Thursday, November 12, 2015

Thankful Thursday

Today I am thankful for the gift of new life.
My nephew, Matthew, and his wife, Monisha, had their first baby yesterday.
This is one of the rare moments when I wish I still lived up north.
I miss holding babies in my arms, that baby smell.
I miss seeing the look on the parents' faces as they admire the miracle that their love produced.
I am thankful today for baby, Myles.

I am thankful that Matthew's brother and sister are also expecting their first babies in the next few months. Three siblings and their spouses all "in the family way." There is so much to celebrate in the Henderson family these days.

I am thankful for the gift of safe travel.
Back and forth to church
back and forth to the supermarket
back and forth to meet up with friends
to teach classes
to take classes
to the post office.

I am thankful every time I see our garage door open in front of my car.
Thankful that I returned home safely.
Thankful that my house is still standing.
Thankful for the electricity that lifts that heavy door.

A few weeks ago, I saw a horrible car accident. Someone in a minivan thought they could beat other cars through an intersection, sped past two lanes of stopped traffic in the right hand merging lane, and slammed into the back end of an ambulance that was crossing the intersection. (Hence the stopped traffic!) I almost pulled over to see if I could help in some way, but when I saw the attendants get out of it apparently unhurt, I realized that help was already on the scene. As we crept past the broken glass and car parts strewn on the street, I saw that all the airbags in the minivan had been activated. And I heard that awful sound of the car horn, you know the sound that happens in movies and television shows when someone has been hurt in a car and is leaning on the horn.

Every time I drive past that intersection now and every time I drive past the intersection where my daughter's car accident happened, I breathe a prayer for the people involved in both of those accidents - and I give thanks for all the thousands of trips and walks and flights and bus rides and train rides and bike rides that have ended safely.

I give thanks for all the ways in which rides that didn't end well often attract helpers and rescuers and support from among concerned citizens and bystanders. Here's one such story - when my daughter had her accident back in August, one of the men who pried open the door of her overturned minivan so she could crawl to safety called and texted me three times after the accident to check on her, to let us know he and his family and church were praying for her, and to invite us to visit his church. One of the times he texted was after she had gone back to college for the fall semester - during a phone call that she and I were having. She was on his mind at the same time that she was on my mind.

I am thankful for my seminary classmates and the ways in which we are bonding as friends, as students, as co-travelers on this journey. We share prayer requests. We share stories. We share Halloween make up and costume tips. We share study tips. We share laughter. We share meals. We share our questions.

I am thankful for the neighbor who takes long walks with me. She and her husband and daughter recently spent ten days in Spain, so you know I asked two or three dozen questions on our last walk together. She and I will head out for an early morning jaunt tomorrow.

I am thankful for the new friend (who feels like an old friend) with whom I write these days. She showed me a library book full of writing prompts - the book is aimed at middle schoolers but it's one of the best books of its kind that I have ever encountered. It's called Leap Write In! Adventures in Creative Writing, by Karen Benke. We have both borrowed copies from the library and have gotten together twice to write. And we have written responses to the same prompt on our own and then shared them when we have been together. Writing buddies rock. Especially when they are spontaneous, easy-going, honest, and funny. Especially when they brew up peppermint tea in cast iron pots. Especially when they slide their journals across the table and say, "Why don't you just read it for yourself?" Especially when we use the same Pilot Precise V5 pens. Little details like that make me even more thankful.

I am thankful for the movement, the protests, the unrest that are forcing change in this country. That are forcing deeper conversation. While I know that there is backlash against the Black Lives Matter movement, while I know that there are some who argue that people don't have the right to not be offended, I am thrilled to see more people standing up and dying in and marching and raising their fists in defiance of racism and classism and homophobia and racist voter laws (have you heard about Alabama closing DMVs in black counties so that it is harder for black people to get photo IDs?) and violence.

I am grateful for the college students and faculty at Yale and Duke and the University of Missouri and elsewhere who are wielding the power they have to force conversation and change. Those who condemn their use of emotional, athletic, academic, and financial power and influence sound a lot like those who condemned the protesters during the Civil Rights movement. "Be patient. Don't get angry. Be respectful. Don't yell. Wait your turn." Wait for what? For how long? For the powerful to decide to voluntarily share power? For the wealthy and the greedy to share their take? For the higher ups to care about the needs and desperation of those below them? For the influential to intercede for ignored?

TaNehisi Coates wrote about the comfort this country has with seeing black people hosed down and beaten, shot with rubber bullets and with real ones, tazed and taken into captivity - all while singing, "We shall overcome... someday." But when those battle-wounded and soul-weary people stand up and say, "Enough is enough," when they walk off football fields (as opposed to when they show up at the courthouse plead for justice for Tamir Rice's unjust killing in a community park), when they demand that presidents and professors, coaches and CEOs step down, then force and threat of force, then calls for resignations and impartial investigations and firings are condemned.

I am grateful for the attention that is being paid to this horrendous trial. Have you even heard about this white police officer charged with 36 counts of sexual assault and battery against black women? This Oklahoma officer is being tried now and will be judged by an all-white jury. There seems to be very little wide spread press coverage of the proceedings. I keep asking myself what the media coverage would be if the cop was black, the thirteen victims were white and the jury was all black.

I am grateful that I am learning how to express my thoughts and feelings about these difficult topics and also how to listen to other people's opinions without undue anger and resentment. I still have a whole lot to learn in terms of not wanting to throw something at my television or computer screen, but knowledge of the cost of replacement of either of those items has served as an adequate deterrent thus far.

I am grateful for my husband, my brother, Darryl, Kim, Rick, Indhira, Jen, Jena, Colman, Anthony, Steve, Rodney, and several other people in my life who push me to think more carefully and deeply about these tragedies and injustices and to stand up, speak up, and write about what I think and feel.

I am grateful for the power of prayer to bring about change and healing and peace and rest - and also unrest and disruption and upheaval and transformation. In me. And in the world.

I am grateful for hope and a future.
Even in the face of so much sorrow and suffering.
Even in the face of so much injustice and injury.
Even in the face of death and dying.
Even when so many say that hope is a waste of time and energy and effort.

Today, itty bitty baby Myles brings me an extra dose of hope.
I cannot wait to meet him and hold him in my (great) Auntie arms.

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