March 24, 2016

The Least of These


"Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."
Matthew 25:40

The breeze whispers through open windows on a clear summer day. It carries with it the aroma of freshly cut grass and the lawn mower’s steady drone as my husband paces back and forth, following our backyard’s perimeter.

The drone abruptly stops. In minutes he appears at the back door.

Get out here NOW, he shout-whispers. I race outside following where he leads, praying we’re not looking for detached toe in the grass.

There were no toes, just bunnies.

We coo and fight back every urge to pick up the baby bunnies because we know their mumma will return for them. And she did. Thirty minutes later, they were gone.

*********************

The skies are purplish gray. Scattered spots of orange promise sunshine’s return after the afternoon’s violent windstorm. Sidewalks are littered with snapped branches too weak to cling to their mother trees; and my husband goes out to rake them curbside, each scrape of concrete breaking the eerie silence of the storm’s afterglow.

The scraping abruptly stops. In minutes, he shout-whispers in the front door. Get out here NOW.

This time, I don’t worry about detached toes. He leads, I follow, and he points to the small and hairless baby squirrel siblings, probably blown out of their nest during the storm.

We place them in a makeshift NICU made of Tupperware so they can warm each other.
We station it at the home tree’s base where their mumma can get them. And she did. She scampered down, grabbed a baby, then scampered up, then back down, grabbed another and so on until the NICU was empty.


*********************

That’s a person. Why is she there?
It's past midnight on a subzero night when we see an elderly woman standing motionless behind a parked car. She's wearing a spring coat, is gloveless and her head is protected only by a kerchief.

We stop our car and I get out to talk to her. She isn’t an English speaker, but we know she’s disoriented.

We know her mumma isn’t coming for her.

We bring her in our house and out of the cold, call the police and they help her get back home.

*********************

HELP! HELP!
First it was a scream in my dream, but soon it cuts through my sleep and startles me awake. It’s 4:30 in the morning and I sprint to the living room and blink back the sleep crud to see my husband at the front door.

He’s startled, speaking – questioning loudly to the person – a woman about my age -- who screamed for help.

She says she's having a seizure. Call 911.

I call and he interrupts my conversation with the dispatcher: She’s unconscious.

EMT’s are dispatched. I wait for help with her as she lays unconscious on our threshold. I hear her take short breaths. I know her mumma isn’t coming.

*********************
With so much going on in the world -- in my own community -- so often I wonder What can I do? How can my voice matter? Should I be protesting? Should I be volunteering?

How should I be giving more than I take out of this life?

Then I remember the bunnies on that sunny day, the squirrel siblings after the storm, the immigrant elderly lady in the polar vortex’s grip and the woman – my peer -- who literally showed up on my doorstep.

Of all the backyards, front yards and porches on our block, it was ours they all found and we helped in whatever small way we could.

Maybe part of the answers to my wondering can be found in all of them -- brothers, sisters -- even animals -- in the least of these.

March 8, 2016

What My Mom Taught Me About International Women's Day


...and I was so short, they’d always give me a crate to stand on so everyone in church could see me do my Easter speech.

I don’t remember when I learned that story about my mom. It’s like I’ve always known it.

I was the youngest kid in our family, and by the time I came along, she wasn’t doing speeches in church anymore. The last time I remembered her speaking was at the annual Women’s Day Celebration.

Standing on things, circa 1930
I knew she was preparing a speech for that day and I’d hear her reciting it from time to time, but teenagers don’t think long and hard about anything outside of themselves and their favorite rock group.

I honestly didn’t think much of it. After all, she’d direct the choir or sing solos on occasion, so it wasn’t a completely foreign concept to see her up in front of everyone.

For Women’s Day Sunday, all women in the congregation would be decked out in white, some wearing what I call Baptist Hats. The big extravagant kind, some tastefully bedecked with flowers, bows and other tchotchkes.

Because she always said her head was too big for hats, my mom didn't own a Baptist Hat, and didn't bother getting one -- even for this special occasion.

Then the time came to deliver her speech. She was sitting with the Women’s Day choir in the choir stand which was elevated, sprawling and set behind the wide pulpit. She exited the back row and made her way down the choir stand’s middle aisle to the microphone.

I thought how beautiful she looked in that simple white dress and noticed how pretty the color was because it contrasted with her tan skin. And her hair was perfect that day. I remember that.

Then she began speaking and I heard a strange nervousness in her voice. It was like a determined nervousness. Like she was bound and determined to reclaim her confidence from those many years ago when she stood on a crate telling the church her Easter story.

Which she did.

Her words connected to the congregation who responded with Aaaaa-MAN, Sister Dukes throughout her speech and when she finished.

Every now and again, I find myself in spaces and places where I’m storytelling in front of people. When my nerves threaten to overtake me, I remember my mom speaking that day with nervousness, determination and then confidence.

And I end up finding whatever it is that she found within herself to tell my story and be heard.

I guess that’s part of what International Women’s Day is about: remembering our narratives, telling our stories despite nervousness or even backlash, and being heard…and inspiring the generations that come after us to do the same.

Which is exactly what my mom did. Pretty cool, huh?

March 2, 2016

A Prayer in Due Season


Every Sunday, our Pastor leads us in a variety of prayer petitions for a variety of different things: healing for the sick, comfort to the grieving, the Church’s faithfulness…and leaders of this country and those around the world. We usually respond “Hear our prayer.”

The current political campaigns or the Silly Season – whatever you want to call it – has me scared. Really. Not scared of a splintering political party at war with itself; but scared – truly scared of the mentality the campaigning has called forth.

In particular, campaigning has called out an ugly, racist, xenophobic, sexist mentality which up until this point in time had been operating on a low-grade level.

And I’ve experienced that low-grade ugliness.

I’ve been called a nigger; been stopped for Driving While Black; been told as a child ballerina that black bodies weren’t made for classical dance. When I married my husband – a white guy – we experienced ugliness and hostility as a couple. After we had our daughter we went through it as a family at a local community festival when someone smirked to a group that my husband had chosen the wrong side. Although other, more vulgar and hurtful words were used at the time.

For years, I shook it all off, accepted it and moved on. After all, this ugliness was low-grade and not physically threatening. Scary at times or an inconvenience at others, but not life and death. Just words. Just sticks and stones…

But for nearly a year now, the tenor, coded language and dog whistles by candidate Trump, along with the GOP’s extreme neglect in reining them in at their outset, have called forth the low-grade ugliness. Now it has evolved into action. Into violence.

And that’s what scares me. It makes me fear for my family’s safety. It makes me think twice when my daughter goes outside on her own.

What if this ugliness -- this violence that’s been unearthed finds its way to me, my husband, my daughter or her friends?

It’s happened before – both to people I don’t know and to people who were related to me.
Pierce City - Godley Family
I guess the most I can do, outside of voting, is pray...like we do every Sunday.