Gratitude

I want to share a letter that I wrote today. If you feel led to share it, please do. If you know of ways to amplify my gratitude for the employee whom I am sending it to, please let me know or do them yourself. I hope this story makes you smile.

 

Georgia Jimenez, Director of Operations

HYATT REGENCY MINNEAPOLIS

1300 Nicollet Mall

Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, 55403

 

Dear Georgia,

I want to thank you for your kindness. You went far above and beyond any responsibility you had to assure that our stay at the Hyatt Downtown Minneapolis met your hospitality standards. I want to tell you a bit about our family and why your extra-care was so moving to us.

Almost a year ago, I met a young woman on the street in downtown St. Paul. After some labored conversation, I learned that she was an immigrant and had been through some horrific things in her time since she arrived in the US. She was living in a shelter with her six year old son and was at the point where she had to find another place to live.  Two weeks later, she and her son moved into our home.

We have been caring for them for the past year as they have navigated fiscal, physical, emotional challenges. We have six children of our own from 21-12 years of age. They have each leaned into this little family and have given up space and time to help make things a little bit better for the mother and son who now share our home. They do not complain about our budget being a little tighter. They do not complain about their space being a little smaller. They do not complain about their time being used for the support of others.

Part of the reason that they are so generous is the amazing father that they have. My husband, Steve, is a great dad. He is used to coming home from work to a house full of people but the day I told him that a little family needed a place to stay for a while, was a bit different from our run-of-the-mill dinner guests. He did not blink. He was committed to giving them space in our home and never complained about it for one moment. He models this sort of generosity and compassion to our children each and every day.

A couple of weeks ago, one of my elder daughters called to let us know that a friend of hers needed a place to stay for a while with her infant son. Again, our family shifted rooms and readied our home and hearts to expand our family a bit more. We now have three families living life together. (We also have an exchange student from Oman for the summer.) To say our life is full…is an understatement. We are grateful for the opportunity to be home for these wonderful people. We are well aware of the privilege that we have which makes it possible to offer some shelter to folks who really need it.

Even so, we do find ourselves worn out. We do not have as many dinner parties as we used to. We are happy when space for relaxing shows up and try to mindfully arrange for it when we can. As I tried to think of a gift for my husband for Father’s Day, a couple of nights away came to mind as the perfect thing. Space, privacy, relaxation and weekends with no extra responsibilities have been pretty non-existent for Steve. He goes to work all day during the week and comes home to a full-house with all the complexity and busyness that you might imagine. His weekends are full of tasks, as most people’s are, but there are fewer places and times when he can relax than there used to be. A hotel struck me as the perfect place to just get away without a lot of preparation and with built-in space.  Hyatt in downtown Minneapolis popped up on my search and we fondly remembered that spot as a place we would have lunch sometimes when Steve worked at Westminster Presbyterian, across the street. I completed my reservation and then, as a matter of course, got a lovely welcome letter from you. I replied, and asked about a few details. You responded professionally and courteously.

We came with our two youngest on a sold-out weekend and there were lots of folks staying at the hotel who were attending events that kept them out late that Friday night. Our room was close to the elevators and their comings and goings proved to be a little loud. I called the front desk in the morning to see if we could change rooms for our second night. There was a delay and I reached out to you to see if you could update us on the room change. To say that you were great would be such an understatement.

You not only moved us to a far nicer room than we could have ever afforded, you treated us to lunch (which was beyond our budget that weekend), you had our things moved for us, you welcomed us into our new room with treats and drinks and over-the-top hospitality. You took a weekend away (which was already quite a splurge for us) and made it so very special. You had no way of knowing what we have been carrying for the past year. You had no way of knowing how much our family craved some pampering. You had no way of knowing anything about us at all and yet you treated us like royalty.

I want to make sure that I call out this act of kindness in such a way that you will be commended by your colleagues. I want to share this story broadly so that people can see how much power generosity has. I want to get the word out that in the midst of some pretty heavy and discouraging headlines, some folks are trying their best to bring joy. I want to thank you publicly, loudly, and clearly so you know that you made our weekend so very special.  

I thank you, my husband thanks you and my children thank you.

Be well,

Liz Palmer

If you want to reach out to this hotel, https://minneapolis.regency.hyatt.com/en/hotel/home.html

+1 612 370 1234

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A day of contrasts…of tears.

Morning

Our kitchen was the backdrop for a young mother and the only blood-relative she has in the world, coming to see if our offer for shelter was real. She spoke of struggles and stressors which would break the best of us. We know that these are not her first. Her two decades of life have seen more loss than most of us ever will. What a contrast this little bundle of joy is as he sits on my knee and stretches to see everything new. He is so cherished by her…really, he is the only thing that is truly hers. She has kept him safe. No one celebrates her accomplishments. She speaks of him with pride.  No one speaks of her with pride.  She needs to be kept safe. We try to let her know that she is safe here, that she is welcome here. We hope to earn her trust and know that she has been taught to resist trusting. Our life is changed forever by getting this little window into her story. We see her and we value her. We want her to know that she is loved…I am moved to tears.

Afternoon

I drove the newest member of our family to the airport to travel across the world to celebrate Ramadan with his family. His story is one of loving family, opportunity, education, faith, tradition and belonging to a strong-knit group. He came to our home as a scholarship winner, the pride of his parents and his seven brothers. He can comfortably sit and share cultural differences and practices which he has been steeped in and can trust that we will accept him. He may have worried that we would find his culture strange. He knows that some hate hm without even knowing him.  His short time has shown him that we see him and we value him. As we say goodbye, he hugs me tight. He says ‘i love you’ as he walks away…I am moved to tears.

Evening

We went to two graduations tonight. One was for those that no one ever thought would graduate. This school was their last chance. They have been told many times that they have no promise, no worth. The room was buzzing with babies and toddlers and mamas and grandmas shushing them. Colorful balloons and gas-station flowers wrapped in crinkling plastic sat on laps with stuffed animals for those who had made it despite all odds. Families did not wait politely for pauses to clap. Speeches were short. Names were called out from the crowd with screams of pride. This moment was not in the cards for these people. No one thought they would be sitting in that room watching these young people graduate.  This school gave them a safe place to try again. They were seen and known and valued. This gave them what they needed to succeed….I am moved to tears.

Night

Our son’s end-of-the-year concert came in the most usual form. We sat and listened as the different groups marched on and off the stage. As the girl’s stood and sang, I notice one on the end who shows the familiar signs of down-syndrome. She sings on and off. She looks into the crowd to try to find her people. She fidgets with her robe and listens distractedly for her cues. People sitting in the audience watching her were surely told that this moment would never come. They have probably pushed open many doors which wanted to be closed to them. I can imagine the advocacy and care that must have proceeded this seemingly-unremarkable moment. She is surely so very loved. It is a joy to see her here…I am moved to tears.

This was just one day. These are just excerpts from four people’s stories. There is power in peaking into the lives of others and seeing where they have been.

One of the groups sang John Legend’s song ‘All of Me’. I can’t help but think of how fitting it is:

‘Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I’ll give my all to you

These four lives need love. They need all their curves and all their edges and their perfect imperfections to be loved. We all need that. They need to have someone give their all to them and then they will give their all….I am moved to tears.

Trying to get it right

Our kindergartener talks in terms of good choices, sharing time, work time, recess, helping one another to learn, good listening and respecting his neighbor. Cheers to kindergartener teachers everywhere who lay out these basic structures for living life as a part of a community. Kudos to those who held onto those values as they moved past kindergarten. Mazel Tov to the leaders who remind us that these very basic values work at every stage of life and in every environment.

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At this point, we have two cats, one dog, one bird, three Russians, one Omani, two middle-aged folks, three teens and one pre-teen living in our house. We have three vastly different cultures. (Not under our roof but in our family, we have one child in Spain and one in Minneapolis) I am struck by the fact that this is just one house in one city in one country. To have so many personalities trying to manage sharing space and resources can be a little bumpy at times. We usually resolve things though because we trust one another (for the most part) and we love one another and, most importantly, we agree that resolving things makes living better for all of us.

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Today, I am going to shop for halal meat for the first time. This year, I have been to my first Russian services. I have learned some words in new languages. I have tried foods that I never had before. I have learned about other ways of doing life and have worked to adapt my habits and customs to make the folks in our house more comfortable. To be honest, I have had to do that to adapt to my husband’s ways of doing things and my own kids’ ways of doing things too. I mess up all the time. I say the wrong things. I cook the wrong things. I jump to the wrong conclusions. I accidentally hurt feelings. I send confusing messages. I make mistakes. I ask forgiveness. I try again.

When I read the news and learn about the ways that we humans find to hurt one another and how easily we disrespect one another and how rarely we give one another the benefit of the doubt, I start to despair. The living that we do here, under our single roof, takes a commitment to trying our best. If we weren’t, it would be unbearable. We have to get along because our space has limits and cooperation is expected. I wish that there was a magic spell which could be said to create these same constraints universally so that we, the global we, would have to get along with one another. I am deeply saddened by all the time and mourning and cost that is sucked up by human-on-human bad choices.

I wish that we could all sit in a big circle together, just like we did in kindergarten class, looking around the circle for a while so that we could be reminded of the basic getting-along rules. Naively, I think that if our little household can make it work, why can’t everyone. I know it is more complicated than that…but does it have to be? We are trying to get it right and end up getting it wrong lots of the time…the key is that we are trying.

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I am the adult

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At this point, I have been a parent longer than not. I have been an adult longer than not. How is it that I am still having to remind myself over and over again that I am the adult, I am the parent. One of the best moments of learning that ever hit me over the head was when I truly saw that my inner 14-year-old came up out of me when I was having conflict with my 14-year-old daughter. Oooh was that ever ugly. I could go toe-to-toe with her sassy-angry-angstie-fearless self because I had that persona down pat in my own teen years. I could fight with the best of them. I could connect to feeling misunderstood, self-righteous, mistreated, rage-ful, un-justly seen…on and on.

I think the teen-self that is a part of my history is sometimes easier to recognize than the adult-self that is my present. The problem with that is that I am called to be the adult now. I am the adult. My kids need me to be the adult. My husband needs me to be the adult. I have to resist the urge to dip into the comfortable pool of seeing things in black and white and being reactive. My role is one that needs to stay grounded, non-reactive, gray-seeking, calm, and above all loving. It is a tall order but that is what I agreed to when I took on this parent-of-many position.

Not only am I the adult, but I am the parent. This is my job. The hours are terrible, the pay is nonexistent, the vacation package…hahaha…, opportunity for advancement is contingent upon the progress of my supervises, there is no guaranteed budget, feedback measures…well they are there but they are not peer-reviewed. There is no manual. There is not a job description. There is nothing structured beyond the fact that I am the mom and they are my offspring.

The benefits…endless..infinite..un-calculatable.

The culture…entirely within my control.

The team…made up of the man-of-my dreams and we are not only allowed to have a work-place relationship, it is encouraged. Sex on the job is a perk and an asset.

This stage of my career as parent is sort of odd. I have my feet on two steps witch leaves me off balance all the time. I have two children who have passed that 18-year mark and one who is close to it. One is pretty much launched and one thinks she is. There are two in high-school, two in middle-school and all but one look down on me physically (hopefully not mentally). It is a weird space to be in. This warning sign should really be posted all over my life.

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I am the parent but my job is to work myself out of a job…at least out of the day-in-day-out tell-kids-what-to-do and be-the-decider-planner-ultimate-responsible-buck-stops-here person.  I have been that person for the past 22 years and I still have to be that person with 2/3drds of my kids. It is hard to shut that on and off depending upon the kid and the circumstance. It is quite the dance.

Last week, I sat in the parent seat and could remember sitting in the 17-year-old seat so well as I looked over at my child who was now sitting in it. I could resonate with her experience so much more clearly than I could with mine. I could tap into what was in her brain and could remember feeling that exactly. I had to sort of craft things to put into my brain from episodes with the 17-year-olds who came before her (thank God for them and the grace that they offered me as I had on-the-job-training with them) and wise words from other parents who bounced around in my head. I grasped at those memories and tried to keep myself sitting firmly in my I-am-the-parent chair but it was hard. I am the adult. I am the parent. I am the adult. I am the parent. I am the adult….I have to say it over and over in the hopes that it will stick and a transformation will take place. My inner-17-year-old is so fresh in my mind and she is great at pulling me back into her skin.

To all of you who know what I am talking about, I tip my hat. To those of you who don’t know but think that you have felt a drop or two of this feeling that I get drenched in…I welcome you. For the others of you who have not felt this but might have seen it in others or read about it or suspect that this might really be a thing…I beg you to be gracious. 

Continue reading I am the adult

Wedding Day.

Sitting in the front row of someone else life. That’s where we have been these 8 months.

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These shoes tell so much truth. The week before the wedding, I found a crumpled up sliver-of-a-woman crying because she was bleeding and did not know why. Her finance was white with worry. Urgent Care, tests, visits to specialists, a CT scan, blood draws, panic attacks, diagnosis were the events which peppered her count-down to walking down the aisle. No bridal showers, massages, mani-pedis with friends to cancel…because she wouldn’t have had any of those anyway. Bride’s Magazine would not have had very much fun recounting her pre-wedding-day rituals. She wanted all the same things that the bridal industry peddles. Dreams of decorations, cakes, draped-chairs, up-dos, flawless skin, white-teeth, adoring friends and family ran through her fevered brain and made her all the sadder to be ill because how could she achieve the perfect wedding with failing kidneys, a terribly sick six year old and a life that was just barely being pulled out of homelessness, abuse and depression. To say that things have been precarious would be an understatement. To say that her path to the altar was a little bumpy….well, you know…

I think that the shoes speak for themselves.

We are up-close to all the action so as we sat in the pews for her service, we knew all that had led up to that moment which looked just about as normal as it could look. We knew that the dress needed a little more tape because she had not really eaten in the week before she married. We could see that our daughter, who stood up with her, was ready to swoop in if she lost her balance in those too-high-high-heels because she knew just how sick she was. We saw the extra layers of make-up which worked overtime to cover up her dark circles and even paler-than-normal skin. We knew these things because of where we sit in her life. We knew these things because she has let us walk with her.

The saying of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes has a different ring when you imagine squeezing into these size 5 4-inch heels. These don’t just go from beauty parlor, to limo, to church, back to limo, to fancy hotel room. They go from basement to a friends’ house, to a borrowed car filled with borrowed tables and chairs, to church, back to borrowed car, and back to the basement. They carry the weight of a malnourished bride who has walked down the aisle before and to find herself the victim of some of the worst kinds of abuse. They cost more than she is paid in a day, more than she is paid in two days. To walk in these shoes would mean walking in the fear of taking one misstep and loosing the right to continue living in this country. To walk in these shoes would mean walking in and out of scenes where you don’t know the language and are not sure that you are welcome because of it. To walk in these shoes is to walk in fear, in pain, in stress.

May you never have to walk a day in these shoes. May you know that others do. May you take a front seat in the life of another who could use a friend. May you walk with someone who’s path is different than yours and may you be changed by that.

Black Men

Yesterday morning, we went to see Hidden Figures with our youngest daughters. It was great. If you have not seen it, do.

The biggest take-away that lingers for me is not tied to the theme of the film or the historical details that it speaks to, even though I am moved by those and carry those now that I have seen it. I have to say that my favorite thing about this movie is the way that the black men fit into this story.

All too often, black men show up on the screen as angry figures. I felt myself cringe a little as they started in on the stories of these women’s home lives because I thought that I saw how it would unfold. So many strong, black female roles are shaped, in part, by a raging/narrow-minded/lazy characature-of-a-husband. I get why that works. I know that helps to show the strength of the female character and often deepens the heart-string-tugging as she wrestles with injustice in and out of her home. I also know, as with most art, there are some truths reflected in the way that black men are portrayed. This becomes problematic because it is too pervasive of a characterization. The lens that is framed on the black man in movies and on television is far too often framing them as negative characters. That lens builds a narrative. For folks who don’t encounter many black men in their personal lives, media is the place that fills in the blanks about them. Take a minute to look at these photos and see if they are the sorts of images that are in your head when you picture black men. As yourself if these are the sorts of images that you get on the news, in movies, in adds, etc. I can tell you that they were hard to come up with from a google search….it would have been a lot easier to find pictures that fit our cultural stereotypes.

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Lots has been written about the ways that the news has ill-informed the public from their unbalanced coverage of crime. Most of us have been exposed to the idea that they paint an unfair picture for us about our black neighbors in the choices that they make for news coverage. I am not talking about that right now…even though it is important.

I want to talk about the power of hollywood and the ways that they confirm that distorted vision of the black male.

I was all ready for the women of Hidden Figures to have to fight for respect at home in the same ways that they had to do that at work. I cringed at the thought of it. I don’t want to take away from the story of these remarkable women, but I do want to spend time lifting up their male supporting actors.

I am so grateful that we saw real, supportive, hardworking, dedicated, sensitive, caring, intelligent, kind, committed black men husbanding/fathering in this film. I am thrilled that they were some of the ‘hidden figures’ in the telling of this story. I am overjoyed to have these men on the big screen for all of us to see and to have our stereotypes challenged by.

So many people that I know, do not know black men. They don’t have them at their dinner tables, in their pews at church, on their boards of directors, as their doctors or lawyers, in their fantasy football teams, at their golf clubs, at their little-league sidelines, in their bible studies, at their bowling lanes….they just don’t know any black men. Truthfully. Not one. When you have no personal experience with a group of people, the blanks are filled in from other sources. Media is the primary way the holes of no-direct-experience are filled.

This happens to all of us!  For example, I have never been to the Great Wall of China….never…not once. But I can pull up a pretty clear image of it in my head. I can describe it to you. I can talk about what it looks like, what the area around it is like, etc. I have only put that story together from media-input: pictures, movies, articles, documentaries, on and on. I would probably assert that I have a pretty firm grasp on what that wall is like. I would speak with some confidence if I was asked about it. That is precisely what I am talking about!

Ask yourself, how many black men to you really know…I mean really…like you would invite them to your kid’s concert. You would stop in at their house if you were in the neighborhood. You would call them to share tickets that you just got from work for a play. You would automatically have them included on your surprise-birthday-party-list that your spouce was planning. You have their number in your cell-phone under favorites. Your family has met them.

I am going to bet that most people who read my stuff will have a really hard time coming up with even one black man that they could say fits into any of those scenarios. They are your Great Wall of China. You don’t know them but you think you know them. You have had enough input from media to have what you would call a pretty clear picture of them in your head. You would probably feel pretty comfortable talking about them and drawing assumptions about them. That is problematic…or it can be…if the media is portraying a skewed view of them…which I would assert that they are.

So…you can see why I was worried when I sat down to watch Hidden Figures. I knew that a wide slice of the population, in particular the white-american population, was going to sit in front of this movie. That gives the storyteller some real power. Minds are being shaped. Images are being imprinted. Blanks are being filled in.

Thankfully, these men were real guys. They were the fathers that we know. They were the lovers that we know. They were the neighbors that we know. They were not sources of film-conflict. They were not points of dramatic-tension. They were not foils to their women’s virtuous characters. They were just normal, loving, supportive, flipping-the-pancakes-on-a-Sunday-morning kind of men. We need more of that. We need it.

If you have not seen this movie yet, I definitely recommend it. Go for the story of these remarkable women who’s contribution has been muffled through years of prejudice and white-leaning historical accounts. Go to broaden your understanding of just who has built this country and how hard they had to work to offer their needed and specialized skills. Do that for sure! Take your kids, your friends, your neighbors…You will be glad you did.

While you are there, please just notice the black men who share the screen. Ask yourself it they match the images you have in your head. Notice. Take it in. Let it effect you.

 

This Pope…am I right…?!

This Pope really makes me smile. He says things that I have not heard much from the Vatican in a while. He seems happy. He seems to love serving the ‘least of these’ which is pretty much what christian leaders should be about…if you look at how many times Jesus talks about serving the poor and loving our neighbor and clothing the naked and all that. He seems to do what he says he is going to do and seems to lead by example…He came out with another great statement when he was talking about Lent.

images Look at that Laugh! Don’t you just love this guy!!

He says,”Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades.” That is some good stuff! If you want to read more about it, here you go.

I don’t know about y’all, but Lent was a big part of my childhood. There was lots of chat about what you were going to give up and if you believed that you could gorge on whatever that thing was on Sundays, or not, because that day really did not count as a part of Lent. My Grandma always gave up pie but she had a piece every Sunday. That struck me as sort of funny because who really has pie more than once a week anyway…if that often…But she was doing the catholic-lent-thing. I usually gave up gum. I really loved gum. I still do. Gum is great. I can’t remember if I had it on Sunday’s or not.

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Or, there is the pie-gum which Gram and I could have given up together…Gross!

We were also not supposed to have meat on Fridays of Lent. Since I grew up in New Orleans, that was really never any sort of sacrifice. When I moved to the North, I remember noticing that it was a little bit harder to keep that traditional fast. Still, our doing a shrimp boil for dinner on a Friday or going to a church fish-fry was not even close to any sort of painful exercise. It was just an excuse to do something special on Fridays.

My head was pretty filled up by the to-do’s and not-to-do’s during the lenten season. My calendar was filled with soup-supper nights and station’s of the cross services and holy-week was booked with church-dates. Come to think of it… there was not much space for thoughts about doing good deeds, helping the poor, considering the interests of others. When you have a checklist of things you are supposed to do and all the people around you are also keeping that same checklist….not just any-old people but important people like your teachers and your priest and your relatives and your neighbors….you start to think that the list is the most important thing. You start to believe that you are doing something really important and virtuous by not chewing that gum or not eating that pie six days per week. You start to feel pretty good about yourself as you notice that you make every single event and service that the church puts out there for the season of lent. As you get older, you pat yourself on the back for teaching your kids to do the same things and having them all lined up doing all the right things where all the people can see and can know that you are a pretty great mom because you made all of this a priority.  Whew!

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Yep…always important to let folks know that you are really suffering…

Well, maybe none of that happened to you. It did happen to me. I got stuck on that list.

I know that I spend WAY more time on my lists than I should. I still have them..they just look a little different than they used to. I needed to be reminded of this trap that I get caught in. I needed to do a little self-check to audit my own choices a bit. I wish that there was a great tool for budgeting time like there is for money.

If this is how we are supposed to think about our money:

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…then how are we supposed to think about our time and the space that we make in our days as well as in our minds? I ran across what Angela spends her time on:

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Nice.

I took a stab at making one for myself (Angela’s is obviously much cuter):

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Ok…I am going to ask myself this question every day, or I am going to try to: 

How was my interior life caught up in my own interests and my own concerns today? Did I leave any room for others’ interests and concerns? Do I still hear God’s voice and feel his love? Does the quiet joy that brings leave me with a desire to do good?

It is such a good question. I keep noticing how much time I spend on things that I really have no power to change, or don’t really reflect my values and know that I could be learning about ways that I can make a difference for good and shaping my choices more diligently to reflect the things that I care about.

a letter to a kindergarten teacher

Intimacy.
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That is the best word that I can think of to define our relationship with the mother and child living in our house. We are in and out of every corner of their lives trying to offer support, clarification, normalization, comfort, access, assurance, interpretation, on and on. Letters home from the teacher come through me and are communicated to her so that she can know some of what is going on with him at school. Sometimes, I don’t share the letters. If there is a space for me to explain a behavior or to suggest a strategy…I just do that. I am winging it. Hopefully, I am being appropriately respectful. Hopefully, I am helping more than I am hurting.
Dear Mrs.                            ,
Thank you for reaching out.
This is a fairly unique situation…I think…at least in my experience. We are all trying to do the right thing here and we will inevitably get it wrong some of the time but I think that we will get it right far more of the time. 
We are in territory which is not written up in any of our collective educational backgrounds. We are navigating a space that is so tender with this little family and we all want to do that well. My heart melts when I see just how far things have come in terms of growing trust and having basic needs met and consistency in these sweet lives. Learning letters and numbers and all the rest is icing on the cake…not to belittle it at all because it is crucial for his success in life. At this point, I am happy when he leaves the house with a full belly and a rested body. I am overjoyed when she lingers to talk and let’s down her guard a bit. I am blessed when I see them working out their new rhythms and ways of loving one another. I wish you could get a slice of what we get to witness each and every day….it is miraculous.
Knowing where they have been and where they so easily could be is at the forefront of my mind every day. I also think of all of those like them whom I did not stumble across on the street and have not been as lucky…You are a huge part of their lifeline. Please don’t underestimate that. You are teaching them to trust school. You are teaching them that he is going to be ok. You are teaching them that he has a future.
Peace,
Liz
I sent this out this week. I want the people who intersect with this little boy to know how much power they have. I wish I could send this message out to everyone, about every child, about every mother, about every person….
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We all have some sort of role that puts us face to face with vulnerable souls. Maybe you sit next to them on the bus; maybe they come and go from your office; maybe you see them walking through your neighborhood…..Don’t take those moments for granted. You are a part of their lifeline. You are! Don’t underestimate that. Consider what you are teaching through the ways that you greet, talk, listen, interact with the vulnerable….

Will you be mine?

Tomorrow is one of those days that some love, some hate. It is hard to find someone who has no opinion on it. I guess that makes sense.

Forced displays of affection + lots of advertising dollars + media-driven fantacies = impossible expectations/inevitable disappointment.

Love is great….mostly, and not great. Valentine’s Day is not necessarily so great.

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I remember studying love in philosophy class as a college student. Plato went on and on about the different types of love. I was intensely invested in the class, not because of any unique philosophical prowess, because I had a major crush on the professor. I can put myself right back in that desk chair and can feel the cramp in my hand as I wrote down every word that came out of his mouth, praying that he noticed that I cared more about Plato than any of the other students in that class and being convinced that my eyes were the ones that he met the most as his curly hair bounced with every gesture and his voice raised with excitement as he shared…..I digress….Here are the categorizations that he suggests:

  • Eros, or sexual passion
  • Philia, or deep friendship
  • Ludus, or playful love
  • Agape, or love for everyone
  • Pragma, or longstanding love
  • Philautia, or love of the self

I’m no Plato but I have a working list of love-categories too:

  • Dutiful love, or the kind of love that gets you out of bed at the sound of puking, keeps your arm asleep under a heavy head, lets your shirt be used as a kleenex, shows up, stays and swallows deeply.
  • Growing love, or that which comes in waves as you get to know someone more and more and find that they have etched themselves permanently into your heart. This love is open to seeing more, to peeling back the layers, to being caught off guard by the wonder of another.
  • Begrudging love, or the one that you give when you know that you have to but you don’t particularly feel it…but you do it anyway…no matter what…maybe not with a smile but you do it.
  • Tender love, or this stuff that seeps out of your pores, changes you, catches you by surprise, leaves you speechless, takes your breath away and brings you to tears.
  • Loaded love,  or the push and pull that guilts you and twists you and bashes you about inside of your head… sometimes on purpose
  • Belly-laugh love, the reflex that comes when you made it through the hard thing and are at the other side of it so you can look back at it together and give that knowing glance that erupts into laughter in the way that can only happen between folks who deeply know one another and have been through some stuff
  • Naked love,  a lens which makes bodily functions ok, sees parts as connected to function, as well as worthy of objectifying, doesn’t look away, doesn’t stare too long but also hooks a gaze deeply
  • Reflected love, all the ways that you see yourself that you would never have seen if the one who loves you didn’t point them out and remind you again and again of what you look like through their eyes
  • Gracious love, this is the one that forgives. This is the one that is prepared to have another go, to give a second chance, to offer the gift of seeing the big picture and understanding the context. This is the love that you never earn or lose because it just is. This is the one that we get and give glimpses. This is the one that is divine.

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There are probably more. None can stand alone. For you to be mine or me to be yours, we need the spectrum. I have gotten lots of love in my life. I have gotten to give lots of it too. This Valentine’s Day, I want to relish that. I want to honor that. I want to lift it up and wave it in the air for everyone to see.  I want to name that while love is patient, its also impatient. Love is kind but sometimes it can be not so nice. It is all the things that we are.

How could it not be?

It is us. It is us. It is us.

 

Silence

We are expecting snow. Overnight, there should be 4-6 inches of white blanket draped across our edge of the world. Waking up to fresh snow is breathtaking. Everything is white and only shape distinguishes between tree and bush. There is a deep hush that comes over everything. Walking, driving, talking…all is slightly muffled.

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I have found myself quiet.

There is a reality which we are living in our house which is so counter to the reality that we are seeing played out on our national stage. Here, we have found ourselves so blessed by opening our home to a stranger. We have supported life in real and tangible ways and our lives have been so enriched. We have been a refuge and through that have come to see our own privilege. We have heard stories about sides of life that we have never seen ourselves and have been changed by them. We have wiped away tears of our own and of our guests. We have tried to ease fears and have sought guidance when we have been afraid. We have loved and been loved. It is so beautiful. It is humanity at its best.

I savor it in silence.

I have found myself quiet because I do see how I can make a difference. I am living the possibility of positive change. My gaze is shortening. I see people in my house who are fed, housed, clothed, educated, rested, encouraged, seen and known…it is the perfect medicine for me during this chapter of the American story. We are swimming in grace here and we know it. When people tell us that we are applaudable….I want to scream that they are getting it all wrong. We are being blessed with hope. We are being encouraged by seeing our own power for good. We are being reassured that there are things that we can do. We are laying our hands on the work that needs to be done and are able to do some of it.

Still, I have found myself quiet.

I want to reach into the writhing mass of people who ache in the midst of such toxic political leadership and set them down in front of one another so that they can see….can see the one whom they can offer help….can see the one whom they can reach…can see the one whom they can impact. They are out there. There are more-than-enough ones out there for each of us to serve. We do not have to wait for any more executive orders to be signed or any more tweets to fire off…we can start right now. Make the step toward what you want the world to look like.  Be that change that you want to see in the world…as the wise quote states. Wait for no one. Wait for nothing. Just do it.

Our world is changed by each small act of kindness. It is bettered by each conscientious steward. Brokenness is repaired one step at a time and we have the power to take those steps. The remarkable thing is that you will find that your world is changed by the kindness; you are changed by the good stewardship; you are changed by the healing of brokenness. Reaching out only adds to your bounty.

Next week, our guest will begin english classes. She finally feels settled enough and confident enough to take that next step. We have seen her move from going-through-the-paces of life to experiencing joy and making plans for the future. She has the energy to set boundaries for her son. She can see the benefit of a good night’s sleep for him and a tummy full of nutritious food. She does not need to plug him into her phone to keep him quiet enough for her to retreat from the world.

This change did not need an election. It did not need legislation. It needed people.

Take a moment. Quiet the noises of debates and rhetorical battles. Look in the shadows. Look around you. You have places where you can make a difference. You have places where you can effect change. You have places where you are enough.

I am rarely quiet….ask anyone…In this quiet every-day-regular-living, I have felt content.