as he played the guitar and told his stories in song,
the smell of coffee permeated the air,
the dull roar of the blender and quiet conversations the only other sounds in the shop

I watched him play, his fingers strong and pliable
his voice smooth and folksy
and the lyrics took me back in time
to before
all that has fractured my heart

the people walking up and down the street
through the window behind him caught my eye–
some meandering, some with purpose
singles, in pairs, in big smiling groups
enjoying the blue sky and sunshine of the lovely summer evening

and then there was the One
who approached the window timidly
his attention riveted by the guitar and the man playing it

as though in a trance he walked right up to the window
I expected to see his hand reach out and touch the glass
I wondered if he could hear the music from the outside looking in

if he could hear the words at all,
the chorus
“a place where all are welcome, all are kin”

the man through the glass turned instead and walked to the door
contemplating whether to open it I guess
and after a decisive moment he did

he smiled shyly as he entered and stood off to the side,
and it was then that I recognized him
he was not intrusive, did not sit down in the empty seat
and when invited kindly by the one who had recently lost so much
he waved his hand and looked at him and gently said, “No thank you, I’m only here a minute”

he listened to the chorus once more
“a place where all are welcome, all are kin”

and though he was only a visitor
I was drawn to the peace and joy surrounding him

then he smiled again and turned and walked out the door
headed to a place that God only knows

he didn’t look like I expected,
but then they say he never does
slipping in and out of stories,
turning them for the better,
bringing light into the darkness,

only maybe we don’t see it right away

it was later tonight, long after the sun had set
and the music faded, that my tears fell,
thankful for the timing of the One who welcomes all,
joining us during that song, touching the one who was grieving
and leaving without preaching a word

I know he turned this story
for I felt it in my heart,

and though I’m not quite sure how
I know that this evening,
that moment of watching his loving gaze
land on the one who played and the one who grieved,
will be a night that I will look back and see
as a pivotal point

to what I don’t know
I only know I follow the path
of the One who welcomes all
and makes us all kin

and I walk into the night,
for once unafraid of the darkness
singing the chorus of a song I seek to live

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“Well, What About Them?”

Today as the crew and I began the work of coming to terms with our shock and grief, we did what we have done in the past when the pain has been great. We circled the wagons and hung close together.
Aub had a couple of things she needed to do at school and I had a couple of errands to run as well, so we all loaded up and headed out.  Together.
This meant that when we got home, there were a fair number of things that still needed tending to.
I asked different children, usually in pairs or all three, to take care of one task or another.
Not once, but twice, I got the blank stare, no action, and I heard the “Well, what about _______? She/He isn’t…..”
Y’all.
No. Unh uh. Not even.
I will turn this house. Upside. Down.
Not even joking.

We are all a little tender right now, so I tried to give some grace, but just no.

What if WE ALL waited to tend to what we could do on the list of what needs doing in our world–what if we all stood around waiting on so and so to do THEIR part first, and then we’ll get on it?

I am having none of that, I tell you what.

My dear sisterfriend who left this world on Monday was having none of that either. She saw a need and she got on it. She didn’t wait on you or me to get in there and stand alongside her. She fed people, and then the rest of us joined her. She loved all, and we learned to do so too. She kept on standing up for folks who weren’t being heard, and we began to see and hear them and follow her example.

She didn’t let any dust settle around her feet. She was always moving toward the goal of following in the dust of the Rabbi,  loving and caring and speaking out for folks.

Tonight I am thankful for her and the life she lived. I am thankful for this zany bunch I get to call mine for a time.  I love them dearly at the same time that they make me question my sanity. As they stare at me, wanting to know why their siblings aren’t being called to task, I remember that we are all on a learning journey, works in progress, and I have hope. And patience. Just like my Mama and my sisterfriend and my Aunt and so many others have had with me.

May none of us ever sit around waiting for another to step in and get things started…..
Love to all.

“Owww”

Last week I was visiting with my friend Shirley, and she told me about her grandson’s day at school.

Sam has autism and apraxia.  As I know very little about the different aspects of autism, I apologize in advance for any terminology I get wrong here.  Sam doesn’t communicate verbally very much. With apraxia, Sam knows what he wants to say but the brain has difficulty coordinating the muscle movements so that he can say them.  Thankfully, after quite a wait, he now has a device that he can type in what he wants to share, and it voices it for him.  He can then practice repeating after the voice box on the device.

Shirley says this is a huge help.

So at school one day last week, Sam’s teacher heard him say “ow.”  He said it several times. “Owww.”  She became concerned, so she asked him if he was hurt.  No.  Was anyone else hurt?  No.  She asked him why he kept saying it, and he replied with his device two words.

Michael Jackson.

Wow.

I love this story so much.

Shirley says that Sam is crazy about Michael Jackson.  Being of a certain *ahem* age, I know my Michael Jackson music, and if you do too, you know how much he says “Owww” in his songs.

Bless it.

Thank goodness for music and how it reaches beyond walls that others think might separate us.  I am thankful for teachers who ask questions, and for teachers who share good stories like this one with the families.  I am especially grateful for technology that is opening doors that otherwise never would have been open.  And for little guys who embrace music and know their favorite artists–well, I just love it.  I love his spirit.

I also love that Sam’s teacher took the time to ask questions and to hear his story.  She didn’t ignore him.  She didn’t just assume.  She asked.  And what a surprise that answer was, I bet.  I hope it made her day.  I know it made mine.

May we all be just as willing to sit and listen and not to discount ANYONE.  We all have a story and a smile to share.  We just need someone willing to receive it.

Owww!

Love to all.

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Love is Always in Season

The day is here.  Everything is red hearts and pink hearts and roses and chocolates and Sweethearts Conversation hearts.

All things I can do without.

Well, maybe except for the conversation hearts.  I used to think those things had some kind of “Magic Eight Ball” foretelling ability.  And we all know the M8B knew…..

I remember the year we made a Valentine’s Day card holder when I was in elementary school.  It was two huge hearts–I think mine were blue, very telling–glued together around the edges, leaving the top open.  For some reason, we used paper folded accordion style for arms and legs and I drew a face on the heart.

Precious.  Ahem.

I don’t remember all the cards I got over the years, but I do remember obsessing over how the card was signed–“Did he write “Love, Me” or just “Me,” and did he add a smiley face or not?  Was it one of the regular-sized cards in the box or was it one of the rarer super-sized ones?   I think I was finally over V Day when, in high school, they did the big carnation sale.  At least I think that was on Valentine’s.  What a day.  There was the girl who ended the day with several carnations, some from her “BFF’s” and even more from boys who hoped to win her heart.

And then there were those of us who left for home carrying only our books and a little heavier hearts.

I’m fine really, but the pressure of the day…..It was way back then that I pretty much wrote off the day.  I’d much rather do what one of my aunts does and just give you something when the mood strikes me, and not when Kay and Hallmark and Helzburg and Ferrero Roche tell me I have to.

There was one year that was special though.  I don’t know why or what for, but Daddy had found himself at the Wal-Mart.  This was over twenty-five years ago.  I can’t imagine what need took him there–a ball of twine?  Duct tape? A case of oil?  Anyway, when he came home, he handed each of us girls a small, clear plastic ball that had a pair of (I think) knee highs in them, and said, “Happy Valentine’s Day.”  (No exclamation point there, it took a lot for his voice to rise, and usually it wasn’t good.)

Mine were lavender.

And I don’t think I ever wore them.

They were a treasure, you see, unexpected as they were, and from my most favorite guy ever.

Cooter was due at the end of February in 2007.  Since our Princess had been two weeks early, I figured he would be born on Valentine’s Day.  I joked–“Valentina for a girl, Valentino for a boy.”  It was a reasonable assumption.  Instead he was two and half weeks early and born on the 10th.  As we were spending our last night in the hospital, our night nurse, Miss Suzette, came in to weigh him.  She held him close and looked at his sweet face with the tenderest of expressions.  “He can have a Valentine’s themed birthday.”  In those moments she saw this little baby, my first boy, grow up before her eyes–something I wasn’t able to do yet, but the love in her eyes touched me, and I still remember being teary-eyed as we said goodbye.

Seventeen years ago, I spent Valentine’s Day morning at a Scrapbooking workshop.  (I was a really awesome scrapbooker for about a year or so–Aub has six months of her life in one to prove it.  *sigh*)  When I got back to Mama’s to pick up my little two-year old, Mama stopped me at the back door.  Daddy’s vehicle wasn’t there.  She told me the heartbreaking news.  My Granny, whom I adored and loved and still miss so much, had died.

She’d been sick, yes.  But still.

She was in a better place.  Oh, don’t I know it.   Celebrating with the great love of her life.  But still.

She had lived a long life.  Yeah, I guess.  But still.

Daddy had gone to her house.  To do what a child does when his/her parent dies.

As I think about Valentine’s Day, and how it is supposed to be all about love, I look back over this patchwork quilt of motley memories from this same day in the years past.  And I see LOVE written all over them.

Oh, not that the advertisers would recognize it–there’s no chocolate or diamonds or vase full of flowers.  (Not even ONE carnation, people, not even one.)

But there’s LOVE.  Of a stranger for a child she’d likely never meet again.  Of a teacher who helped each one of her students create and design and feel special on a day that could very well have one or more feeling left out.  Of a Daddy spending a dollar apiece to show his infinite love to his children.  Of a son for his mother.  Of a Mama for her daughter.  Of a Mama for her son.

Love that lasts a lifetime and not just one day.  Or season.

So if I’m not wearing red tomorrow, but have on my shirt with hearts in April, maybe you will understand.  If I shy away from all the “love” posts on social media or roll my eyes at the commercials that are intended to make you feel “less than” if you aren’t giving your love “this” or “that,” don’t be surprised.  If you ask me what the Fella and I are doing for supper on Valentine’s and I reply “heat up leftovers and watch ‘Worst Cooks in America’ or ‘Chopped’ with the littles” with a great big smile on my face, please don’t think me callous.  Or unromantic.

In the words of Bob Goff, “Love does.”

In the words of Hugh Hollowell, “Love wins.”

In the words of Jesus, “Love is patient and kind…..

In the words of my heart, “Love is not for a day or a season, it’s for always.  And for all.  Period.  The end.”

So yes, I’ll celebrate love on Valentine’s Day.  Same as I try to do every other day.

With a smile, a hug, hanging out with the ones whom I love most, and sharing the journey.  Doing and winning and loving.

 

May your day be just what you need it to be.  Make it yours.

Love to all.

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Light + Love = One

Last night at Evening Prayer we were asked to move around, sit with people with whom we had never had a conversation.  After folks moved around, we were asked to come up with things we had in common with the folks at our table.  It was interesting because our table wound up coming up with the most on our list.  (I know it wasn’t a competition–I’m going somewhere with this.)  I don’t know what the other groups came up with, but here’s an example of a conversation:

My young friend, after being encouraged to share something about herself, “Well, this isn’t probably anything anyone else does, but I do Tae Kwon Do.”  Turns out one other young man had taken for a while.  No one else had.  So instead we asked, “Who in the group can respect Tae Kwon Do and all that it is?”  Everyone nodded.  We found similarities in appreciating what was different.  I think we might have been on to something.

Until.

Later in conversation, someone at the table mentioned something about “The New Testament.”  A young man, high school age, responded, “Oh yeah, see, I can’t do that.  I don’t like it.” (I almost spewed my water.  Wait.  What?)  He kept on talking without pause. “Yeah, see I only like the King James Version.  That’s the only true word.  I don’t like any of that new stuff.”

Oh.  My.

Reminds me of a Twitter feed from “Things Bible Students Say.”  If you have Twitter and enjoy reading things that make you shake your head, follow them.  If you don’t have Twitter, it’s okay, it’s a lot of what you just read above.  From Bible students.

To the credit of all who were sitting there, no one argued or got defensive.  His opinion was respected; he has a right to his opinion and to speak his mind.  That’s what is beautiful about our service.  What broke my heart is I really don’t think this young man came up with this opinion, this line drawn in the sand, on his own.  About the King James Version, I mean. We’re just going with a communication breakdown on the whole New Testament thing.  I could be wrong, have been and will be again, but I’m betting he heard this from someone–a parent or another adult he respects.  Friends, they are listening and they are taking it all in.  For the love of what is good and right and makes common sense, please be careful what you are putting out there. (Ya got that, Tara?  *hanging head* Yes.)

I read a poem by Thom Shuman yesterday and today that touched on this.  The whole poem can be found here, but here are the words that punched me in my stomach and my conscience:

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Heartbreaking and TRUE.

Even among those who claim to have so much in common, such as the people at our table, there are lines being drawn, things we will and will not accept, things that we lay out there that keep us from being ONE.  Unity.  Community.  Communion. Respect. That’s what we are called to do, isn’t it?  Be with each other.  Love each other.

It breaks my heart to hear how those of us who claim to follow someone who was Light and Love personified are so filled with darkness and doubt and, in that, we hurt rather than love.  Like a father who chooses things over his children, all the while assisting in leading worship.  Or a family who tells their daughter her classmate and friend is not welcome in their home because she has different beliefs. Or the young woman in my Sister Circle who said she was stared at and felt uncomfortable when she walked into a local church–said she guessed she wasn’t dressed right or made folks ill at ease.  Or a kind-hearted and funny young man who insists nothing other than the King James version is acceptable. (If only he had said it’s the version he preferred–this would have turned out so differently.) The lines being drawn are only hurtful and confuse those looking to us to help share the Light and Love we follow.

I just read something my daughter wrote tonight.  It made my heart leap with joy.  (Literally, I’m skilled like that.)  As she wrote about her friends at college, she gave everyone a charge at the end of her post:

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Yes!  This.

If we could do this instead of backstabbing folks with our judgments or slamming doors of intolerance in their faces or just plain ignoring folks–if only we could do this.  Be the defensive tackles or running backs or tight ends and tackle folks with Love and Light, then, oh boy, THEN the pieces of our broken world could start healing, and maybe just maybe we could, in the words of Thom Shuman, we could be one.

(Boy that would have been so much better if I knew football positions worth a flip, huh?  Grace abounds, people, grace abounds.  Go tackle somebody. Love to all.)

Weathering the Storms

I remember when my brother first introduced me to Frederick Buechner.

He shared this quote with me, and I was hooked.  And thankful.

The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
― Frederick Buechner, A Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC

Another version of the quote is, “Vocation is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Good stuff.  And it gave me freedom to believe that I might possibly be on the right track in my life.  That’s really good stuff.

Since then I’ve been paying more attention to Mr. Buechner and his thoughts.

Many an atheist is a believer without knowing it just as many a believer is an atheist without knowing it.  You can sincerely believe there is no God and live as though there is.  You can sincerely believe there is a God and live as though there isn’t.”

-Frederick Buechner, originally published in Wishful Thinking and later in Beyond Words

That one calls for intentionality and focus in the choices we make every moment of every day.  Hard to do, but we have to try for the Light to shine through the darkness and for Love to win.

Then today there was this.

pic of buechner quote

Beneath our clothes, our reputations, our pretensions, beneath our religion or lack of it, we are all vulnerable both to the storm without and the storm within.” –Frederick Buechner

This moved me to tears.  We are all more alike than different.   It’s true, isn’t it?  We all face storms, and we need to give each other grace in that.  Underneath it all, we are the same.

Tonight I am thankful for Mr. Buechner and his thought-provoking messages. When I am facing storms it seems like people–family, friends, sister friends, even people I happen to meet for a moment–just come out of the woodwork to help me through it.  With laughter, with love, with presence.  If I will let them.  And that’s it.  Some people aren’t lucky like that–to have people who care enough to walk alongside, holding an umbrella.  And some people hold it all inside and don’t let others know about the storms.  And so they face it alone.

And that’s what breaks my heart.  For all of us.  For the ones weathering the storms alone and for those of us who don’t know…..I guess Mr. Buechner really explained it best when he said, “Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.”

This morning my friend Baddest Mother Ever reminded me of the song we sang at our eighth grade graduation: “Let There Be Peace On Earth.”

Let there be peace on earth,

And let it begin with me.

Amen.

Why I Don’t Volunteer with Homeless People

It’s  pet peeve.  I know it.

Everyone has one, so I thought I’d share mine.  I mean, one of mine.

I have many.  Like lunch and dinner are at noon–depends on what it is as to whether it’s dinner or not.  (for example, sandwiches=lunch; chicken, peas, squash, biscuits=dinner) Supper is at night.  Done deal.

When I worked at the childcare center, I always said “children” not “kids.” Not sure why, but it mattered to me.

So yeah, I don’t volunteer with homeless people.

People who are homeless?  Sure. Some are close friends of mine.  Women who are in temporary housing?  Yes.

But homeless people?  No.

Some might think it’s a matter of semantics, but the distinction is important to me.

When we say homeless people, we’re labeling.  Using their homelessness as an adjective to describe them.   I prefer to say I have friends who are homeless. That describes their situation. People first.  Always.  Because that’s who they are.  Their status is not.

Many years ago I worked with Hospice as a social worker and grief therapist.  When I went to meet a patient for the first time, I would look at the patient information sheet to see the diagnosis one time.  After that I let myself forget it.  Their diagnosis did not define who they were, and I wanted to get to know the person and family outside of that diagnosis.

Just as I want to know the person outside of their living situation.  It does not define who they are–their personality, their dreams, their favorite foods, the things they love.  It is their situation for the time being.  And that’s it.

We are more alike than different.  And in the end, that’s what counts.  Relationships.  Without the labels. That really hit home with me last week as I sat in our Sister Circle and a young woman and I shared what it was like for each of us to lose our mothers recently.  The words, the labels, only serve to separate–the homeless and the housed, the working and the unemployed, the sick and the healthy, the haves and the have nots.  Separate, things are never going to get better for any of us.  As long as any one of us is homeless, enslaved, impoverished, hungry, lost, afraid, sick–it affects all of us.

In the past week there have been a lot of quotes by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shared in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington on August 28th.  Here’s one that really spoke to me.

pic of mlk quote

Truth.  As long as any of us is without a home, sick with cancer, enslaved, lost–we all are.  As much as we’d like for these labels to separate us from the things that we fear most, we are all connected.  It’s time to rip off the labels and look deeper, invest in a relationship with the person in front of us, and get to know the person outside of the box our society tries to put them in.  When we do that, and we see with our eyes and hearts–that is the stuff that truly begins to free us all.

The Haves and the Have Nots–Thoughts on a Saturday Afternoon

Money cash

Money cash (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

I had a bank errand to run this morning.  I prefer to pull up to the window itself instead of going to a middle lane and sending my papers flying through the air over me and into the hands of the teller inside.  I’m a bit odd like that.  So I chose the longer line and settled in to wait.  It was the rare occasion of being in the car by myself, so I was listening to “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me,” and I was laughing my head off.  In the car.  By myself.  This is what crazy looks like people.

When I pulled up and placed my paperwork in the open drawer, I saw that there was one teller who was alternating between the two lines.  She looked at my transaction and then walked over to the indoor counter for a couple of minutes.  When she returned I really thought she was talking to me.  It came out over my speaker, and it’s hard to see where they are looking anyway.

“I’m sorry but we can’t cash this check.”  What?  I didn’t give you a check to cash.  “There’s insufficient funds to cover it if it’s returned so we can’t cash it. I’m sorry.”

Oh bless them.  She was talking to the people in the old truck next to me.  It broke my heart, and the wheels in my mind tuned out the game show on the radio and started turning.  How could I help?  Should I?  For goodness’ sake, they had a check written to them, and they can’t cash it because they don’t have enough money in the bank?  Shouldn’t the issue be whether or not the folks that wrote it had enough in the bank?  So what I’m hearing is that you have to have money to get more money–is that right?

What.  On.  Earth.

A couple of weeks ago I was at the gas station up the road.  While I pump, I tend to people-watch.  I saw an old, rather beat up vehicle parked near the fast food side of the gas station.  A woman walked over to the car and a man got out of the driver’s seat.  She slid across and he got in as well.  And they sat there.

I wondered if the car wouldn’t crank or if they needed gas money or if they were just meeting someone there.  It got me to thinking of the days years ago when I had car trouble and wondered how on earth we would get by.  When one of my cousins called saying she didn’t need my Granny’s Mercury Grand Marquis anymore and would I want it, I got down on my knees and cried my eyes out.  So fortunate.

I was talking with my Cousin the evening after seeing the folks at the gas station, and we struck up a conversation about the haves and have nots.

“Isn’t it ironic that the folks who most need transportation to get to and from jobs to make a living, to survive, are the ones who can’t always afford dependable transportation? ”  It’s a crazy, broken world for sure.

The concept of haves and have nots is not a fixed idea.  Compared to some, like those folks in Hollywood or some of our elected officials, I’m probably considered a have not.  But I know better.  I’m definitely a have.  And I feel very lucky to be that.  There’s no rhyme or reason why I was born in the country, state, area, family I was born in with the skill set I have.  It just is.  Oh I know it’s been up to me and my parents to make something out of what I’ve been given–believe me, I grew up with the whole “To whom much is given, much is expected” idea.  And I’m raising mine the same way.  But how to help those who are in need?

I’ve been there.  Never without a roof, but in my previous life, when it was just me and my oldest, we ate a lot of spaghetti and I mapped out where and when we went places based on the gas in my tank.  I remember one cold December my dear sweet landlord walked in the house and said, “Tara turn the heat up.  I can’t stand y’all living like this.”  And he said he’d charge less in rent that month if I would use the heat a little more.  It was an old house with really high ceilings and it was hard to keep warm.  I appreciated his kindness then and I still do now.   We had a great friendship and his offer was borne from that–it was a beautiful gift.

It’s not that I didn’t have family who would have helped.  I did and I do.  It’s that it wasn’t their place, so I didn’t ask.  They were already helping so much with my child.  I couldn’t have them doing more.  And besides, I still didn’t consider myself a have not.  Just maybe a doesn’t have as much.

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this, but it’s been on my mind a lot lately.  Especially since I’ve been spending time with my Sister Circle friends.  When I hear their stories, I am almost embarrassed to get in my roomy, running vehicle with AC and a radio and drive back to my pretty nice house.  Much has been given to me, what am I expected to do?

One of the people I respect and admire most, especially in the world of building relationships with and loving on people who are chronically homeless talked with me about this.  She cautions us against giving that $10 for the room at the boarding house.  Or the $5 for a burger.  Or $3 for cigarettes.  Once that money changes hands, we have changed our relationship–its has become one of have and have not.  It becomes a relationship based on need.  She’s right, you know.  I’ve realized this in my years of building relationships with people who have such basic unmet needs.

Again, I ask, what should we do?  What do I do?  How can we help?  In the case of someone being hungry, I know the best thing to do is not to give money for food, but instead, get two burgers and sit and eat with them–make it relational.  I read a great post about “What I should have done” here about a year or so ago.   In it Caleb Wilde writes and poses the idea that it’s easier to learn about what Jesus did than actually do it–orthodoxy being easier than orthopraxy.  I’m thinking he’s on to something.  I can sit and ponder all day what would be the right thing to do in a situation, just as committees and groups can meet themselves coming and going, discussing plans to make things better; but that doesn’t feed a soul or put a roof over anyone’s head or fix a blame thing.

Tonight I’m thankful for what I have, okay with what I have not, and wondering how to pull it all together and help someone else based on relationship without it becoming another case of the haves and the have nots.

Any thoughts?  How do you live “To whom much is given, much is expected?” in your life?

Thanks for thinking about this with me.

Just One Thing

When I was deciding whether or not to join Facebook three years ago, I went to the one whom I knew would shoot straight with me.  My Daddy.  As we sat together, I told him that I was thinking about signing up, but I wondered what kind of Pandora’s box I was opening.  I felt more compelled to join as my oldest was involved in activities that used Facebook as its main way of communicating.

Daddy sat for a minute and then answered, “Well, as long as you make it work for you, and you don’t work for it…..it should be all right.”

From the beginning I have kept his words in mind.  They apply to all sorts of situations.  But regarding Facebook, I’ve worked to keep myself from sitting in front of the computer for hours, keeping up with my friends’ and acquaintances’ comings, goings, breakfast menus, and all kinds of drama. I’ve learned not to obsess over what the vaguebookers are talking about.  I’ve tried to be conscientious about my “likes.”  I have to admit that because of Facebook I have found out about and been touched by all sorts of organizations and people who are doing amazing things to make this world a better place.  It has opened my eyes to so many ways to serve our world and be a good steward of all around us.  There’s so much brokenness in our world, but there are so many folks trying to help.  That gives me hope.

So this evening when I sat down for a few minutes and logged in, this was waiting on me:

pic of becca stevens quote

Rev. Becca Stevens is the founder of Thistle Farms and Magdalene.  From their Facebook page, here is their mission, beautifully put:

Magdalene is a two-year residential community founded in Nashville, TN in 1997 for women with a history of prostitution and drug addiction. Magdalene was founded not just to help a sub-culture of women, but to help change the culture itself. We stand in solidarity with women who are recovering from sexual abuse, violence, and life on the streets, and who have paid dearly for a culture that buys and sells women like commodities.

Thistle Farms is a non-profit business operated by the women of Magdalene. By hand, the women create natural bath and body products that are as kind to the environment as they are to the body. All sales proceeds go back into the program.

Rev. Stevens knows these women.  She’s talked with them, cried with them, and most importantly, she’s listened.  She KNOWS why these women are on the streets.  When she says a community has failed them, I know she is right.  And I find myself tearful, because I am one of that community.  I am one of the many reasons these women are on the streets.  “…..a culture that buys and sells women like commodities.”  That.  Breaks.  My.  Heart.  We have to stop this.

And there are so many other heartbreaking ways that we, as a community, have failed.  There are children who are hungry every weekend, when their weekday programs are closed.  Too often I shop for my own groceries and forget to pick up something for their weekend backpacks until I am home and it’s too late.  *whispering* I am so ashamed.  There are programs that take care of the hard stuff.  All I have to do is throw some extra groceries in my cart.  And I can’t even do that as often as I should.

A couple of days ago I was talking with my friend who works with a ministry that helps people who are homeless and in need with all kinds of resources–health, education, emotional support, job training and so much more.  We were lamenting about our friend who is now in a transitional program a couple of hours away.  He needs friends there.  Who are NOT in his program.  Who can visit him and take him to lunch and just let him know he’s important to them.  It’s a little hard to do from three hours away.  Phone calls can only do so much.  He needs to be looked in the eyes and to see that he’s Someone in the eyes of others.   My friend sighed and said she sees the same thing locally.  So many people come to her and want to “help,” but unfortunately, this means they have well-intentioned suggestions about how to do things or they come once and never come back.  There have been far too few who have wanted to offer what is needed most.  Relationships.  These people who have been failed already by the system, their families, their communities, by us–what they need most is a relationship.  To matter to someone.  To have someone to cheer them along.  To care for someone and be cared for in return  To have someone to love them when they fall.  Because they will at some point.  We all do.  This is what Jesus of the Good Book was all about.  Why aren’t more folks, especially those who follow him, jumping at the chance to be a part of something like this?

Some kind people offer prayers for these kinds of situations–these people without homes, these women who can barely eke out an existence on the streets, these hungry children and so many other broken and raw circumstances.  They ask God for an answer, for healing, for a solution.

Well, just a couple of posts behind Rev. Stevens’, I saw this one from a wonderful program that serves folks in need in North Carolina:

pic of love wins quote

Oh dear.  I was afraid it was something like that.

Because if God’s plan is us, that means I have to do more than read a Facebook post and think good thoughts for those folks.  I have to do more than be sad.  I have to get mad and get busy.  I have to find my passion and work for change.  And this is the kind of change I can actually get on board with.  And today, I did get mad.  Again.

My seventeen year old was looking at something that shows big sales on different websites.  She had clicked on a website that sold purses.  She has a thing for bags, and as most of hers come from the GW Boutique, therefore helping folks, I’ve decided to find it endearing.  (And it might be genetic.  Ahem.)  As she looked on the site, “window shopping”, I heard her sharp intake of breath.

“One of these purses is $10,000,” she said quite indignantly.  “Now that makes me wanna just slap somebody.”

Amen.

Y’all, I am not perfect.  My cup (and my closet and my pantry) overfloweth and much of it is my own fault, and I know I need to cut back.  So much of this frustration is with myself too. That I have so much when there are folks with less than nothing…..it feels so wrong.  When we live in a world, in a country, where women and men are living on the streets, subjecting themselves to all kinds of abuse and non-human ways of existing, no matter if it’s because of addiction or loss of income or what–IT. IS. WRONG.  Their voices were silenced along the way.  We don’t know their story before they became addicted, so how can we possibly condemn them for it?  All I know is I am so lucky that I had a home and family to go to when my world fell apart many years ago.  Not everyone has that.  We should not be in the business of pointing fingers but rather about the business of opening our arms.  In love.  In welcome.  In acceptance.

To all.

That means to those who are low in spirit, whether in jail, on the streets, or living next door.  It also means to the children who are ahead of us in line at the grocery store as well as the children who never see a grocery store…..or enough food in their own homes. It means taking time to figure out what makes us mad.  And working to change it.  No single person can fix it all or can even help in every broken situation.  But if each one of us did just one thing–built a relationship with just one person who was in need–I don’t know that it would fix everything, but I do know that we’d be able to see a difference.  And offer hope and set an example for those behind us.  To do just one thing.

I don’t pretend to know what your one thing is.  I’m not even sure what mine is yet.  But I do know that we need to start living like we mean it, and that we each need to have that one thing, that one relational thing.  Maybe it’s checking on a friend who’s having a hard time, offering to help a new mom who is overwhelmed, maybe it’s talking with someone in a doctor’s waiting room or using your gifts and talents to create something for someone in need.  I have no idea what your “one thing” could be.  But I do know this–it will feel right.  It might take you outside of your comfort zone for a bit, but it won’t be painful.  As the great theologian and writer Frederick Buechner wrote:  “Your vocation in life is where your greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need.”  It will look different for each one of us.

I also know that when you and I each do our one thing, it will not end there.  We must be brave and intent in our mission, giving generously and loving fiercely.  For as Mr. Buechner also wrote, “The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt.”

Just one thing.  It’s a start.