Grocery Carts, Granola Bars, and Gratitude

Yesterday as the littles and I were pushing our overloaded buggy out of the grocery store with two of us carrying additional bags that wouldn’t fit, I saw him.

The young guy.  With two bottles of water and a snazzy brand of high protein granola bars or some such.  He was in the self checkout lane.

For just a second I zoned out.

(partially because it took great effort on ALL of our parts to get our cart moving with purpose in the right direction and we had made the mistake of stopping to readjust our load)

I wondered if he’d ever find himself one day apologizing to the cashier every. single. time. he approached the checkout conveyor belt with his full cart.  I wondered if he’d feel guilty putting someone through ringing up ALL THE THINGS he had taken so long to painstakingly find, only to get up there, remember three things he’s forgotten, and decide it’s just not worth going back for.  I wondered if he’d watch closely to make sure his littles weren’t reading the trashy headlines on all those magazines on display.  (There’s just some questions you don’t want to answer quite yet. If ever.)

I wondered if exhaustion would ever overtake him to the point that he’d drive straight up to the drive thru window at the place on the other side of the grocery store parking lot, with a van full of FOOD, to order supper because the trip through the store with the littles was more than enough work for one day.  And it all still had to be unloaded at home.  And put away.

I wondered if he’d ever map out how to place all those bags of food in his vehicle, so the freezer stuff could be put away quickly but the other things not so much, as in maybe a couple of bags stay on the floor in the kitchen for a day or two, just because.

I watched him ringing up his few items, and I wondered if he’d ever use a self checkout again, later in his life, except for maybe when he is picking up items for his wife who asked him to pick up some personal things on the way home.  Or when his children beg him to let them “do it,” causing the supervising cashier to have to come over and clear things out or fix the system a total of four times during the transaction.

I thought about where he might be headed, and I wondered how long those bars would last him.  I knew the average on my cart–this not even being a full-fledged stock up trip–and I’d be back before him I was pretty sure.

For just a moment, I wanted to walk out the door with what he had and let him push this stubborn cart across those bumpy things right outside the door taking care not to fling anything off the top or bottom of the buggy.  I wanted to leave without my arms full of food, keys, wallet, receipt, and just go.

Granola bars and all.

And then I realized that if my hands were empty, my heart would be too.  As my littles helped me unload the buggy, first clearing the floor of the vehicle of all their STUFF THAT THEY ABSOLUTELY MUST HAVE ANYTIME WE LEAVE THE HOUSE to make room, and then stacking bread here, chips there, frozen stuff at the front so it could be unloaded first…..I looked at them and all the food and assorted things it takes to take good care of them, and I was humbled and near about knocked to my knees with gratitude.  I am sure that young fella has a good life.  I hope he was headed somewhere to do something good that would bring him joy.  But my life?  I’m lucky.  I have children who put up with my wackiness as much as I put up with theirs.  We’re able to afford providing food and shelter for them, and we enjoy little extras too.  We tend to get along well with each other, except when someone touches someone or goes in their room WITHOUT permission.  (Also spying on each other when playing with friends is frowned upon.)  But other than that, we’re a pretty decent bunch, and I’m quite fond of all, individually and collectively.

Some of my favorite sounds are when my oldest walks through the door, home from college, and Miss Sophie’s tail starts wagging and our Princess’ and Cooter’s tales start wagging and all the laughter and games and music and impromptu dancing ensue.

I wouldn’t miss that for all the quick self-checkouts and snazzy granola bars in the world.

This is my season for full buggies that are hard to push, hour long grocery store trips, and bags of groceries on the kitchen floor.

And for now, that’s a beautiful thing.

Love to all.

Healthy_snacks_in_cart

By Unknown photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

My Glass Was Never Empty

Saturday I had the privilege of singing the praises of two of my favorite “things” in life–

my daughter and my alma mater.

Thanks to one of my Piratefriends, I served on the Discussion Panel at Wesleyan College for parents of potential students.  This day was extra special because it was for Scholarship Day.

I love sharing about the changes and growth I have seen in my daughter since she arrived on campus in Fall of 2013.  I love talking about my years there and what our campus does better than all the others.  I just love being home.

It was a beautiful day at Wesleyan.  After the panel discussion, we all walked over to the Oval Hall for a lovely buffet lunch.  The room is already so elegant, and the place settings and beautiful desserts and delicious looking dishes made it all the more so.  We each had a glass of water and a glass of sweet tea at our place.

There were servers busy making sure no one’s water or tea glass was empty.  They kept the chafing dishes full of vegetables and chicken and salad.  They were quiet and efficient.

As we dined, the Wesleyannes came in and sang the Doxology followed by another beautiful song.  The young women all dressed in their matching gowns had voices that blended beautifully and made magic in the room.  I noticed the young woman who had kept my water-glass full standing off to the side listening.  As soon as the music was over she went right back to filling those glasses.  Her respect touched me.

A few minutes later one of the Wesleyannes stepped up the microphone to share the story of her choosing Wesleyan a couple of years ago.  The young woman server, so neat and crisp in her black and white ensemble, was standing close by.  Again she stopped and looked to the speaker.  What struck me most was the expression on her face.  She couldn’t be any older than the young woman speaking.  The emotions that this realization stirred up made me look away.

I am so lucky.

So is my daughter.

And so are every one of the young women who are enrolled at Wesleyan.

I looked at my glass.  The server was conscientious and had a good work ethic.  It was never more than half empty.

Why was it that she was working the luncheon where so many women around her age were busy making decisions and dreaming about a future in college?

I don’t know her story, really.  Maybe she’s a day student somewhere.  Maybe she is saving up to go to college one day.

But as I saw the intense respect and focus on her face, I knew that we are fortunate beyond measure.  I gave thanks once again for the sacrifices my parents made to make sure I could go to college right out of high school.  And I don’t want my children to take for granted even one day the privilege that getting an education is.  Not everyone is so lucky.

I’m thinking about the young woman who made sure my glass was always full–I hope her glass stays full as well.  I hope her life is full of love and laughter, and that she dreams big and has the resources to make those dreams come true.

Let us make today one of seeing those around us and knowing they have a story too.  And one of giving thanks for this life we are so lucky to have.

Love to all.

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#bringbackourpeace

When I entered college, some pretty scary things happened.  At the hands of the class ahead of us, all in the name of fun and welcoming us to the sisterhood, we had the bejeebies scared out of us.  And I loved every minute of it.

But today, one of the very scary ones from back then, who is really a sweetheart, shared an article that put real fear in my heart.

And frustration in my mind.

Where have I been?  Why wasn’t I aware of this before?  Have I really had my head buried in the sand, or has this story been tucked away between the pages of stories of political rants and celebrity breakups?

The story she shared was this one.  “Waves of immigrant minors present crisis for Obama, Congress.”  Oh my stars.  They are expecting an estimated 60,000 children to cross over the US border unaccompanied by an adult, based on the numbers so far.  Some as young as three years old.

Y’all.  What?!

Some of these children have a parent who is already in this country.  Some are leaving an abusive home situation behind.  Some are trying to avoid the drugs and gangs that are a huge problem in their communities.

Babies.  They’re just babies.  They haven’t had time to dream, let alone figure out how to make it on their own.

They are being put in military installations for “keeping” for now.  I have no idea what comes next.  Deportation?  Tracking down family in the US?  Adoption?  I don’t know.  But I know my heart is breaking for these children, some of whom are abused during their journey here or maybe after as well–there were 809 abuse complaints against the border patrol between 2009 and 2012.  Again, I cannot wrap my brain around this fully.  All of these children.  Homeless.  Parentless.  Without anyone to love them and hug them and encourage them.  And to listen.  Oh.  I have nothing.

Really.  Nothing.

And I wish I could fix this.  I wish I could change it.  I wish there were a fix to this that I could be a part of.   I am so lucky.  As are my children.  And it only becomes more obvious to me each day.  They, on the other hand, seem to be oblivious.  And you know what?  I’m thankful for that too.  I want them to have a childhood without all the worries of this world pressing down on them.

Well, Aub, my 18 year old college sophomore isn’t oblivious.  Most of the time she gets how fortunate she is.  Like the fact that she’s learning at a college that has been around since 1836.  In a country where higher learning for females is quite normal and accepted.  And in a lot of cases expected.

Unlike in Nigeria.

This came across my screen today.

A little over a month after 272 schoolgirls were kidnapped by gunmen in the dark of night, last Thursday twenty women were kidnapped from their settlement in Nigeria.  Three men were also taken after they tried to stop the gunmen.

#bringbackourgirls

Yes, my heart cries out.

But I’d also like to start this.

#bringbackourpeace

In the wake of yet another school shooting and women being taken as though they have no rights to lives of their own and little ones traveling on a journey they have no idea how it will end–all by themselves–

please.  Bring back peace.

What breaks my heart the most in all of this is a selfish thing.  It’s that I can’t change it.  I can’t fix it.  I can’t make it stop or make things better.

Oh if I only could.

And so I ask, what can we do?  To take care of these motherless children coming to this country looking for a better way of living?  To protect those half a world away from being taken from their homes by people with guns, and therefore power, and made to submit to a life not of their own choosing?  To protect our own children and friends and family whose lives are being taken away by people with intent and weapons and no respect for human life?

 

I don’t know.  But I am encouraged and thankful for the thoughts of my blogger friend at “My So Called Glamorous Life: The Adventures of a Domestic Engineer:”

  I don’t know what we can do, what anyone can do, but I refuse to believe that this is a lost cause.

Here’s to hanging on to hope, keeping our heads out of the sand, refusing to let fear take us over, and reaching for peace.  Always.

Love to all.

Mac’s New Shoes and My Questions for God

My phone rang early this morning.  I had it set on vibrate but I could hear it echoing in the drawer I had left it charging in overnight.  I picked it up.  Mac.

I breathed a sigh of relief.  He usually comes to Daybreak around the time for Sister Circle on Tuesdays to visit and catch up and get (give) a hug and share a fist bump with Cooter.  But yesterday he wasn’t around.  I asked a few folks, and no one had seen him recently.  It was the last pretty day before some lousy weather so I was hoping he was just enjoying it and that everything was okay.  Then someone mentioned they’d heard he was in the hospital but they couldn’t remember…..was it two weeks ago?  Or two days?

It took me a moment to clear my throat and say Good Morning, I was so relieved.  He had been working on rain and cold-proofing his camp yesterday, as best as he could.  He apologized for missing seeing us.  He’d gotten so busy, and when he looked at his watch it was 4 p.m.–almost time for Daybreak to close up for the day.

I understood.  Time flies.  It happens to all of us.

He said he was going to hang around the shelter this morning and then walk several blocks over to eat lunch at the soup kitchen at a local church.  This is no small feat for him.  He struggles to walk even short distances most of the time, as his knees can give out on him.  Even sober, he looks wobbly when he walks.  As it was rainy and the roads were slick this morning, I asked if maybe there would be a shuttle to take everyone over.  He said no, they didn’t have such as that.  “I’ll walk.  I do it most days anyway,” he said.

Turns out he had been in the hospital.   On Sunday evening.  He was having seizures again.  That happens if he doesn’t take his medicine.  And without insurance and a regular doctor, he doesn’t have access to taking his medicine regularly.

When he started having the seizure one of his friends called 911.  An ambulance came and picked him up.  Instead of taking him to the downtown hospital or the one just a little ways up the road from where he stays, they took him all the way across town to the hospital on the north side of town.

“What?” I asked.  “That’s all the way over near Wesleyan.”  I cannot imagine what their reason was for that.  It can be a twenty minute drive on a good day.

“Yeah, that’s where it is.  They discharged me at 7 p.m. Sunday evening, but since it was already dark and I didn’t have anyway to get back to my camp, they let me stay in the lobby.  I left about 7 Monday morning and started walking back.”

“You walked all the way across town back to downtown?” I was blown away.

“Yeah.  It took me near about all day, but I did it.”

Y’all.  I can’t even.

We talked about some resources that could be available to help him get his medicine prescription regularly, so I hope that will get better for him, and that he will be stay on the medicine, warding off future seizures.

Then he changed gears.

“Hey, I know God is good and everything, right?”

After everything he’d just told me and he was still singing praises?  Okay, I had to hear this.

“Yeah?”

“Well I was at the terminal the other day, right, and I walked by a trashcan and in it was a brand new pair of shoes.  In the box.  Can you believe that?  In a trash can?”

Wait, what?

“Wow, Mac, that’s amazing.  Were they your size?”  Here’s where I am, I’m expecting that they pinch his toes slightly or they flap around a little but they’ll be fine.

“Yep, my size exactly.  Fit perfectly.  And it was a good thing, because them other ones were starting to fall off my feet.”

Oh, ye of little faith sister.

My friend was thrilled with his shoes and he trusts that God meant for him to have them, to find them there in that trashcan.  After we hung up with his promise to meet me next week, my mind’s eye kept playing back to a moment yesterday.  I was driving across the Spring Street bridge before Sister Circle, and I saw Mac’s best friend, JJ.  He was walking along the edge of the bridge, carrying a bag from McDonald’s.  When I told Mac I’d seen him, he laughed and said he hadn’t seen JJ in a while, and that the bag was probably empty.  I asked why and he just laughed it off.  I guess that’s a story for another day.

As I saw JJ in my memory, my heart asked my head a question I still can’t answer.

Why would God give Mac new shoes and leave JJ out hustling for food over near the bridge? 

I don’t have an answer, and I’m not sure I’d like any that anyone offered me.  My heart says it’s not so sure that those shoes were from God.  I have something that I have said a lot lately, it seems.  Pardon my grammar, but here it is:

Sometimes it just be’s that way.

Sometimes someone who needs something happens upon something they need.  Sometimes they meet someone willing to help.  And sometimes, more times than I care to think about, they don’t.  They wind up eating out of the Pizza Hut dumpster out back–“folks throw away a lot of good food, you know”–or they beg for money so they can buy a burger.  Or a beer.  The burger fills the void in the stomach.  The beer makes you forget that void and all of the others.  For a while anyway.

The thing is that I am glad that Mac thanks God for those shoes.  I would not take that away from him for anything in this world.  I just don’t know that I can bear to believe that kind of theology in my own life.

Very recently there was an accident.  Two vehicles. One person was killed.  The other one was in critical condition and just recently was discharged to continue healing at home.  In a conversation about how awful the whole thing was and how prayers are needed and how wonderful it is that this person who could very well have been killed is home now, someone said, “Oh Someone had His hand on him.”

Oh my.

I wanted to cry.  And cry out.  Where was that Hand for the person who was killed?  Why put a Protective Hand on one and not on the other?  God, what is all that about?

And again, the only way I can find my way out of that heart-wrenching question and answer and guessing game, is to say, “Sometimes it just be’s that way.”  I’m sorry, I just can’t believe that God chose one over the other.

Anymore than I can believe that God chooses for one child to be born healthy and another to be born with a life-threatening disease.  Or that God chose to take my Daddy, whose healing was prayed for by so many loving friends and strangers, “because He needed him more than I did” and left other people here to live.  Or that one dedicated, faithful student could be in a hospital bed fighting for her life but God “protected” the other student who chose partying over studying.

I just can’t wrap my brain around theology like that.

“Sometimes it just be’s that way” is a lot easier to accept.

But then again, I think my Aunt is probably right on target when she tells me with regards to all of these mysteries, “I think we are all going to be surprised.”

And for a cold, wet, and rainy Wednesday, that will have to do.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Related Post:

“Why I Am Not Blessed”  https://imightneedanap.com/2013/05/17/why-i-am-not-blessed/

Why I Am Not Blessed

In Japan, the Maneki Neko is the Lucky Cat.

In Japan, the Maneki Neko is the Lucky Cat.

Twenty years ago I worked as Director of a childcare center for low-income working families.  As the day started, and we would greet each other, we would usually call out, “Hey, how are you?”  One member of the staff, the assistant cook, would always smile and answer, “Just blessed, and you?”

It took some getting used to.

Eventually, as time passed, I barely noticed.  I did stop to wonder sometimes if she really felt that way or if she were answering by rote.  Not that it was my business, I just wondered.

Last night I got to have supper with a great friend and writer, Ashley of Baddest Mother Ever.  Somehow in the midst of laughing about video games we could so market and sell and sharing our experiences with grief, we got on the subject of blessed and lucky.

I’ve thought a lot about it, as today was not the first time.  So, just to clarify, I looked up the definition of blessed:

bless·ed  

adjective 1. consecrated; sacred; holy; sanctified: the Blessed Sacrament.

2. worthy of adoration, reverence, or worship: the Blessed Trinity.

3. divinely or supremely favored; fortunate: to be blessed with a strong, healthy body; blessed with an ability to find friends.

4. blissfully happy or contented.

5. Roman Catholic Church , beatified

I am most definitely NOT blessed.

Okay, with the exception of definition number 4 from time to time.

Then I looked up the definition of lucky:

lucky  

adjective \ˈlə-kē\ luck·i·er luck·i·est

1: having good luck

2: happening by chance : fortuitous

3: producing or resulting in good by chance : favorable

4: seeming to bring good luck <a lucky rabbit’s foot>

Here’s where I have a problem.

If I can say on a day that I don’t get a flat tire, someone pays for my coffee in the drive-thru, and my children actually obey the first time they are asked to do something…..if I can say I am blessed on a day such as this, what do I say on a day when my cat is sick, the freezer breaks down, and I am almost out of gas in my vehicle?  Am I cursed?  If so, then who’s doing the blessing and who’s doing the cursing?  As blessed as green lights, my favorite song on the radio, or a great find at the GW Boutique can make me feel, I just don’t think God is into all of that.

I started thinking a lot more about this when we began going to the Sunday night suppers for folks in need at the park.  How was I not in their shoes?  My oldest daughter and I, years ago, were in a bad situation.  We had family to go to, but was that because we were lucky?  Or blessed?  Many of my friends would say “blessed.”  And I can respect that.  I hope they can respect that I say we were lucky.  Because for me, blessed would imply “worthiness, holiness, or being supremely favored.”  And if that were the case, why us?  Why not the woman with the thirteen year old daughter who comes each week to the shelter and barely speaks as her daughter gets them each a hot chocolate?  Do I tell them I’m blessed, or do I just consider myself pretty darn lucky?

Here’s how I see it–blessed is a passive word.  It implies that I am being blessed by someone.  I can use it in that sense just fine.  My cousin blessed me by giving me Granny’s car when my old one broke down and I was in a bind.  My friend blessed me with her laughter and words of wisdom when my spirits were down.  I am a-okay with that usage.  What gets me is when people used Blessed with a capital b.  Blessed by God.  Because then that becomes us-them.  I am blessed, and “he/she/they” are not.  That means that the all-loving God that I believe in has chosen to bless me and…..not the mother whose teenage daughter is pregnant, putting an end to the dreams of a different life for her child……not the man who sat night after night in the park, fighting his yearning for alcohol, asking God to take the taste away from him……and definitely not the foster child whose 18th birthday is coming, and she has nowhere to go but the streets.  Why are their lives so different than mine?

I’m lucky.  And that’s where it stops.   I can’t go there.  That I have been chosen and someone else has not.  It just doesn’t geehaw with me.  I am. Not. Worthy.

I have a child with a health issue that affects what we get to do, where we can go.  It’s a hassle.  Is it something that she or I feel cursed by?  No.  And neither do I feel that my other two children are blessed because they don’t have the same issue.  If I had to tell my baby girl, sorry, they are blessed, you are not, I can only imagine that the first words out of her mouth would be–why?  What did I do?  I’m sorry, but that kind of theology can mess a person up.

And that’s the thing.  I think we are here to bless each other.  Hugh Hollowell, founder and director of Love Wins ministry, writes about prayer in his post here.  This gave me something to think on back in 2011 when Daddy’s lymphoma was winning and my faith grew shaky and shakier.  At the end, Mr. Hollowell shares his belief that while people wait on God to answer their prayers, God is waiting on us. He writes: “We are the means by which God brings heaven to earth.”

Today I visited with a sweet older couple in a small town south of here.  I played with their daughter when I visited family there when I was little.  She died tragically when we were teenagers.  I hugged their necks and cherished their smiles and was thankful that I could be with them, if only for a few moments.  Y’all, it broke my heart.  I am here, and she is not.   I really don’t know how to understand the brokenness in this life.

I do not think that I am Blessed by God as I go on this journey.  I know that I am very lucky, and I have been blessed by friends and family along the way.  And I am LOVED by God just like every other human being on this planet.  I think we are put here to love each other and to help wherever we can…..if we are able to do that, we are lucky…..and that is where the blessing comes in.