Thursday, November 03, 2016

Thankful Thursday - Even in the midst of it alll

In the midst of this horrendous election cycle

in the midst of all the hateful trolling on the internet

in the midst of the barrages of insults that ensue during and after every political exchange

in the midst of the aftermath of an Alabama pipeline that has had two major explosions in the past three months

in the midst of the uproar over that oil pipeline being constructed out in North Dakota (how can not we understand why there is this ongoing protest when those two explosions and oil spills have happened so recently? do any of us what such a pipeline running through our property, through our family graveyards, or through our cities?)

in the midst of the clean after weeks of from major flooding here in the south,

in the midst of all that,

there was also a church that was burned down and the words "Vote Tr*mp" spray painted on the side of the damaged structure (I won't even spell his name completely for fear that an internet search might bring someone here looking for news about him)

there were also two police officers ambushed and killed in their police cars in Iowa

just after the story of their tragic deaths was made public, there were many reactionary, angry responses that involved blaming the Black Lives Matter movement for their deaths (turns out the murderer was an example of why the Black Lives Matter movement exists - it was a racist white guy who some suggest was still angry about being escorted out of a local high school football game because he waved a confederate battle flag in the faces of black fans at the game)

there is continued bombing of civilians in far too many Middle Eastern cities to list

in the midst of all of that, there are still reasons to be thankful.

More of the Chibok girls kidnapped from their school in Nigeria in 2014 have returned home.

Rice and beans are being loaded onto a school bus here in Charlotte, and that bus will soon be shipped to Haiti to help offset some of the devastating after effects of the hurricanes that have affected that embattled island nation.

Gatherings, conversations, and planning for a brighter and more united future are still happening here in Charlotte, in places of worship, in places of work, in private conversations in living and dining rooms, and in public gatherings across the city as well.

Every Wednesday night for the past nine weeks, I have been able to sit in a room with more than a dozen other people who love someone and, in most cases, live with someone who has been diagnosed with a mental illness. The laughter, the tears, the stories, the empathy, the sympathy, the advice, and the strategies shared around that table has truly been life changing for me. The class is called "Family to Family" and it is put on by a local chapter of NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The two teachers of the class, like everyone who works for NAMI, are volunteers AND every employee has a loved one in their own family that has been diagnosed with a mental illness. In other words, everyone involved with NAMI "gets it." No judgment. No shocked looks on anyone's faces. No one who thinks we are exaggerating. No one who says we should have spanked them more or we shouldn't be so indulgent or that we are overreacting to bad behavior that we need to just fix. It is truly a safe place for each of us and for all of us. It's called "Family to Family" not only because each teacher has a family member affected, but also because the group begins to feel like family as the class progresses. I will miss these courageous, terrified, funny, heartbroken, hopeful, determined, exhausted people when this class is over two weeks from yesterday. I sure hope we keep in touch.

Last Friday, I got to hold an eight week old little girl in my arms for over an hour. She is the fourth child of a 32 year old woman who was diagnosed with breast kanswer when she was 30. That precious little child was a surprise gift to and for a young couple that was still reeling from the trauma of chemotherapy, multiple surgeries, and several complications from both the chemo and the surgery. That tiny little body felt even more miraculous than usual - because isn't every newborn baby a miracle to behold and to be held?

I got to spend three hours with a four year old last week. I pushed him in the swing for a while. We played soccer for a while. Every time we heard an airplane, we would stop and stare up at the sky until we saw it fly over us. At one point, he asked me why the clouds were moving. What a great question! I said something about the wind moving the clouds, but he wanted to get back to running and falling and kicking that soccer ball. When he got tired of all of that, we went inside where he watched a couple of television shows and I recovered from chasing him and the soccer ball.

My daughter is less than six weeks away from completing her undergraduate senior thesis - and she will graduate from college!

Halloween happened. Small clusters of children and parents strolled down our street, the former running across meticulously manicured lawns to the doors of frustrated homeowners who gave them candy anyway while the latter watched, often while holding a beer in hand. Between their visits, some of us, the residents of my block, chatted with each other, laughing at the antics of the costumed candy-grubbers, bemoaning the invasions of ants and moles that we all seem to be suffering through, and wondering aloud about how we will resist the urge to eat all the leftover candy. I love my neighborhood and my neighbors.

This past Sunday, nearly two dozen people wearing the distinct green We Walk Together tee shirts gathered at The Harvest Center here in Charlotte to pack hundreds of ziploc bags with socks, gloves, snacks, cosmetic supplies, candy, and handwritten notes of encouragement for homeless folks who will sleep there three nights every week this winter. We converged in that sacred space to do something small, something that some might even criticize as insignificant and counterproductive in the fight to provide permanent housing for those who don't have a permanent home. In the midst of that criticism, we did the work anyway. We lovingly packed those bags, praying that they will bless those who receive them.

One of the things I am always a little uncomfortable about when I write these Thankful Thursday posts is the sense that I am minimizing, trivializing, or ignoring the many terrible things happening in the world. How can I write about giving out Halloween candy when there are millions of starving and displaced and rejected refugees pleading for assistance all around the world? How can I rejoice over packing a few ziploc bags in the midst of a world where plastic is clogging landfills and floating out on the ocean? How can I be so selfishly focused on my daughter's imminent completion of her university studies when there are millions of young women her age who have been forced into marriages against their will or sold into sexual slavery?

Ultimately, my goal here - on Thankful Thursdays or any other day that I write a blog post - isn't to answer every question that plagues us or to offer resolutions to every crisis that grips us. It isn't to uncover every political misdeed, criticize every wrong perpetrated by every public figure, or expound on every passage of Scripture that has been misappropriated in ongoing efforts to exploit the planet's natural resources or oppress other people. There's plenty of all of that out on the internet and right at our own kitchen tables. There's plenty of anger and outrage and righteous indignation out there. There's plenty of thoughtful and meaningful work being done in the world and reported on the internet. But none of that is why I do this.

My goal here is practice gratitude
to spread a little joy
to plant a seed of hope
to bring a smile to my own face
and hopefully to yours
as I recount the often overlooked goodness of God
and the vastly underreported goodness and good news in our world
and on my own life's journey -
even in the midst of it all.

No comments: