Yesterday, almost one million students across the United States of America, walked out en masse to protest school shooting and the inability of adults to agree upon how to make our schools safer.
There were two types of protests that were happening. One was #walkout which encouraged students to leave their school classrooms and #walkup which encouraged these young adults to find someone who seemed to exist “on the edges” and talk with them eat lunch and begin a conversation that hopefully would develop into a relationship. I supported the #walkout and the #walkup protests and thought both had merit and could change lives. Neither was a perfect way of protesting but each one was worth doing.
However, I noticed that many folks were for one or the other. Not many looked for balance in the two approaches. Students were either labeled #walkup or #walkout. It seemed not much conversation was happening between the quickly diverging groups. This made me sad. The reason the students were protesting is that adults can’t talk to one another, find a compromise, work together on behalf of our nation’s youngest and brightest. Now, it was happening again.
I am sick of litmus tests that divide us as a nation, community, and families. I am tired of people not being able to listen to one another even if we do not agree with the other. There is almost always a middle way where we remember we’re all human, deserving of respect and kindness instead of disdain and meanness. Perhaps one day we will realize we have more in common than what we allow to tear us apart.
The Obstacle is the Path –
This afternoon I made a quick stop at the local Wal-Mart to buy a few things. I knew exactly what I wanted, where it was located, picked up the items and headed for the checkout. I am one of those people who will walk down the length of the entire front of the store to see if I can find the shortest line possible.
However, today, a nice woman in a yellow vast spotted me looking and told me lanes 19 and 21 were open with no waiting. I made my way to the aforementioned lanes and both of them weren’t empty but had only a few people with a few items. I picked one and steered my cart behind the people in front of me. Almost as soon as I parked the buggy I knew I picked the wrong one. The cashier was chatty, the customers too and there was an issue with one of the payment cards they were trying to use. “Sigh.” I thought about leaving but didn’t have the energy to pick another aisle. It has been a busy morning with back to back sessions, email replies, calendar updates, phone calls and another meeting in half an hour.
As I stood there I thought to myself; “Maybe, this is what you need. A time to rest. A place to stop. Perhaps what you see as a burden is a beautiful gifted moment.” I breathed in a long breath and let it out. Soon it was my turn, checked out, got into the truck and made my meeting with plenty of time to spare. Lesson learned, again.
“The obstacle is the path.”
A couple of months ago I transplanted a young oak tree. It was growing in a precarious place and I didn’t want its growth impeded. I moved it to the center of our back yard with great care and hoped it would survive and thrive. It did. The young oak took quickly to its new spot and soon began to get taller and its small branches reached up to the sky.
That was before. Before the June bugs came. In a matter of days they had stripped my little oak bare! I couldn’t believe how fast it happened. One day a flourishing sight to behold; plenteous leaves, vibrant colors, the next a pitiful looking, mostly naked tree. The ravenous insects had pillaged the foliage leaving only bare stalks behind. I was shocked by how quickly what was once beautiful and vibrant was devoured, used up and left for dead.
Last night my wife and I were walking in the backyard following a thunderstorm. It was cool and a gorgeous sunset illuminated the clouds. As I approached my little oak I noticed new leaves, fresh buds. It was growing again. It had survived the onslaught and now dared to try once more.
I reflected this morning about how much we have in common with this tree. There are times in life, seasons, when we grow and thrive. We revel in our blessings and reach for the sky with no a doubt we will reach it.
Then the pestilence comes. Pain, difficulties, disease, doubt, betrayal, hardships, death strip us bare, seemingly stealing all the joy and beauty life had to offer. Afterwards we’re left with the remnants, the despoiled stalks of our dreams, faith and sense of worth.
The choice becomes will we try again. Do we dare look longingly into the sky and hope, when our brokenness and bareness mocks us? Can we trust enough to open ourselves up even with the possibility of repeatedly being hurt? Are we willing to take the chance when we are offered no guarantee of not being stripped bare and once more left for dead? It’s the decision we all must make.
It’s the choice to live…again.