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

The Winds of Change and a Beckoning Candle

The winds of change are blowing.

Still? you ask.

Yes.

But surely after Mess Cat moving to town, and Aub going off to college all by her big girl self, and starting Sister Circle a month ago, and the new puppy, and Sister’s adventure last week…..Tara, are you sure?  Maybe it’s just the settling you have left to do after all of THAT.

You’d think so, wouldn’t you?

But no, I’m pretty sure about this.  There’s something still stirring from within or without or around in the air above me.  Wherever, I’m fairly certain there’s still one thing more waiting on us, on me.

It might have something to do with a simple cupcake story I heard last night that made me cry those quiet, warm tears.  Turns out, after all those years of being a Daddy’s girl, maybe I’m more like my Mama than I thought. And I’m really, really okay with that.

Or I might just over think things.

A lot.

This afternoon, during a day so full of things that I really needed an entourage to keep my mini-entourage straight, Cooter asked about spelling the word “duck.”

I tried to get him to sound it out.  *sigh*  Then our Princess helped me help him figure it out.  He finally had it.  And he kept saying the letters over and over “d-u-c-k, d-u-c-k, d-u-c-k” until it ran together, sounding like he was saying, “Did you see Kay?”

Princess laughed and said, “Hey that’s how you can remember how to spell it, say that to yourself, ‘Did you–‘”

Cooter interrupted. “Or I could just write it down and look at it when I need to know.”

I laughed.  “Yeah, that could work too, buddy.”

I’m glad he doesn’t try to overcomplicate things.  Like his Mama does.

But then again, life is complicated.  Things are hard.  And sad.  And broken.  All too often.

Today we had Sister Circle.  K who came last week and encouraged me in my own art exploration was having a hard week and didn’t come in for our gathering.  One step forward, three or four back.  And T who has been there EVERY WEEK wasn’t there at all.  Someone said they haven’t seen her in a few days.  I won’t lie, I’m worried.  All the relationships she’s been in had a similar thread–abuse.  I hope she is okay.  But there’s really no way to know until she comes back in.

There are new little babies fighting against things that like to work on their tiny bodies.  Why they should have to fight so hard, and why I can’t just swoop in and fix it–I don’t know, but that’s heartbreaking and more than a little upsetting.

There are tired Mamas in this world, trying their best to care for their little ones.  Or big ones.  Or ones of all sizes.  And they don’t have the support that all kinds of Mamas need.  There are hard-working women who keep hitting a ceiling or have different expectations set for them simply because they are women.  Or they are trying to balance it all at the same time and they find out Wonder Woman is a fictional character.  No way she really exists.  Work hard, they’re labeled aggressive; not hard enough, they are acting “like a girl.”  Like the contestants on American Idol when facing the judges who all give polar opposite critiques, these women must feel very confused and more than a little bit frustrated.

There are young people trying to do what is right, to speak their minds, to share their thoughts and ideas–which are pretty good ones actually, but the adults in their lives too often either ignore these young people or don’t really hear what is being shared.

I wish I could get in my car and drive around until I find T.  I wish K was more open to talking today.  I would love to have the medical knowledge to be able to make these little babies better and stronger faster.  For healing.  I want to pick up a broom and a skillet and make life easier for these tired Mamas.  To tell them that one day it will get better.  Maybe.  And see their eyes light up for a moment that there might possibly be some truth in that statement.  I wish I could help the women struggling with their jobs or work situations or balancing it all to see just how precious they really are.  No one can do it all, but because they don’t stop trying their best, they are doing an awful lot of good in the world.  I wish I knew where Mac was and if he’s okay.  I take that back, if I’m going to wish, I wish his addiction into oblivion.

I keep hearing the Elvis song, “If I Can Dream,” playing in my head.  Written by Walter Earl Brown, the last lines of the song are–

Deep in my heart there’s a tremblin’ question
Still I am sure that the answer’s gonna come somehow
Out there in the dark, there’s a beckoning candle, yeah
And while I can think, while I can talk
While I can stand, while I can walk
While I can dream, please let my dream
Come true, ohhhhh, right now
Let it come true right now

That looking for the light–that beckoning light of hope.  I keep looking in anticipation that it is actually there.  But the lines in the middle of the song are the ones that hit home the hardest.

We’re lost in a cloud
With too much rain
Were trapped in a world
That’s troubled with pain
But as long as a man
Has the strength to dream
He can redeem his soul and fly

I’m not sure which way the winds are blowing this time or what’s coming down the pike, but I find comfort in the redeeming of my soul in the midst of a cloud with too much rain.  And l may not be able to do all the things that I dream of doing, but perhaps if I can do just one even, then maybe that will make a tiny bit of difference somewhere and become a beckoning candle for someone else.

In the meantime I find peace and joy in the laughter of littles, who are growing way too fast, being chased by a little white and black ball of fluff across the dew-covered grass.  And in the voice and writings and strength of a young woman learning to make it on her own.  And in the caring voices of those I love.  Those are the things that give me the strength to dream.  And not just stop there, but to move on to what comes next.  To do.  Because that’s what keeps the beckoning candles lit in this world.  The dreaming and the doing.

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.