Justice wrapped in grace invites courage.
Justice wrapped in grace invites courage.
The Gift of Fall
Don’t let go.
Interfacing with social media brings family and friends to our home at a time when presence isn’t advisable. So, seeing those faces of new babies, toddlers, siblings, high school friends, local friends and those scattered far and wide seems justified and almost necessary.
Even with editing and “hiding” posts and the like, it also brings a powerful picture of chaos, poor communication, unjust references, incorrect information, outside influences and a shroud of negative. Choosing to stay or leave becomes a consideration.
I was thinking last week of the days many of us tutored/mentored young children in the inner city. Children now in their 20’s might I add! We were there a very long time and watched them grow.
Each year, I would start each homework session by asking the child to stand, look in my eyes, and tell me who they were special to that day…or what they thought made them special. Over time, I was able to ask them for more in depth answers and could tell they gave it some thought in between our visits. They had remarkable answers!
So, I have been thinking about the question. Who am I special to and what makes me special? To carry the claim further, how do I use the ways God made me special to make this time more positive; how do I use whatever that might be, big or small, to become part of a solution rather than adding to the vitriol? How do I, even isolated, become the answer to the prayers God hears? Do I start with prayer? Do I listen for the answer?
So, to change the rhetoric, I ask you the same…who are you special to and what makes you special? How can you share that in a time that needs you?
For those who are comfortable, it would be lovely to hear your answer! Those answers give the rest of us creative ideas we might not have considered! Those answers make us think differently, perhaps. Those answers bind us as a community, not naive, looking for pie in the sky, but a community who starts to look for the good; who becomes part of the solution, whether it is simply wearing a mask or following precious guidelines for wellness. That science is an answered prayer.
Interacting these months with old friends who attend Glencliff UMC has been my teaching tool in these days. They are doing the teaching! Many have no internet, several no phones. They have pastors (Rev. Neelley Hicks and Rev. Ingrid McIntyre) who have been incredibly inventive in finding ways to keep this small congregation connected and cared for…..a lot of my joy these days are those phone conversations. My sweet friend, Brenda, who happens to be blind, sings to me! (She has a beautiful voice, clearly what makes her special!) A lot of my joy comes from knowing they can attend worship over their phones, if they have one. I have one friend whose phone is available on a “minute” plan so she is unable to hear the service. It takes too many of her expensive minutes. So, another member calls her each week to tell her about the worship service. Think about that. I do.
Hope to hear from you.
do you ever
want to make
to be more
to a core
I have been thinking and praying about now….this very moment, this very time in our lives. We are all experiencing these events in many different ways, with differing concerns. We are trying to muddle through the fear of getting sick and the economic impact…..and are reading and hearing mixed messages that do little to comfort. We are being exposed to the best of who we are far more than the worst, though that exists. Our mental health is taking a beating we haven’t quantified in any meaningful way. We too often have little understanding of what survival means past food, shelter and utilities. It seems different for everyone.
I am in there with all the rest! But as time goes on, little time in the bigger picture, I have thought and thought about our history and how it teaches. How it informs what we now call “best practices.” How its lessons can model our way forward, whether it is 1941 or now? How do we become another “greatest generation”? What made that generation great?….they endured both the Great Depression and WWII. What will our legacy be for these days and weeks…perhaps months or years? What will the history books say about our society and our response as individuals that make up that society? What will our young people, children, grandchildren, friends and colleagues remember about each of us…how we behaved, how we spoke, how we respected one another by following suggested public health guidelines? How we interacted with a hurting world? When we think of prior national events that called for long term sacrifice, does wearing a mask pale by comparison? What model or example do we need to provide to reflect a people of character, of integrity, of compassion, of love for one another?
For those who follow the Christian gospel message, these requests are the walking responses…..loving your neighbor now means allowing your neighbor to remain well. For the vulnerable neighbor, of any age, it can mean the difference between living or dying.
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
These photos represent ration books that belonged to husband John’s family. They were part of the national response to World War II to set price limits and ration food and other commodities in order to discourage hoarding and ensure the equitable distribution of scarce resources. Even the rationed items were dependent on availability which changed often and foods were scarce. Sugar, coffee, meat, cheese, fats, canned fish, canned milk were just some of the foods rationed. Instructions included the following: “when you have used your ration, salvage the tin cans and waste fats. They are needed to make munitions for our fighting men.” I try to imagine this happening now.
Other items rationed included automobiles, tires, gasoline, fuel oil, nylon, silk and shoes.
Many of us have heard of these events first hand, through the words of parents or grandparents. Some were children during those years…..John included. Many of you might say the same. He remembers soldiers on their farm property, maneuvers an every day event. He remembers his mother cooking for the soldiers with food from their “Victory Garden,” another federally suggested response that provided 40% of the vegetables grown during the war. For those who lived in cities, window boxes proved to work for growing small amounts. The goal was collective…..food for American families that therefore allowed more food to be sent overseas to soldiers.
On many fronts, in many ways, citizens worked together for the war effort and the good of all. We have mostly all heard or read of the sacrifices made on a daily basis for the duration of the war, 1941-1945. We know of the respect and appreciation long felt towards those who served, those who died and those who provided support at home. To speak of the economics of the time and the changes for individual families would add volumes to an already minimized set of paragraphs. It’s just not possible!
Wearing a mask and safe distancing seem amazingly simple. None of us should leave a legacy that includes the death of a family member…or a neighbor, because we failed to protect them by our individual choices. We haven’t lost our rights….we will always have the right to make good choices that will benefit our families as well as our neighbors.
Easter brings images of rejoicing Christians celebrating the risen Christ. A gift of victory over death.
Though that same celebration will indeed come this Sunday, I have found that impending joy tempered by our current realities. Untold sadness is pervasive and deserves its place because it honors those who have died….likely without family at their bedside, without the solace owed such a holy time. However, God has provided these souls caring hands and the tears and prayers of healthcare providers, their “greens” often a last vision. Their Easter came early.
I have grappled with those visions mightily, and have no doubt most everyone has. All along, I have wanted people to be more “real” to me than becoming an abstract number. Not with an intrusive intent but with an intent to connect on a more human level. We do hear about the famous by name (with great loss in abilities and gifts they owned) but less about those not well known.
When 9/11 happened, I remember that Thanksgiving we set the table with place cards, as was often the case for holidays. On the back of each place card, I placed the name of a family who had lost someone that day. As we went around the table, naming our gratitudes, we also agreed to pray for that family by name.
So, here we are, at Easter, with an opportunity to honor families from all over the world by praying for them by name, for celebrating their loved one’s lives, by becoming a world united.
To that end I offer a few names I have found and ask you to join me in prayers for their families. There are many more online.
This, of course, in no way precludes prayers for those we don’t know by name.
From China, Liu Shouxiang, a watercolor painter and professor.
From Italy, Sergio-Bassi, a Folk singer-songwriter.
From Spain, Daniel Yuste, cyclist.
From United States, Michael McKinnell, architect.
From Sweden, Tomas Oneborg, photographer.
From France, Francois de Gaulle, Catholic priest and missionary.
From South Africa, Gita Ramjee, HIV prevention researcher.
From Pakistan, Usama Riaz, medical doctor.
From Zimbabwe, Zororo Makamba, journalist.
From Brazil, Naomi Munakata, conductor.
From Argentina, Juan Gimnez, comic book artist and illustrator.
From United Kingdom, Peter Sinclair, economist.
And many more.
We are an Easter people. Beloved.
A clergy friend of mine in another part of Tennessee posted to Instagram this morning a plan for her congregation to go outside and ring bells at the same time in the evening. A lovely idea!
It immediately brought a memory forward…something I haven’t thought about in years! In the early days of our mentoring/tutoring young children at an inner city church, I remember so well the children often didn’t want us to leave for the day. All of us had built relationships with these children and their families. They were comfortable with us and we with them. Their tutor was an important person in their lives. Tutors were consistent with their presence, consistent with their expectations, flexible on not so good days, people who expanded physical boundaries through lessons and books. Field trips.
So, one day this little first grade girl grabs my hand as the time to leave approaches; asks me to come home with her, stay with her. She even told me my husband would be okay if I would just stay with her! Oh, those kids!
My response was short and simple. One thing it included was an agreement between the two of us. I suggested we both “meet” outside that evening at 7 PM, each in our own spaces outside, and look at the moon. I had always started each tutoring day with asking the children “who are you special to today”? So, I suggested she think of why I might be special to her and I would think of why she was special to me. We would share our answers at our next time together. I asked her to say a little prayer for me and I would do the same for her. She was immediately onboard, making plans for her Mom to tell her when the time was right. And we shared very precious stories the next time we met.
What made this work was our relationship; our trust of one another; our time together throughout a school year. Our resource was our connection; it was not tied to anything tangible.
We had many tutors over many years in this ministry. They all provided the same intangible gift…in their own ways….connection.
I realize those connections were built by threads, over a period of time. I think the same of our current situation, finding ways to connect while we are all in a social isolation as well as physical.
I am more than grateful for our worship services available online; a very real sense of community is continued among people who have already built the connections…and invite others to join in that gift. The many ways we are being cared for by church staff will long be remembered.
I hope to look back on this time and know I have been intentional in connecting with people of all age groups, not just what we call the “vulnerable,” knowing that usually refers to age or health issues. I need to make sure no one need qualify. We are all vulnerable, regardless of age, of job security, of resources.
I want to look back and know I saw the same moon.
Everyday, we are barraged with more information about this virus, clearly needed to make good personal decisions based on public health experience and expertise. Yes, numbers matter. Yes, statistics paint a picture that can empower changes in behaviors. Credible medical information is gold right now. Government mandated behavioral changes can affect and modify outcomes. For sure. We are following those mandates and guidelines personally.
But in my mind, every day…..I wonder when we will acknowledge the dead as more than a number?
When will we hear a press release or conference, a lament at any level that extends ongoing sympathy and concern for these families? At our own levels? Our prayers personal and collective? When will we consider those at high risk (or no risk) now on ventilators, or critically ill, their lives ever changed? Their families who are experiencing fear based on a harsh reality? Their economics? The uninsured sick? We may have agreed to pay for the test but what about the several hundred thousand dollars ICU generated hospital bills? How do we let these people know they are more than numbers…..numbers I read most people don’t find impressive because they are “low.” Numbers always prefaced by “only”? There is no “low” or “only” if it’s your sister, your father, your spouse, etc.
I wonder who had a new grandchild? Left behind young children? Was a caregiver to an aging or sick spouse? Was a health care provider? Was a wise professor with years yet to teach? A grandparent raising grandchildren? A gifted artist? Someone simply beloved? What were their stories?
I know that many do pray for these precious people. We do. You do. Our congregations do. I would never suggest compromising their identities or becoming intrusive…but wish we could offer each family our individual and collective condolences.
I want to suggest we do all have a way to honor those who have died, their families and those who are sick…..and we can honor them every day.
We can start by ceasing to diminish them with social media posts that disclaim the significance and power of this virus; by dropping the denial, the inconvenience, the non compliance… and adjusting our lives to accommodate and model all of the guidelines at our disposal. This is a fluid situation…they will be added to as time goes on, almost daily. We need to listen to our public health officials…they are working long, stressful hours on our behalf.
Recognize that “high risk” includes far more than the elderly! It includes cancer patients, the immunosuppressed, diabetics, those with chronic illnesses and many more…in any age group.
We can all do this together. We may not enjoy the usual privileges but the privilege will be knowing each of us played a part in a return to wellness. It will mean those who died have been honored in the most important way we can.