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.
Life Lost –
Today, I stopped by Wal-Mart for a couple of items and headed to the checkout area. I had my choice of a person checking me out or self-checkout. The self-checkout had a couple of registers open so I chose one of them. I wasn’t in a hurry, didn’t have an appointment to go to or a schedule to stay on top of, it was simply faster and mindlessly I chose it. Instead of human interaction, an opportunity to say a kind word to a cashier, a chance to stand in line and share a smile, I went with the quickest and the most isolated.
These are the choices we face in our culture. We are able to order online, having most items shipped for free or close to it to our homes, open our doors and live without interaction, relating, or sharing our lives with one another.
At a time when communication is easier than it has ever been in the history of humankind, we are lonely. In a world full of hurting and wounded people we look in another direction to avoid seeing them. On a journey we should be making together we prefer to travel alone. Instead of caring for one another we see the other as a burden to carry.
I could tell she needing something without knowing how to ask for it. Finally, she began to say a few words, jumbled, somewhat coherent, and then blurted out a need her husband had and could I help? Responding in an assuring voice with, hopefully, peace giving words I told her; “Yes” and “would she like a card?” She smiled affirmatively, took the card and said; “Thank you.” “Anytime,” I replied back. “I hope you have a nice weekend.” I don’t know if I’ll hear from her or her husband again but it was not my first time I’ve encountered someone looking for assistance and yet hesitant, resistant, to ask for help.
I reflect on our brief conversation and wonder; “Why is it so hard for some to admit need?” I think part of it is our; “Pull yourselves up by your own bootstraps” culture. Folks who need a helping hand often feel they are somehow “less than” others.
Maybe it’s the thought that; “Others are so much worse off.” It seems selfish to take food out of their mouths, clothes off their backs, a roof over their heads.
Might be, perhaps the darkest reason; “I don’t want to be lumped in with the people who ‘have their hands out.'” They are judged, looked down upon, seen as lazy, under-achievers, taking advantage of people, churches, community organizations and the government.
Being in need is nothing to be ashamed of. Whether its physical, mental, emotional or spiritual we all need each other to make it. A wisdom proverb states; “No one can navigate the road of life alone.” In truth, we are all needy, weak, impoverished and cannot do it on our own. Asking for help is not helplessness it’s having the right balance of strength and humility to admit we are flawed, defective, deficient, have shortcomings, imperfections, in short,we are all; human and to be so is to be in need.
“Someone asked the great Master one day; “What is the gospel?” The Master replied; “The gospel is simply one beggar telling another beggar where to find food.” Wisdom Proverb
Rest and Suffering –
Yesterday afternoon, on my way back from an out-of-town meeting, I passed a delivery truck. Its hood was up, flashers on, obviously broke down and not going anywhere. What caught my attention was the driver. He was laying down in a shady spot, one arm for a pillow and the other holding a cellphone and talking. He wasn’t nervously pacing, angrily kicking tires, yelling into the phone. If he could’ve fixed the truck I am sure he would have. If there was a way to deliver his goods he would’ve completed his goals for the day. Instead, he was resting because there wasn’t anything else to do but wait.
I struggle following this man’s example. I like rhythm, order, control. I don’t like surprises, detours, or delays. There is certainly a part of that which comes from having a Severe Anxiety Disorder. Mapping out the day so it can be more easily managed is part of my therapy. However, I also believe it’s very human to want control, to get things done in a timely manner, to feel like our lives are not always a random gathering of happenstance.
Wisdom teaches us that the distance between acceptance of what happens every moment and our expectation of what should happen every moment is where suffering is found. Knowing how to rest in the unplanned, perhaps even unwanted, experiences of life is one of the toughest and most valuable lessons we can learn.
My Kind of Reality –
I like the truth behind this quote from Bill Waterson. Many realities are forced upon us by different medias, people, cultures, and environments. We are told what to think, who to trust, where we’re supposed to go and how we are to get there.
I enjoy social media for the most part. Catching up and keeping up with people whom I care for and love is one of the biggest positives of being connected. However, one of the worst bits of social media is the relentless posts on political preferences, judgements and snarky remarks against folks who have done one thing or another to upset the poster. There are litmus tests such as abortion, gay rights, presidential candidates, celebrities, and a host of other subjects that decide for us whether or not a person is worth our time, and perhaps even our love. I am consistently appalled at the vitriol people say to one another online, things, I hope, they’d never say face to face.
It seems we’re surrounded by litmus tests such as abortion, gay rights, presidential candidates, celebrities, and a host of other subjects that decide whether we ae worth a person’s attention or their love. If we fail, we’re not worthy.
It wears me out! This isn’t the reality I choose to live in. I want to be in a place where people can believe and express different opinions and still be friends. I desire a world more nuanced where one won’t decide whether a person is good or bad by whether they agree or disagree on a subject the other is passionate about. I long to see people converse instead of scream, listen and not talk incessantly, have an open heart and spirit to the one who is different, offensive and human, just like us.
This is the reality I choose and pray others will join me.
The lawn caretakers for the church next door came early this morning, before 7AM. Luckily I was already up and taking the dog outside for his morning routine. As I stood there, in my bathrobe, I heard a noise over the sound of the zero turn lawn mowers. At first I couldn’t make it out but as I focused on the sound it became clear someone was singing. It was one of the men on the mowers. He had headphones on and whatever song was playing he was singing along with it. I began to smile. He hadn’t seen me and continued for a while bellowing at the top of is lungs. Before long he noticed me, quieted down until me and the dog went inside.For a lawn jockey he was a decent singer. He didn’t need to be any more talented than what he was because his purpose was to mow grass, take care of lawns, not entertain folks with his musical abilities.
The incident reminded me of a professor I had in college. I asked him one day; “How can we, who are so frail, weak, selfish, short-sighted and sinful, so human, ever please a God who is so good?” He smiled and took a pen from his shirt pocket and pointed out the scratches, dings and dents, faded color of the imitated gold casing and asked me; “What is the purpose of this pen? Is it to look good? Impress by its shine? Cause awe to all who behold it? Or, is it to write when pressed on to a piece of paper?” “To write.” I said. “Then it is a perfect pen because it fulfills its purpose. As long as it writes, its perfect no matter what it looks on the outside. In the same way our purpose is to love and be loved by God. Oftentimes we aren’t much to look at but if we desire to love and be loved by our Heavenly Father we are fulfilling our purpose and His love is what makes us perfect.”
He was a wise man.