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  • The Good Pilot

    February 24, 2014

    Years ago, back in the mid-70s I think it was, my beloved Godmother had a heart attack and flat lined on the table.  She miraculously pulled through and lived many more years.  She had always been a fragile sort, not much of a fighter, and had many health issues.  Without ever saying, I always supposed that John, my robust Godfather, a Lithuanian who could hoist the world upon his shoulders, would long outlive her.

    But if there is one thing I know for sure, and I for sure only know one thing, it is this:  God decides the number of our days.  We knoweth not the hour or the day.

    Year’s later, after my Godfather had passed away from stomach cancer and my Godmother was in assisted living, we spent an afternoon on her sofa holding hands and just visiting as she drifted in and out of sleep.

    In between naps, she told me the story of the day she was on the operating table and how she saw her mother standing in a bright light, calling to her in French, “Rose! Venez! Venez avec nous!” Come! Come be with us!

    She said she longed to run to her mother.  But she couldn’t.  “I can’t go now Mom,” she called, “I’ve got to take care of John.”

    As ridiculous and unlikely as that seemed at the time, that Rose would outlive John and would need to care for him, that is exactly how it played out.

    My Godmother passed away a number of years ago but it is one of those conversations that I have replayed in my mind many times, particularly of late.

    In the past several months, we have had to transition AD’s mother and stepfather into assisted living after George got really sick.  George has a long and complicated health history, so when he got sick it was not a complete surprise.  But then while he was recovering in rehab, Cleo got really sick, which was a surprise, and neither of them could get well enough to live on their own again.

    While George was sick, we braced ourselves for the worst believing that what remained of his life could be measured in days.  But George has made a full recovery.  And as of this writing, it is Cleo whose days seem to be numbered.

    When George was sick, I sat by his bed wondering if this would be our last visit.  Flat on his back, with his eyes closed, he lay in his bed in a pitiful unshaven and disheveled mess, the picture of a man waiting for that one last clear call.

    In a raspy voice, he struggled to tell me how Jesus had come to him in the night and given him permission to let go.  He said he had never been so sick in his whole life and he longed for the discomfort to end.  “I told him, Lord, if you want me, I am ready,”  he whispered, “But I need to stay to take care of Cleo.”  Then a tear escaped and zigzagged through the stubble of whiskers into the pillow.

    At that moment, the idea that he would recover to care for Cleo seemed to be a machination of delirium.  He was flat on his back and she was ambulatory.  But that is exactly how it is playing out.

    Yesterday, I spent a good part of the day with George as we sat by Cleo’s bedside. She is mostly in a catatonic semi-sleep like state, mumbling and thrashing.  At times, she would reach out her hands, to whom?  Is God near? Is he giving her permission to let go? Does she feel His breath on her neck? Is her mother calling to her, “Come Cleo! Come be with us!”  Does she have a reason to stay?

    Throughout the day she would occasionally pop her eyes open and have several minutes of clarity, recognizing Sean and AD.  She would chat as best she could with a lazy and thick tongue. In one awakening, she reported that a pilot flew her up to Tulsa, where she lived as a young mother when AD was three.   And then just as quickly as she comes into our world she is off again.

    Who is this good pilot who takes my beloved mother-in-law joyriding through the days of her life and gently touches down so she can chat for a moment or two before whisking her off again?

    And when will he take her off to be with those we too long to see some day?

    We knoweth not the hour or the day.  But we know Him, the one who numbers our days.  And that’s all we need to know.

    On Being Ruth

    October 13, 2013

    One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the account of Naomi and Ruth, as found in the short Book of Ruth in the Old Testament.

    Naomi is Ruth’s Jewish mother-in-law.  Ruth is a Moabite .  This complicates matters because Israel and Moab were long-standing enemies.  Mother-in-law relationships can be challenging in the best of circumstances, but given the cultural and national differences, there could have been a lot of tension in their relationship but none is noted.

    As the story goes, the two women, along with another daughter-in-law, Orpah, also a Moabite, find themselves widowed, which is really bad news at any time in history, but particularly bad in those days because without men folk, women were left to starve.

    With no men to provide for them, Naomi plans to return to her family in Israel and urges both of her daughters-in-law to return to their people in Moab.  After much weeping and garment rending, Orpah yields to Naomi.  She returns home and eventually starts a talk show and we all know how well that works out for her.  Ruth on the other hand would not go.  Would. Not.

    Do not press me to leave you or turn back from following you!  Where you go, I will go; Where you lodge, I will lodge.  Your people shall be my people and your God my God.

    ~Ruth 1:16

    At this point, I wonder if Naomi just sighed and said something like, “Ruth. Don’t be a martyr. Just go. Please.”  Or was she flooded with relief?  Did her heart swell with love for Ruth’s loyalty as mine does when I read that passage?

    Instead, Ruth hitches her wagon to Naomi’s rapidly falling star and together they make the journey back to Israel where she will have to figure out a way to provide for the both of them.

    As one who loves security and certainty and comfort and eating regularly, this would have been a really difficult choice for me.  Go home to my family who will take care of me – or?  – embark on a long and treacherous journey with an elderly woman into an unknown land where the people hate me.  I mean, I want to do the right thing and all, but all that potential for discomfort makes me flinch.

    But for Ruth the choice didn’t seem difficult at all. That she would stay with Naomi was unquestionable, not even a choice really.

    In spite of whatever fears she had, and there must have been many, in spite of her own grief, in spite of Naomi’s insistence, in spite of the legal out she has to ditch Naomi and go back to her own family, she does not abandon her.

    Like a stray dog that won’t be beaten off with a stick, she stays.

    Ruth sets the bar high for the rest of us daughters-in-laws.

    She works. She serves. She provides. She has dirt under her fingernails.

    And I think that speaks tremendously of Ruth’s character and her heart — that she would not only remain loyal to her mother-in-law, but that she serves her and loves her so deeply and sacrificially.  And more so, the Bible records no instances where she huffs or sighs or calls her girlfriends for sympathy or sits down for a  pity party.  Unlike me, she does not seem to have a flee response when life gets unpleasant.

    Ruth is on my mind a lot lately.

    My in-laws have both suffered a number of serious health issues on separate occasions in recent months.  Ironically, it is the one who is not hospitalized who ends up getting hospitalized from the stress of trying to care for the one who is hospitalized. So they take turns, when one gets out the other goes in. And now they are both in rehab together and I am doing my best to take care of the things which they cannot – their house and their bills and laundry and whatever else comes up.

    And I’m trying to be like Ruth.

    But they don’t see the dirt under my nails.  My efforts go unnoticed and unappreciated or are even sometimes met with resentment.  I understand that they are not fully aware, no longer quite themselves, but these things sting the heart just the same.

    Caring for aging parents is an emotional mine field and caring for in-laws makes it even more complicated.  Some days I am spent from all the tip-toeing through the land mines and it invokes my flee response.  I want to go back to my own people and be cared for.

    But I won’t.

    I will be her Ruth.  Not without question or without tears or the occasional pity party.  But I will stay and glean or clean or do whatever needs to be done, and scrub my nails at the end of the day.

    I will stay.

    I will be her Ruth.

    Swings And Lane Cutters. When A Win Is Not A Win.

    February 10, 2013

    Have you ever been driving somewhere, and you see a sign in big flashing letters that unmistakably says MERGE RIGHT. LEFT LANE CLOSED AHEAD.

    Being the good reader that you are, you take this to mean that the left lane is closed ahead.  You merge right because you know that no left lane will preclude driving in the left lane. You are astute like that.

    Then you, along with the other good readers, spend the next 30 minutes painfully inching forward in the right lane for the next mile where the left lane actually ceases to exist.  And as you approach the point where the left lane ends you are united with those who did not merge right a mile back and now insist that you let them in.

    And are you like me in that some days your tendency is to look straight ahead and pretend that you don’t see them? And maybe you keep the front end of your car so close to the back end of the car ahead that even a gnat couldn’t pass between?  Or maybe you are even brazen enough to look over at them and give them the “Ain’t no way buddy!” look.  You maybe even say to yourself, “That’s no fair!  Get in line and inch up like the rest of us!  Who do you think you are??”

    Now that I’m older and have a slightly better grip on what is important in life, I’ll usually just wave one or two in front of me and go on my merry way, because the stress of teaching the world a lesson while behind the wheel of a car is just not worth it.  But sometimes, it’s just one of those days and I can’t stop myself, and I allow myself to falsely believe that they will change their me-first-lane-cutting ways and the world will be a better place for all concerned if I don’t let them get away with it.

    But that never happens.

    Those days when I just have to right the traffic wrongs, I never move along feeling better about myself.  I never feel like I made my little slice of the world a better place.  In fact just the opposite.  Sometimes a win is not really a win.

    A while back, we had an exceptionally spring like day in the middle of the winter and Sean and I were hanging out at the park.  Sean was on the swing, not really swinging, but just kind of sitting and twisting in the sunshine.  A neighbor showed up with his little grandson who is about four and as is typical of four-year-olds, he wanted the swing Sean was on.  Being four, he did not say, “Pardon me sir, if you’re not going to swing, may I?”  No. Being four, he tugged at the chains and said something like, “I want to swing.”

    To this, Sean responded by digging in his proverbial heels.  He gripped the chains tighter and sat as immovable as Mount Rushmore and gave the four-year-old the “Ain’t no way buddy!” look, which was painfully all too familiar.  He was going to teach that four-year-old a lesson – you can’t just cut in on the swing!

    I really wanted Sean to voluntarily give up the swing for three reasons.  One, I want Sean to have a good heart, one that loves to give and serve.  Two, I want Sean to experience how good it feels when you respond with kindness where it is not necessarily warranted or likely to be reciprocated.  And three, and I am cringing as I write this in naked honesty, I wanted my neighbor to think I was an awesome parent.

    But at the same time, I didn’t want to force Sean to give up the swing.  Embarrassment is never an effective teacher in my opinion.  As expected, Sean soon grew weary of the little boy tugging at the swing, so he got off and we headed home to sit on the front steps and watch the world go by.

    I took that opportunity to try to tell him how sometimes when you win, you don’t really win, knowing that this is a lesson he will have to learn on his own over and over throughout his life.

    “I know you probably don’t understand this just yet, but you could have given up the swing to that little boy and it wouldn’t have cost you a thing.  And you could have looked really big in the eyes of that little boy and his grandpa,” I said, “And bonus, when you do something like that, you get to feel good about yourself.”

    He didn’t respond to that.  I could tell he was giving it skeptical consideration or trying to figure out how to get off the subject.

    “What if you give up something that does cost you?” he asked.

    Good question.  Crickets chirped as I tried to think of something I had given up lately that had cost me something and couldn’t come up with one thing.

    “I guess then you get to look big in the eyes of God,” I said slowly, more to myself than to him, wondering what in the heck just happened here.  I thought I was supposed to be the teacher.

    Sometimes, the teacher is the student and learning is more about the questions than the answers.

    A Good Friend

    January 23, 2013

    This morning, I watched two boys tumble out of the backseat of my car and scramble towards the school.  Their backpacks bounced wildly as they ran and playfully shoved each other off the sidewalk.  I couldn’t hear them, but I knew that they were giggling and calling each other out with mock indignation, “Duuude!?”

    Since the day I knew I was pregnant, I have prayed for many things for my child, but my constant prayer has been that he would be blessed with a good friend.  As I watched the two boys disappear around the corner, I sensed that for this season at least, my prayer had been answered.

    When I say “a good friend” I don’t mean someone who enjoys the same things he does or someone who will reciprocate play dates.  What I want for Sean is a friend who possesses the Biblical quality of goodness – a good friend.  Proverbs 17:17 says, “A good friend loves at all times” and a friend who loves at all times does not let his buddy do something that would make his mommy sad.

    And in Bryan, Sean’s BFF for this season (or dare I even hope, for life?) I see a boy who has the fruit of goodness growing in him.

    Not long ago, Bryan was over to play and Sean was being a real toot.  When I took Bryan home, I told him I was sorry that Sean had not been very nice to him and he said – and this blew me away – “That’s okay, he’s probably just tired.”

    Grace and goodness – what more could you want in a friend?

    Bryan’s mother tells me he has his days too (who doesn’t?) but on the whole, I see in him an innate desire to do what is good and right.  He is a boy who is cautious and doesn’t like getting in trouble and Sean needs someone like that to temper his sometimes dramatic free-spiritedness.

    I know that with each passing year, the influence of the world will increase in his life and my influence will decrease.  I know that the company he keeps will influence the choices he makes.  I know that the stakes only get higher as his world gets bigger.  The people he chooses to partner with in friendships along the way will have a hand in writing the story of his life.

    I know that the time is coming when I will have to lengthen the rope, to let him go with his friends (clear out of my sight!) and in letting him go, he will encounter choices to go left or right.   And I think the best I can hope for is that he will have at least one good  friend who will hold him accountable, who is willing to challenge a questionable choice or at least speak up and say, “Dude. Maybe you shouldn’t do that…”

    At some point in life, one has (hopefully) developed some wisdom and discernment, and friends of all sorts is a good thing; I think we are called to that.  But for a nine-year-old who has yet to fully develop those traits —  right now he needs, and has, a good friend.

    And that is an answered prayer.

     

    Everyone Has A Story

    January 13, 2013

    I recently came across the Washington Post story of Joshua Bell, a world class violinist who agrees to work in cahoots with the Post for a story.  He positions himself as an anonymous sort of starving artist in a Washington DC subway playing for tips during morning rush hour — that is, a starving artist playing for tips with a $3 million Stradivari.  As he plays his glorious music, for which he earns millions, for which he has played for kings and queens, he is largely ignored.

    The story is not new, it came out in 2007, but I didn’t see it then because at that time I had a just turned four-year-old and I was as likely to have time to read the newspaper as I was to take trapeze lessons.

    Nonetheless, I came across the story on Facebook, and as you might expect, there were hundreds of comments about how awful people are because here they were in the presence musical genius and they neither recognized it nor would they take time to stop and smell the musical roses.

    I, however, did not think the story was about how awful people are for not recognizing Joshua Bell or stopping to enjoy awesome violin music.  Until I read this story I had not heard of Joshua Bell and I only somewhat enjoy violin music. Paint my collar blue.

    That people don’t recognize a celebrity out of context is not surprising, especially a non-Hollywood celebrity.  That the majority of people don’t recognize a famous classical musician is not surprising as the majority of people who can afford seats at the symphony are not the majority of the subway-riding working stiffs.  That people won’t stop and close their eyes and sway and appreciate musical beauty as they are late to work is not surprising either, because if they get fired, how are they ever going to afford symphony tickets?

    Recognition of celebrity or beauty out of context may have been the intended story, but I thought the real story was about how everyone you pass has a story — a tragic beautiful amazing heroic unique thrilling and wonderful story, co-written with a mighty creator.

    Everyone you pass has a story that is out of context.  The mom I often pass on the way to school, who wears yoga pants and drives the Mercedes, who never makes eye contact or speaks to me, who makes me feel like she thinks she is better than me — she has a story.  And if I knew her story, it might provide some context.  It might change my perspective.  I might view her differently.

    The mom who is 30-pounds overweight.  The mom who is always pulled together and volunteers for everything.  The mom who is a little too loud. The mom who lets her kid wear shorts to school in January.  The mom who….

    Everyone has a story, which in the subway station of life, is out of context.  And no, I’m not suggesting that we stop and take in the story of everyone we pass, because then we would never have time for those trapeze lessons.  But we can try to remember that everyone we pass has a story and that if we knew it, we would have the context to recognize the celebrity and beauty in them that God sees.

    The Lord does not look at the things people look at.  People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.  1Samuel 16:7

     

    Wherein We Speak of YKW

    February 19, 2012

    Today’s topic is YKW, which shall be code for ‘you know what’ which shall be code for well, you know. . .  It’s not that I am Victorian when it comes to the topic of YKW, it’s just that I’d prefer Google not send a certain audience of seekers to my humble wholesome blog, so therefore I have developed my own dorky top secret code.  So then, now you are in the know about YKW.

    * * * * *

    Sean prefers to sit with AD and I in our Sunday school class.  And we don’t mind, we like having him with us.  He brings a book to read.  But he is also listening.  He’s always listening.  We know this because usually sometime around Wednesday, out of the blue, he’ll make some observation about something the teacher said.

    For the past several weeks, a family and marriage therapist has been leading the class on various aspects of the marriage relationship.  The next class, we were warned, would be on marital intimacy.  So of course we told Sean that he would have to go to his own class.  “Why!?” he protested, “Because you’re going to talk about s+x?”  Yes, I said, for that very reason.  “But I promise I won’t answer any of the questions!” he said.

    Sean has a good understanding of YKW.  He understands the physiology.  He knows that God created male and female, each with their own unique components for reproduction.  He does not yet fully understand how the components come together to make that happen because he is not ready for that.

    We decided early on that we would approach the topic honestly anytime the opportunity presented.  And one thing that has helped in that regard is that Sean has always been keenly interested in wild life and animals.  We have watched a lot of Animal Planet, where the topic is unavoidable and usually narrated in a British voice.  Which somehow makes everything seem more proper.

    One time when Sean was about five and my parents were visiting, Sean and my dad were sitting on the couch watching an episode of Animal Planet while the British guy gave a play by play of two lions engaged in YKW.  Sean, ever the educator, turns to my dad and flatly informs him, “The male is the one top.”  To which my dad replied, “Oh.” and then quickly excused himself to the kitchen to refill his glass of tea.

    Everyone has to develop their own parenting philosophy in terms of how and when to teach their children about YKW, so what follows is not to comment upon what anyone else is doing, but merely to say what has worked for us. Thus far.  We may find out years from now that our philosophy was a complete and utter failure.

    If I were to offer any advice in regards to how you decide to educate your children on this topic it would be to decide.  That is to say give some thought as to what, when and how you want your children to learn about YKW, and not wait to see how the world fills the void.

    Parenting often occurs in reaction to and against our own experience and this may be part of how our thinking on this topic developed — we looked back on our own experience and decided that maybe there was a better way.  I think for many of us Baby Boomers the best practice of the day was that somewhere around puberty, your mother or some other well-intended adult would ominously sit you down and give you THE TALK, maybe give you a book which covered the basic physiology illustrated with line drawings.  They would then dust their hands, relieved that the task was complete, thankful that we could all move on with our lives and pretend it never happened.

    The problem with this approach in my view is that it’s like getting a bucket of cold water in the face.  There was no information leading up to THE TALK (except maybe from unreliable peer sources), there was no context, and definitely no follow-up.  And it was incredibly awkward at a time when your life is one big hot steaming bowl of awkward.

    In light of that we decided to forego the bucket method, and opted instead for the dribble method – we would start early and give him little bits of accurate and age-appropriate information as the opportunity presented.  There would be no cabbage patch or stork or cute names for body parts.

    THE TALK approach, to me, always seemed to confer upon it a sense of shame, that somehow after THE TALK you don’t talk about it, ever, again.  We want Sean to talk to us openly and freely, about everything, but at the same time YKW is not a topic we want him discussing openly and freely outside of our family, for many reasons, but not the least of which is because just like Santa Claus, other families might be going the stork route and we want to respect that.  We don’t want Sean to be a spoiler or to get in the way of how other people are teaching their children.  So, we constantly remind Sean that this is a topic that we only talk about at home among the three of us, and never with others.

    When I was coming of age, my knowledge on the topic was like a book that was missing every other page.  I had bits and pieces of information here and there, but by no means did I have a complete picture or a useful understanding.  And I knew it.  I can still remember my freshman year of high school, the panicky feeling of knowing that I didn’t know what I thought everyone else knew, and trying to pretend that I did.  And that panic and pretending is awful, because you’re just waiting to be found out as the dumbest person ever.  And I don’t want for Sean.  I want him to have confidence in who he is and what he knows. I don’t want to leave wide open gaps for the world to fill with panic and ugly half-truths.

    That is why we want Sean to hear from us first on the topic of YKW – like the local news, we want to be his first and most trusted source of information!  Back to you AD in the studio!

    That he should hear from us first on this topic is the cornerstone of our philosophy — the two people who love him most and know him best, who have his best interest at heart and in whom he knows he can trust completely.

    We want to provide him with information on a level that is appropriate for him, in the context of our beliefs and values, with the understanding that physiology and faith are partners, not opponents, that one without the other is incomplete.  We want him to feel he can talk to us anytime, openly and without reserve or shame.  We want him to understand that this is a topic that is to be handled with respect, and therefore is private (not secret) and not public.

    If our philosophy is sound and works the way we hope, when the topic of YKW comes up on the playground, as it will if it hasn’t already, he’s heard it before, it is old news.  And hopefully he’ll yawn confidently and walk away.

    If not, he can discuss it with his future family and marriage therapist.

    Clean Up In The Center Aisle

    November 22, 2010

    I will share this story with you now so that I might dispel any notion you may have that I am perfect, so that you might feel better about your own short comings. Or maybe I just need to confess.

    If there is a single struggle that defines my life (and oh if only it were just ONE) it is the constant inner-battle between wanting and not wanting stuff.  Within the space of two seconds I can swing between feeling sickened and burdened by the sheer volume of my stuff to wanting more of it.

    So then, the other day I was at Wal-Mart and I was not in a fine mood.  I was just sort of feeling mad at everything for no particular reason.  My cart was all wobbly and really annoying and that was making me mad.  I didn’t like the way my jacket fit and that made me mad.  People were in my way and that was making me mad.  They didn’t have the two things I specifically went to the store to get and that made me mad.  Like Little Critter, I was just so mad. I probably had those two little squiggly vertical lines above my head that you see in cartoons.

    But mostly what was making me mad was that everything just seemed really expensive and that was energizing the Want Team.  The Want Team are a bunch of bullies really. They taunt me and poke their bony fingers into my tender self-esteem.  And they are a pack of liars too.  Meanwhile the Not Want Team was off snoozing somewhere.  Like some sort of bulimic shopper, I put stuff in my cart only to talk myself out of it and take it out two aisles later.   Which then made me feel resentful and sorry for myself, and you guessed it, mad.  (Sorry Wal-Mart employees for the Rubber Maid containers, lemon zester and Christmas placemats you found in with the women’s socks.)

    Weary of the battle, I gave up and decided to head towards the checkout with my coffee and few other things and head home. As I headed down the big center aisle toward the front, I looked up from my dark cloud to see a young woman pushing a cart towards me.  In the seat of the cart was a little girl.  An older woman walked alongside her, perhaps her mother.  The woman pushing the cart was radiantly happy.  She was enjoying her little girl and chatting happily with her mother.  She was not taking stuff in and out of her cart like a crazy lady, stuff that would ultimately rot away or be eaten by moths.  She was not mad.  She was not mad at all.  She was a picture of  joy.

    As I passed her I tried not to stare at her Prednisone-puffed face or the tell-tale dew rag she wore on her bald head.

    I wanted to cry.  Not so much for her, but for me, for my sorry state of being.

    I offered up a prayer for her as she passed, a prayer of thanksgiving for the blessing that she was to me, for being the slap in the face that I needed in just that moment.  I prayed that God would look upon her with favor and restore her completely.

    I went to the store for groceries, but left with what I really needed — a cleansed perspective.

    Chalk one up for the Not Want Team who rallied from behind — thanks to the lady in the dew rag.

    Yosemite

    June 2, 2010

    Photobucket

    Yosemite is one of my favorite places on the entire Earth.  It’s a place where my love for God and geology intersect.  In these exact coordinates in the universe, God and Earth are exposed and revealed in such a way that they are both breathtakingly clear and yet all the more mysterious.  In his book, A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking says that when we understand eternity, then we will see the face of God.  In Yosemite, I come as close to that as anywhere I’ve ever been.

    A month or so before AD and I married, we hiked Half Dome, which is that huge “half dome” shaped granite rock you see in the distant background.  When we set off on the hike, I didn’t really know if I could make it because it’s a mostly vertical, 20-mile round trip, give or take.  But I decided that day that I would go as far as I could go and when I could go no more, I would go back.  So I would go as far as I could go and then I would rest.  And then I would get up and go some more. And eventually we made it.  I recall that it took about 12 hours, maybe more. Such is life, one step at a time.

    As we walked along that day back in 1998, not fully aware of what was ahead for us, not knowing if we would make it to the top or have to turn back, we imagined that some day we would have a little boy or girl and that we would take them to Yosemite.  There has been a lot of stopping and resting along the way in those past 12 years, but on this trip, that dream came true.

    Man On A Sidewalk

    April 18, 2010

    The other day I was on my way to pick up Sean from school when I saw a man bent over on the sidewalk.  That is not something you see around here everyday, so it caught my eye and I slowed to see what was going on. And I couldn’t quite tell.

    I couldn’t tell if he was having a heart attack and had dropped to his knees. I couldn’t tell if he had been jogging and was winded.  I couldn’t tell if he had stopped to examine a bug or perhaps he had just stopped to tie his shoes. But something about it sent my antennae up. Something was not quite right.

    But I was running late as usual, so I didn’t stop.  After I retrieved my child from school, I circled back to see if he was still there.  He was, so I slowed and rolled down my window.

    “You doin’ okay?” I called towards him from a safe distance.

    He looked up, surprised.

    “Yeah,” he sighed.  Then, “No. Not really.  I’m having a really bad day.”  He sounded tired, not so much in body but in spirit.  A fatigued spirit is the worst kind of tired; no amount of sleep or vitamins can restore a weary soul.

    “Oh, I’m sorry,” I said sympathetically and empathetically. I’ve had a few days in my life where I’ve wanted to collapse in a heap on the sidewalk and cry.

    “You wouldn’t have a cigarette, would you?” he asked from the sidewalk.

    “No, I’m sorry, I don’t,” I said.

    I look in my rear view mirror.  I can see Sean looking at the man through his rolled up window.  He is taking it all in with curiosity as though he is watching a movie waiting to see what will happen in the next scene.

    Without any cigarettes, I could see that there wasn’t much beyond sympathy I could offer him, so I promised that I would send up a prayer for him.

    Offering to pray for someone is a risky thing, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t do a whole lot of that sort of thing, particularly with strangers, but there was something desperate about the way he was hunched over on the sidewalk that evoked an upwelling in my heart and a desire to do something to relieve his burden in some small way.  He could have told me where to stick my prayers, but he didn’t.

    He smiled just a little. I thought I saw a glimmer of hope, a tiny spark.

    “Thanks man, thanks for stopping, thanks for checking on me, thanks…” he rambled.

    “Hang in there,” I said. It didn’t quite convey the encouragement I wished for him, but it was all I could think to say.

    He cut such a sorrowful figure standing there that I couldn’t help but to wonder what it was that had brought him to his knees on a sidewalk in the middle of the day.  I could think of a hundred things, maybe a thousand.

    As I pulled away, Sean asked how we were going to pray for him.  “We don’t even know his name,” he pointed out.

    “That’s true,” I said. “We don’t know his name and we don’t know what is troubling him, but God does.”

    As we drove home, my little boy and I prayed for a man on a sidewalk.  It was all we could do.

    Shouted Greetings

    January 6, 2010

    Yesterday I was eavesdropping chatting on Twitter and I saw that my friend michaelsownmom was talking about how her little boy waved and shouted a greeting at a woman who was walking down the street, but the woman didn’t respond. And understandably, that bruised his feelings just a little.

    I replied to her that my six-year-old does the same thing – if someone is walking down the sidewalk in front or behind the house, he’ll stop what he is doing and holler Hi There! and wave with his hand high in the air, sometimes until they are clear out of sight.  I added that I really have to fight the urge to stifle him, but really, why?

    MichaelsDaddy chimed in that he sometimes feels like he needs to protect him from the rejection of those who won’t respond in kind.

    I think every parent can relate to that, the overwhelming urge to protect our babies from the hurts and rejections of the world.

    If I am to be honest though, I think one reason I want to temper Sean’s enthusiasm in shouting greetings to all who pass is because, for reasons unbeknownst to me, it’s a little embarrassing. We tend to not do that kind of thing much these days and our world is probably a little darker for it.

    But like MichaelsDaddy, also known as Tom, I too want to protect my baby from those who won’t acknowledge him or respond in kind.

    But the cold reality of life on this planet is that there will always be a steady stream of rejection to be had.  So, from a practical standpoint, why not start practicing now?  Why not get used to rejection from complete strangers so that way when he grows up and is on Twitter and gets notice of 14 unfollowers, it won’t hurt his feelings. As much.

    But immeasurably beyond that, to stifle him would be to counter the exact thing I’m trying to teach him – always reach out, always extend kindness to others,  even when it is not acknowledged or returned.