Answering the Hard Question

This evening I sat with two young people and a retired friend as we listened to an amazing woman share about the hard work–the good work–she is doing to help women and men who are in the human trafficking industry.  It was a very eye opening and hard discussion.  It is heart breaking, and despite what we might have previously thought, it is very much happening right here in our community.  Not just Atlanta, or even Macon. Right here.

All the brokenness.

As we listened, the young man who sat next to the speaker looked at her with his eyes wide.  He asked, fumbling at first to find the right words, in a quiet voice, “Is there, I mean, is anyone–I mean surely–is anyone doing anything to stop this from happening at all?  How can we stop it?  What are people doing to make this better?”

Bless him.

He is not even a legal adult yet.  He is hearing about heartbreak and brokenness and darkness that has been going on since before he was born, and it was as though for the first time, he felt the weight of what is before him–and all of his generation–that needs to be fixed and made better.

Bless him.  Bless all of them.

They are looking at those of us who are of my generation, most likely, wondering why we let it get this bad.  Why the human trafficking industry is the fastest growing one, right behind drug trafficking.  They are asking us, “What have you done to make this better?”

Many will say they didn’t know. They weren’t aware. That they didn’t realize it was happening here in our country, our community.  Many see it as a foreign issue, happening only in countries far, far away.

As I heard the stories tonight, any misconceptions like that were shattered and blown away.

I can never say again I didn’t know.  And now that I know, I have a duty to answer this young man’s question–

What am I doing to stop this?

I have a lot of thinking to do about what I heard tonight.  And about the look on that sweet soul’s face, his puzzled pain over what he was hearing.  It’s wrong, and if we stand by and do nothing, it will continue to grow.  That one thing is certain.

Will you join me in thinking on this, and working on the answer to “What are people doing to make this better?”

For more information, you can visit http://outofdarkness.org

Love, much love, to all.

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via slideshare.net

“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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Turning the Page

Tonight as I toss my hand up in some semblance of a goodbye to 2014, I find myself looking ahead.

Sometimes looking back is just too much to handle.

This hasn’t been a bad year, it’s just there were firsts that were hard on the heart–and a lot to learn as I navigated the emotional and tangible aspects of living without someone I love.

So I look ahead.

I’m not looking ahead to 2015 as this set of days that will change my life, my world, my outlook.

Only I can do that.

But I am looking forward to each day as it comes.  Tomorrow, then the next, and then the next.

And in doing so, tonight I decided on my “word” to focus on each morning, noon, and night of the days in the coming year.

In the past couple of years, I’ve chosen “interruptible” and “with.”  So this year, I’m switching it up a little bit.

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and

See, I don’t want to walk into closed doors or situations and let them control me and where I can go in this life.

At the close of this year, should I still be up and walking and talking (and typing), I want to be able to say as I look back at 2015 in retrospect–

When I faced adversity (and this will happen), I kept on walking, and…..adversity didn’t dictate my next steps.

When someone’s actions were hurtful and broke my heart, instead of shutting down, I took that pain and…..I grew stronger and learned whom I could trust and love.

I didn’t let pain, loss, hurt, darkness, or brokenness have the final say.  When facing the cracks and pain in others, I showed them I cared, but I didn’t let their pain make me bitter, and…..I never walked away from a chance to love.

When I was short on time and long on to do’s, I took a deep breath and…..I got it done, one thing at a time without letting the feeling of being overwhelmed open the door to anxiety and frustration.

When I questioned the wisdom of the Universe and asked “why?,” I thought, “Okay, this may be what life has handed me, what is on my path right now, but it will not stop me.”  It happened and…..and then I faced it and did what I could do.

When I had an opportunity in front of me–

to be kind, to try something new, to reach for a goal, to give something with meaning, to share light with another,

I stopped and saw what was needed and…..I moved forward in love.

Tonight my heart is at peace as I put away one calendar and pull out another.  I know all the answers for good things and happiness do not lie in the turning of the page, but instead in the choices I make.

In the coming days, it is my fervent hope that I will not let my circumstances and situations become the final word.  I want to always follow with “and,” and then direct my own course.

Wishing you all a lovely and safe New Year’s day filled with big dreams and an even bigger, more wonderful reality right in front of you.  Make it yours and then…..

Love to all.

 

 

Checking it at the Gate

One evening last week I took Cooter to swim lessons.  It was a quiet night since there had been no swim team practice earlier.  It was just the children taking lessons, and…..

a group of ladies about to get in the pool.

Our children taking lessons were in two of the three far lanes.  These ladies walked over and started getting in the first four lanes.  They spread out and all faced the one woman in the fourth lane.  That’s when it hit me–water aerobics.

They were all shapes and sizes and ages.  Some with hats and some without.  Some with bathing suits on and others with shirts and shorts covering up their suits.  Out of the eight or so women taking the class, it was obvious that for a couple of them it was their first time.

The lady leading the class was delightful.  Really.  She was full of energy and a joy for life.  She laughed as she talked and had her students change positions and movements.  She was so interesting and fascinating to watch that I found myself watching her and almost forgetting to watch Cooter as he swam and bobbed and floated on his back.  (Almost–I did keep track of what he was doing and watch each time it was his turn.)

The women in their rows talked amongst themselves.  As the teacher lifted her arms up, she laughed.  She pointed to her arms and the way they flapped a little more than maybe she’d like them to.  “Oh we don’t worry about any of that.  Just do it.  We all check our ego at the gate over there.  Don’t worry.  No one notices anyone else’s arms or anything.”

The gate.  A place to lay it all down and see where you can get without that heavy weight.

The gate. A place to lay it all down and see where you can get without that heavy weight of ego.

Wow.

I love this woman, you know?

Today I thought back to her and her class, hoping to catch a bit of her pep talk tonight during Cooter’s swim lesson.  Then I remembered she told the other ladies there wouldn’t be class tonight.  It’s her anniversary.  I hope she’s having a blast.  From what I saw of her passion for laughter and life, I am sure she is.

What would I do if I checked my ego at the gate?  If I wasn’t worried about failing?  About what others thought?  What would I venture out and try?  What would I say I could not live another moment without knowing about?  And would I go after that knowledge, that adventure…..if my ego wasn’t in the way?

Tonight I’m thankful for the water aerobics teacher who challenged me to step outside the box.  It’s not a comfortable place to be, but it is fascinating and mesmerizing.  I’m dreaming a little bit today just because of those words–no worries, egos are checked at the gate.  Yes.  That’s really good stuff right there.  What if?

I hope you all take a moment today and ask yourself that same question–what if you checked your ego at the gate?–and then dream big and start to work making that happen.  Imagine the adventures we all could be having.  All the things we could be doing…..

Love and wishes for big chase-able dreams to all.

On Dreaming Big

There’s a woman in the Democratic Republic of Congo standing there.  In her lovely, colorful dress she stands in the middle of some, by our standards, humble dwellings.  The photographer Brandon asks her, “What’s your biggest dream?”

The woman, almost smiling as the camera clicks, replies, “To be the mother of a doctor, the mother of a minister, the mother of an engineer.”

Wow.  So there’s this amazing thing (I am not sure what else to call it) called “Humans of New York.” The photographer usually posts several photos and quotes from people throughout the day.  Right now he is on a UN World Tour, and the journey has been so beautiful and broken, I have cried or laughed at each post–and sometimes I’ve done both.  People are people all over, you know?  We are all made of the same stuff, and our hearts all break and fall and love– sometimes over the same things, sometimes different.  I follow the page on Facebook, but I guess it is based on a “Tumblr” account–something I’ve not ventured into.  I first read the woman’s story above on Facebook, and her answer touched me.  You can see her picture here.   She is beautiful and graceful and regal as she stands there, isn’t she?

And in her answer too, in my opinion.

But not everyone agreed.

I remember someone commented, “Shouldn’t her children have a say in this?”  “Why is she setting such high goals for them?  She should be happy whatever they want to do.”  And so on.

Oh me.

As a Mama, I get it.  I dream big for my children.  My Daddy once told me that each generation wants their children to have it a little better than the one before them did.  Maybe that’s it.  I want them to dream big, and I want to be right there encouraging and empowering and cheering them through to the finish line, until they figure out what the next big thing is, and off we go again.  I want them to be satisfied with where they are but never quite comfortable enough to stay there.  (Not necessarily geographically speaking, y’all. Staying put is fine, not moving is not.  There is a difference.)

I think that DROC Mama wants something better for her children too.  I think maybe something might have been lost in the translation since some folks seemed to read it another way, but looking at that picture, my heart heard what I think she is saying.  Her biggest dream is that her children will choose a path that could take them far away from the worry and strife and poverty for their own families–a path that will not only allow them to take care of themselves, but also to care for others.

Sitting here now thinking about it, I think her biggest dream is symbolic of her hope–the careers she spoke of for her children take care of the body, the soul, and their future.  All of which can give her hope that things will be better for them and for those who follow.  She wants her children to make a difference in this world, and she thought of three paths that will do just that if done with caring and compassion.

Both of which I’m hedging my bets she’s teaching them.

I’m sad that she was judged so quickly and harshly by folks here in our society–one in which the education and paths to all three of those choices are a little easier, I expect, than in the community this woman is living.  She is choosing strength and a foundation of caring for her children.

And her biggest dream is about them carrying on and making a difference.

That.  Right.  There.

Beautiful.

Her biggest dream wasn’t winning the lottery, if they even have one.  It wasn’t about owning a mansion or driving a fancy car.  It wasn’t about writing the next great highly-acclaimed novel.  It wasn’t even about having enough food on the table or clean water to drink.

She is a dreamer.  And her dream is about those she was given to love and to raise.  And it was a gift from her to them–a gift of hope blooming and them making this world a better place.

I don’t even know.

I don’t know what my own answer would be if asked that question.  I have so much.  So.  Very.  Much.

Dream?  My biggest dream?

That the world be a little less broken and that me and mine can be a part of getting it there?

Maybe?

Tonight I’m thankful for folks like Brandon at HONY who are changing our world, bringing us all a little closer together one photograph and shared story at a time.  And I’m especially grateful to my sister half a world away who taught me a big something about what matters and what real dreams and caring look like in this world.  Bless her.

Love to all.

 

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As I sat here writing tonight, this song kept going through my head.  I was a huge fan of David Cook’s as he competed in American Idol, and I LOVED this song he sang in the finale.  I guess that’s why I keep hearing “If you don’t dream big, what’s the use of dreaming?” over and over.  That and “Go big or go home.” 

Here’s the lyrics to the song with vocals by David Cook.  (The other videos had the judges’ stuff after and who needs that–we already know he WON, he’s just that fabulous.  And he’s a dreamer too…..)  Hope y’all enjoy.