Peace cannot be kept by force;
it can only be achieved by understanding.
I am coming to terms with my personality. To be honest, it isn’t an easy one to carry around, but I’ve become quite attached and I believe it is good. I am grateful for who I am and am becoming. As one who needs a cause, I carry around burdens, doing my best to help others through listening and time. My work is to help. While I love it, I’m often tired.
I used to think my personality was weird. I wanted to be like those other girls, worried about her hair and clothes and shoes. And of course, I was, to an extent, but not at the expense of another. I love my ability to suffer with another, to get angry on their behalf, to pray in their stead, to hold space for them in my heart when the load is too great. I consider this my calling, my offering, my giftedness.
My life is wonderful, one with abundance and plenty, with margins and room. I have a life filled with generous kindness, healthy communication, good people, lots of laughter and goofiness, apologies and forgiveness. Don’t worry, it’s not perfect. I have my fair share of mistakes and self-loathing and difficult people, frustrations and misunderstood motives. I often lie awake in the middle of the night tallying the day’s failures, the shortcomings.
The present world we live in baffles and frustrates me. The politics and greed, the lust for more – to make America great (white) again. Our squandering of resources, lack of care and provision for the land, our desire to keep the right people in and the wrong people out. The words etched across our Statue of Liberty ignored and ridiculed.
The refugee crisis is staggering, an overwhelming number of dead each month attempting to cross the vast, inky blackness to safety. The risk of the water offering a reprieve from the tyranny of land. Death, a reprieve from the tyranny of flight and bombings and starvation and immeasurable suffering.
The racial disparity brought to light over these two years since Michael Brown’s untimely death in Ferguson weighs heavy. His body lying in the sweltering Missouri summer heat, with no regard or respect for human dignity. Story after story after story of young men and women killed by police.
Shootings of good people doing good things, people in their sanctuaries, people doing what they do best – gunned down, threatened, afraid. People loving and serving, people choosing to sacrifice their safety for others.
I think of the families in my own children’s schools with next to nothing, unable to make ends meet, living in what are called The Apartments. I confess, it is so easy to drive by, to overlook, to offer a friendly wave and smile but not dirty hands and willing feet.
I lie awake at night for the burden, knowing my life is good. I honor the gifts with gratitude, but the hollow ache persists when my happiness is the prize, the goal for which I strive. And my heart breaks at my own lust for more, spending money, acquiring, a timeworn distraction borne of boredom, habit and carelessness.
Happiness is shallow, oftentimes a burden. My happiness is flawed, considering me and me alone. My fulfillment. My purpose. My hope. My family and friends. My experiences. My happiness holds no weight or volume, like a bucket full of holes.
My happiness exists in direct proportion to my ignorance and chosen blindness.
Choosing discomfort is odd. It’s like poking yourself in the eyes and trying to see again – everything distorted. You start to see people, realizing assumptions are inadequate, each person holding a unique story and the only way to access that story is through relationship. Choosing discomfort peels the scales from our eyes, a death warrant signed on certainty, on judgement. No longer can you go through your days without concern and consideration for others, the people who cross our paths that maybe were once invisible. No longer can you, in good conscience, place blame.
So, what is the answer? How do we, who have been given so much, respond to the blatant unjust systems in place? How do we, who hold vast wealth, respond to poverty? How do we, with warm homes and soft beds, sleep at night knowing families are crossing dangerous waters in hope of some life, trading a damned future for an uncertain one? How do we reconcile the horrific suffering, the rejection of children at our borders, the evil, with our comforts and plenty?
The hope I hold rests in love. The hope I hold rests in kindness and justice and mercy. The hope I hold rests in seeing people, seeing the people in our little corners of the world . The hope I hold rests in the smallest acts of kindness, the tiniest acts of generosity. The hope I hold rests in choosing discomfort, without assumptions. The hope I hold rests in gratitude and goodness. The hope I hold rests in beauty.
May we, during these tenuous times, give an extra dose of grace to another, choosing discomfort. May we be quick to give of our time, wealth or talent. May we offer a cup of cold water to the weary traveler and a slice of buttery bread. May we smile more and worry less. May we honor where we’ve been placed and what we’ve been given by passing the goodness around. May we create, adding beauty to our world, setting aside fear. May we write and compose and sing and play and build. May we trust all things work together for good.
Our job is not to save or convince. Our job is to live with our eyes wide open, respecting and honoring the story of another, choosing life and remembering…
*Photo by Claire Jepsen