TRASH

New Year’s Eve. 2018.

So much to think about and ponder upon and yet, I remember the old wives’ tale about sweeping. Don’t sweep on New Year’s Day or you’ll sweep someone out of your life. I don’t want to review memories and stories and sweep them back into my memories. And so I find myself not wanting to become all maudlin and auld lang syne-ish. I’d like tomorrow to be just another day, albeit wonderful as I will be surrounded by many of my favorite people, and make the best of it and try to leave the world a little better place at sunset than I found it at sunrise–just as I hope to do for the other 364 days of 2019.

“This is the day that the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

My Mama sang these words out more days than not, challenging us to find joy in each day and not take a single one for granted. She especially loved to remind us of this when we got down in the dumps.

With four children born in a nine year period, there were a lot of those days when at least one person needed that reminder.

So as I wish you all a Happy New Year, I offer you Mama’s greeting–Happy Everyday! And in keeping with my New Year’s Eve tradition, I share with you my Word for 2019.

TRASH

When I realized this morning what today is, I realized I hadn’t chosen a word yet, and I even thought about not choosing one. It was then that the word TRASH came to me.

Ummm, say what?

I wondered if it was an acronym for something that I was supposed to learn from. Truth…..Trust…..Respect…..ummmm, I don’t know. That didn’t feel right.

I thought about the literal trash that we put out by the curb every week and how it gets picked up by people who are too often under appreciated and who show up. We don’t always notice that they show up, but we sure do if they miss us, don’t we? I want to be present and notice the folks who show up. I don’t want to take them for granted. I also want to be that person who shows up for other folks.  For the big things and the small and all those in between.

I thought about the “trash pandas.” We have quite a few around here, as we live backed up to woods. One might say, and I have, that we invaded their home. We have some who come up and snack on this or that and they seem to think cat food is some kind of fine dining. Over this holiday season, the littles and I have had a basket of water, Gatorade, seasonal snack cakes, and chips in a basket for the people who deliver packages over the year. (The world’s best elves I call them.)  One night when I was locking up rather late, I noticed the basket was still on the porch. I saw two empty plastic cellophane wrappers on the porch next to the basket. I immediately just KNEW what had happened. Some little trash panda/raccoon had come up and discovered our little treasure trove and rushed back to invite a friend to join her. And together they’d shared a little joy…..and a lot of sugar.

I want to be like that little trash panda. I want to go and find someone to share in the treasures I come across. Joy multiplied, sorrows divided–that was something else my Mama talked about a lot. And y’all knows there’s a lot of joy in some Little Debbies and Oatmeal Pies.

I thought about the trash we come across in our day to dailies–and how important it is to make sure we put it in the trash can and get rid of it. Sitting something to the side with the intention to get rid of it can create quite the mess. Every night my Mama bagged up the bag from the small trash can under the kitchen sink and toted it to the bin outside. She was always wary of the critters (ants) that might come in after it if she didn’t. Not taking out the trash just created more trouble to deal with. In the days to come I want to remember to make the effort and take the steps to get rid of refuse when I come across it–let it go. Get rid of the trash. From within and without. Everything in its place and trash out the door and out of my heart.

As I was thinking on this word, I Googled the definition. And this is what I found.

trash
/traSH/
noun
1.NORTH AMERICAN
discarded matter; refuse.
synonyms: garbage, refuse, waste, litter, junk, debris, detritus, rubbish
“the subway entrance was blocked with trash”

verb
verb: trash; 3rd person present: trashes; past tense: trashed; past participle: trashed; gerund or present participle: trashing
1.INFORMAL•NORTH AMERICAN
damage or wreck.
“my apartment’s been totally trashed”
synonyms: wreck, ruin, destroy, wreak havoc on, devastate; More
2.strip (sugar cane) of its outer leaves to ripen it faster.

I read along thinking yeah, yeah, yeah, no surprises here until I came to the second definition of trash as a verb. “Strip of its outer leaves to ripen it faster.”

Yes.

I want to strip those outer toughened layers, let go of the mask that hides authenticity, and leave myself opening to ripening, blossoming, and growing.

I am not sure why this word came to mind this morning. Maybe it was because I was out walking Miss Sophie and appreciating and breathing in the beauty of the morning and breathing out a quiet amen. Maybe it was because I was listening or because I had let go of the pressure of figuring out a word.

Whatever the reason, this is my word. It’s the word I need for the coming days. It’s the word I need for living and letting go.

And I thought I’d share it just in case you need it too.

Love to all. Don’t forget to put out the trash.

And as my Mama said, happy everyday!

raccoon in trash can

Photo by Steve from washington, dc, usa [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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.