Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Blog4Peace: November 4, 2015

This is a verse that is often used at weddings --- so often that it may seem trite.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, love is patient, love is kind.

When I read it, I don't necessarily think of weddings, although it's good to have that kind of love if you're married and everything.  For me, it is easy to have that kind of love with my husband.  For one thing, if one of us isn't patient or kind, we have the next best thing, forgiveness.  

It's also easy for me to have this kind of love with my children.  They are mine, after all.  I might get pissed off, but I will always love them.  If I forget, I think of them as little babies, and of the absolute over-pouring of love I felt when I held them.  It's a little messier, now that they talk and all, but I still love them totally, without condition.

As I have traveled on my journey toward God, I've figured something out.  One thing.  God loves us no matter what, and all that God asks (and this isn't a condition, it's just a Good Thing) is that we love each other as God loves us.  Without condition.  Without stopping.  Through anger and frustration and (my worst problem) annoyance and pig-headedness.

Some people have trouble loving strangers.  They don't see pictures of small boys washed ashore in far-off lands and think, damn, that kid could be mine.  They don't see soldiers and babies and sad-faced women and think, that is mine.  I do.  I don't know why, but my heart is full of love and empathy and sympathy for people I don't know.

Some people need to know someone to love them.  If they know about the person's troubles or dreams or favorite ice cream, they can find a connection and love them.  I can too, I guess.  But I have a harder time loving someone who I have to talk to and (heaven forbid) listen to on a regular basis.  I have a harder time loving bigots and fear-mongers who I hear, right now.  I have a harder time loving a neighbor who calls the pound because my cat walks in her yard.  I have a harder time loving someone who likes a different kind of ice cream or religion or baseball team than I do.  I have a harder time with someone who can't freaking use a turn signal, for Pete's sake.

But God didn't say, love others who aren't annoying.  Love others who love chocolate and cheese (not together) as much as you do.  Love your own kind.  God said Love everyone.  Love your annoying neighbor.  Love your bigoted boss.  Love your friend who doesn't love cats.

For me, I pray for something more than tolerance.  I pray to think of these people as if they were my friends or my family, people who I like and for whom I cut some slack.  It doesn't always work.  It's a journey, right?  For others, I wonder if they can pretend that the dead children, the sad women, the angry soldiers are their friends; people who like strawberry ice cream and dogs and baseball.  Maybe if we pretend that the rest of the people in the world are ours, we will love them.  And maybe that will give us peace.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Day 2 ‪#‎30DaysofLove‬ Challenge

Day 2 ‪#‎30DaysofLove‬ Challenge
Today I saw colleagues at work surround each other with a beautiful blanket of support. A few among us are struggling with family illnesses, deaths, personal sorrows, worries and the like. Today business-as-usual stopped long enough for hugs and shoulders and long-standing love between friends. What kind of love did you witness today?

OK, still behind, but this is easy, given the circumstances:

Everybody with a truck or john-boat (and this is Columbia, SC, so a lot of people have one or both) went out to help their neighbors.  Rich neighborhoods, poor neighborhoods, businesses, animal shelters.  

Gotta love social media. People have been found, pets reunited with their people, friends from far away have been comforted.
#blog4peace #30DaysofLove

Two days behind: Day one: Who is the one person in your life who inspires you to love?

In my defense, I'm late because my city and my state have flooded to an extent we haven't seen since the Pleistocene Era, when most of us weren't alive and there were no weathermen to tell us which way the wind blows.

We are ok, in my house.  We are now handing out water, because (who knew it?) in floods, the water system goes out and even if you have running water, you can't drink it.  Before today, you couldn't buy water, and so people from places with water have trucked it in for us.  This hasn't been easy, either, because many of the roads, including interstates, are washed out.

Infrastructure isn't sexy, but it sure does make life easier.

In truth, I might have been late anyway, because that's what I do.  And it is a hard question.

The One.  The One Person.  The One Person who inspires you to love?  Oh my.

I could pick either of my parents.  Their compassion and sense of justice and mercy is the bedrock of my life.  I could pick my brother and sister, my first friends and still my best friends.  Crazy as we can be, we love each other and eat together on a regular basis, and that's something.

I could pick my kids, because, for me, having a child opened up a whole new cistern of untapped love.  Having a second and third child reminded me that love is not divided, it multiplies.  Don't get me started about my grandchildren.  There is always enough.

There are a few people I could pick, but I think I'll pick my husband and love of my life, Bob.  When I met Bob, I liked him alright, and I think somewhere in my self-damaged heart, I loved him.  I have no idea how he looked at my bedraggled, broken self and loved me, but he did.

And in the 30 years since then, we have loved each other.  In sickness and health.  When things are great and when they really truly suck.  When it's flooding and when there hasn't been rain in six months.  On car trips and in vacation condos with 10 other people.  Alone, at Brookgreen Garden or Ray's Diner (our places).

Because of Bob, I have my own cistern of love.  I am loved and so I can give away as much love as the whole damn world needs.  It will never run out.
#blog4peace ‪#‎30DaysofLove‬

Saturday, March 14, 2015

If the good old days were so good, why don't you live them?

I've seen some things on Facebook that follow a similar theme and they make me wonder.  One set says something like, "If I talked to my Mom and Dad like my kids (or other people's kids) talk to me, I'd get the crap beat out of me."  Another set says something about how as kids we played in vacant lots, ate sugar, walked to school, took aspirin, had vaccinations, etc etc etc ad nauseum, like and share if you aren't dead yet.

And this is all well and good, but it makes me wonder, if you liked those things so much, why don't you raise your own kids like that?

So, your kids are rude to you.  Who taught them that?  Who says you can't teach your children to be polite and respectful to you and to others?  Who keeps you from bursting their privileged bubble and telling them that you love them very much but Copernicus called and they are not the center of the universe?  Who made them think they were the center anyway?  OK, you can't beat the crap out of your kids, but how does that teach respect anyway?  Why didn't you raise kids you can send out in public and know they will be respectful, helpful, and kind?

No, don't answer that.  I don't care.  Just quit whining.

Part two: I drive my kids all over the place, pay for expensive lessons and teams, and they can't do anything by themselves.

STOP!!!!!  Stop driving them all over the place.  Stop paying for lessons they don't want but you are doing because you think they need structure.  Let them go play in vacant lots.  If you've put that little Facebook poster up, you probably don't live somewhere that is too dangerous to let your kids play in the front yard.  And by danger, I mean random shootings and rabid coyotes, not imaginary predators.  Please, you taught your kid not to get into a car with strangers, let them practice it.

Stop meeting their every want.  "I had to leave work to bring lunch to my son at school."  Why?  I've seen your son, it's not going to kill him to miss a meal.  It hasn't killed mine.  And then, funny thing, they forget less often.

If you want to drive your kid around, pay for lessons, bring them lunch ---- go ahead, but quit whining about it.  Just do it, but recognize it's your choice.  If you are afraid of the PTA president who looks at you funny if your socks don't match, too bad.  Funny looks don't kill.  Not preparing your child for reality might.  It probably won't, but it might.

And, yeah, I've brought forgotten projects, field trip money, and all kinds of stuff to school for my kids.  Some days you do it, because their lesson is too hard for you to learn.

I'm not saying don't pay for lessons, teams, or instruments/gear/stuff.  If your kid really wants to play... whatever... I say cool.  There are lots of life lessons from team stuff, musical instruments, scouts... but remember the lesson is theirs not yours.  Support your kids, but don't be your kids.

As the Facebook posts say, our parents and grandparents didn't make a profession out of parenting.  Even stay at home Moms did a lot of other things while their kids went outside to play in the drainage ditch... I mean lovely creek.  Just relax, do your job.  Love your kids.  Let them grow up.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

My great big Agnostic Funeral

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a meeting of Faith Formation leaders from the Episcopal Diocese of Upper SC.  It was a wonderful group with a dynamic interesting speaker.  I thought about a lot of things, and I thought about things differently.  I went away inspired in my work with the children of St. Michael and All Angel's Episcopal Church, brimming with thoughts to share with the kids and the marvelous teachers.

But one comment/mini-discussion threw me off.  It didn't offend me, but it gave me a small ray of AHA!  Well, more like a hmmmm.  Something to think and pray on for awhile.

The speaker, Kyle Oliver, asked if anyone had ever been to a non-religious funeral.  Only a couple of people raised their hands, that I could see.  He said, "Wasn't it odd?  Didn't it feel wrong?"

And I said, very softly, no, it felt wonderful.

I was not always a Faith Formation leader in an Episcopal Church.  I was baptized and raised Catholic, and went to church and catechism classes until high school.  I was confirmed on my 13th birthday... but that's another story.  I was Catholic because my father was raised Catholic and my parents believed that it's important to be a member of a church.  Not for faith formation, but because in SC, the first question anyone asks you is "What church do you go to?"  St. Peter's Catholic Church is the wrong answer, but at least it is an answer.

My parents were agnostic or atheist, I'm not really sure.  I believed in God from a very young age, and don't know what it feels like to not believe.  But I do know that belief --- real belief, real experience of the Holy Spirit --- is a gift and not everyone has it.  My parents were Good People.  They treated others as they would like to be treated.  They found the good in people, they spoke out for the speechless.  While they were not religious people, they acted in a way that would be called Christian around here.

And so their memorial services were not religious ceremonies.  In both cases, people who loved them and people whom they loved came together to celebrate their lives.  It was humbling to realize how much each of my parents affected other people's lives.  The services were joyful and sad.  We laughed, we cried, we told inappropriate stories.  Afterwards, we drank too much and laughed and cried some more.

And so, when Father Oliver asked if it was odd, I thought no.  And then I thought, how in the world do you expect to attract people of good faith (small "f") if you think they are odd?  If your attitude is, here, I have the truth for you and you are obviously suffering and stupid.  I write this, and can't really hear Father Oliver saying this, but, y'know, that's kind of what he said.  That's kind of what I hear people say at my church when they talk about Atheists and Agnostics --- talking about people as if they are debauched baby-killers. 

If your way to God is through Jesus Christ, God doesn't like it when you block the path from others.  God doesn't like it when you call God's people odd.  I'm pretty sure... She didn't tell me in so many words.

One of my favorite hymns is "They will know we are Christians by our Love."  Not our tracts, not our lectures on how not to be odd, not our bruised knees.  They will know we are Christians by our Love, and with the Grace of God, they will want to be with people like us.  And maybe we can love and appreciate the face of God in all people, even those who don't pray like we do or even pray at all.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Kindergarten day one: real or pretend?

OK, first of all, let me say that I have nothing against Penny from The Big Bang Theory and truly meant to defend her right to be or act like a bimbo or a housewife or a theoretical physicist, especially if she is funny.  So let it go, Bob.

The thing with Penny from the Big Bang Theory and with many many other people, is that they are playing and they think they are real.  There is nothing wrong with playing, but it is important to know "real" and "imaginary."  Remember kindergarten?  That's one of the standards.  Real.  Pretend.

And so Penny from the Big Bang Theory plays at being a housewife.  Cool.  Then there are those who play at being homeless.   Or black.  Or blind.  Or in a wheelchair.  I suppose they believe they can develop empathy if they experience something.

But here's the thing: that's not how it works.  That's not how any of this works!

Empathy is the ability to sense the feelings and experiences of another.  It should lead to compassion. It shouldn't lead to the smug sense that you KNOW how it feels to be (fillintheblank) and can now be the impassioned spokesperson for the underprivileged.

Maybe if you are particularly non-empathetic you need to actually experience something, but then it is your experience not theirs.  And it is going to be different.

If you dress in a dirty $300 parka and sleep in the park instead of your home in order to experience homelessness, you are not experiencing homelessness.  You are camping.

If you roll around in a wheelchair to experience paralysis, but can get up and open the door for yourself when you choose to do so, you are not experiencing paralysis.  You are riding in a wheelchair.

Any time you can wash off your black face, take off your blindfold, get up and walk home, you are not experiencing, you are playing.

Maybe you will have an aha! moment, and that's cool.  Use it.  But empathy comes from listening, hearing, seeing, feeling, without being.  You don't have to literally walk a mile in someone else's shoes.

If you are privileged, and you probably are in some way, be aware of what you have been given.  And use those gifts to help other people.  Even if you aren't exactly sure of what others are dealing with --- listen, then help.

And keep your hands, feet, and other objects to yourself.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A special kind of stupid

It takes a special kind of person to stand on the shoulders of giants and say, "Really, this is the view? I've seen this."

And that is what Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting (of Big Bang Theory) and many other women like her are saying when they say, "I am not a feminist."

Mrs. Sweeting even said it herself, albeit with a shrug:

"It's not really something I think about," she told Redbook magazine for its February issue, on newsstands Jan. 6. "Things are different now, and I know a lot of the work that paved the way for women happened before I was around ... I was never that feminist girl demanding equality, but maybe that's because I've never really faced inequality," she said.
And so you slap the women who did face inequality (and still do, Don't be stupid, girl.)

Cuoco-Sweeting, 29, who married husband Ryan Sweeting, 27, on New Year's Eve last year, said that she cooks for him "five nights a week: It makes me feel like a housewife; I love that. I know it sounds old-fashioned, but I like the idea of women taking care of their men. I'm so in control of my work that I like coming home and serving him," she told the magazine.

News flash: it is a hell of a lot more fun to cook five nights a week and dress in slutty underwear when it is your choice and not what you have to do. She plays housewife, but she isn't someone who is responsible for the daily drudgery of housekeeping without a creative (sort of) outlet of acting or something else, without a choice.

Kaley and everyone else need to send a great big thank you to all the women who did take the chance and fight the battles so we can play a housewife or a stupid slut. and so we can truly be actors, writers, doctors, and anything we want. Men need to thank these women for freeing them from the restrictions of cavemen mentality. We need to thank the men and women who broke free from Victorian role playing and gave us the privilege of saying (no matter how delusionally) "I have never really faced inequality."

And every damn body who benefits from the fights of those women (and men) needs to stand up and say, "I am a feminist." And if you want to be a feminist who wears slutty underwear and cooks every night, go for it. NOW you have the choice.