Random thoughts from an animal-loving French prof / mom of three on things she finds beautiful, funny, sad, or strange.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Think differently

I sat across the table, looked at our pastor, and said it again.

"You know I'm the wrong person to ask. We're both way too Lutheran.* Ask the others." Then I sat back and shut my mouth, for a few minutes, anyway.

There was a time I would have not have thought this possible. Indeed, I bet many, when asked to describe me, would say "opinionated" is the understatement of the century! What's more, my comfort zone, like most people's, lies mainly with those who share my thoughts and beliefs.

Yet our comfort zone is not always our best zone. If I stay in my comfort zone, those outside it stay just there, outside. And that is not okay, especially not in a worship setting.  My pastor and I could plan a service that would knock our own socks off, but if it has no meaning for the congregation, what use would that be? Heavenly music is rarely made from two similar voices hitting the exact same note.

I really started learning this fifteen years ago, when I moved to the Bible belt. A liberal Yank if ever there was one, I had two choices. One was to dig in my heels and tell anyone who didn't agree with me where they could go. Not being a fan of lonely defeat, I went for the second option and opened my ears, my mind, and my heart. It has not been always easy, and sometimes I fail on a pretty epic scale, but my life is the richer for it.

On the hardest days, especially in this time of vitriol known as an election year, it helps to realize that those with whom I disagree want the same things I do: love, respect, a better world for our children. It also helps to think about their stories. What is it about their story that brought them to this point? How has my story shaped and guided me? What if, instead of seeing these as competing narratives, we saw them as a counterpoint to which the concluding notes are not yet written?

This has been on my mind this week due to the recent passing of Justice Anthony Scalia. I can see some of you now, especially those who know me outside this blog. You are shaking your heads as you wonder, "our left-leaning, feminist, tree-hugging Northerner is inspired by him?" To which I respond, "yep, sure am." I can't agree with most of his conclusions, but I have to admire how deliberately he thought his way there. I tend to process new perspectives when they cross my path; he went out of his way to make those encounters happen. What if more of us followed that example?

I leave you with this:  just try it. Think differently. You'll be glad you did.

*"too Lutheran" is not meant to be derogatory; it is simply code for two Lutherans who have found a spiritual home in the United Methodist Church

Monday, February 15, 2016

Love is an action verb

So this week-end, the Internet, and presumably everyone else, was all about love.

Or were they?

I'm not trying to be cynical here. It's just that I'm pretty sure that for some, their words were just that, words. A bunch of empty phrases in honor of a saint about whom we don't know as much as we think we do. I have nothing against Valentine's Day, but it always feels to me like an awful lot of people are getting it wrong. I think I've finally figured out why.

Love, to me, is an action verb. It is not a warm fuzzy feeling or an emoji-bedazzled Facebook status or even a dozen roses or a diamond ring. Sure, all of those things can go along with love. And if you happen to be in love, there's a pretty good chance they are part of the package. But make no mistake: they are not love itself.

So in belated honor of Valentine's Day, here is are some things that for me, represent real love, love as action.

...delivering a casserole
...lending a car
...accepting help

...driving the extra mile (or ten... or more...)
...changing a tire
...giving up your bed
...admiring the six hundredth Lego creation

...making gifts of the stories you love
...playing Monopoly when your game is Scrabble
...granting permission for the date
...saying no to the broken curfew

...cheering for the winning goal
...crying over the ball that didn't go in
...sending your children off to school
...welcoming your children back home

...sharing a coffee with friends
...sharing a coffee with a stranger
...picking up the phone
...turning off the phone for real face time

I could keep going, but I think you get the idea. What about you? What are the things that show you love is an action verb?

Saturday, February 6, 2016

We all need a story

"Tell me a story," I said as I snuggled in, both of us having decided to make peace with my insomnia. Somewhat bewildered and probably uncomfortable, he replied that he didn't have any. This, in retrospect, could be the moment our relationship started not to work as well as it once had. Then again, maybe not. He actually had plenty of stories, tales from a life often different from mine, words that I still hold close to my heart. They remind me that just because a story might not end as you'd hoped, that doesn't mean it ended badly. It might simply be that it's time for a new chapter.

People without stories do exist, however. My son is one of them. It's not that his life doesn't have events, moods, feelings, settings, characters. It does. But because the narrative arc did not unfold the way it should have in his first years on earth, he has essentially lost the ability to grasp, much less tell, his own story. He holds it at a distance, trying not only to bury the past, but also to avoid the future. After all, the elements of his early story let him down. Why take that risk again?

Needless to say, this breaks my heart. It breaks for him and all he has suffered. It breaks because his story literally scares him half to death (and yes, I mean "literally" - check his heart rate and pupils during therapy if you don't believe me). What's more, his refusal of his own story has made him resistant to other stories as well. If there is one gift I have always wanted to give my children, besides the obvious one of unconditional love, it would be words. I want them to have not just their words, but also all the rest, the ones that create word-journeys to other worlds. Maybe those words, those worlds, will give them what they need. Maybe they will let them live often happily, always wholly, ever after.