My daughter’s name actually means “bringer of light.” However, I’m wondering if I should have named her something that means “bringer of love.”
Before I embark on this week’s story, I’d like to share with you just a couple of ways Lucy loves. Whenever she sees a baby, she says “Aaaaaaawwwwwww!” for an unusually long amount of time. When I criticize our elder dog because he is snappy and grumpy and barks obnoxiously, she is quick to his defense and reminds me that I am hurting his feelings. Every school day she is roaming around the house looking for various things that she promised to bring for a friend: a new pencil, orange duct tape, minecraft creations made from Perler beads, candy for someone who couldn’t go trick-or-treating, to name a few. The last day they had off of school, she hand created a scroll letter and mini vase of felt and pipe-cleaner flowers to surprise Karl and I with breakfast in bed and was nearly heart broken when she woke up to find Karl already gone for his morning run. She is constantly carrying Gizmo around like a baby and then gently tucks him into his bed when its time for dinner. And whether out of fear or affection none of us in the family leave her presence with out a hug, kiss, “I love you,” and sweet good-bye. She is conscientious and kind; her compassion has deep roots already. Perhaps that in itself brings light along with love to everyone she meets.
So, imagine this girl’s concern when we drive all around Seattle and at many, many intersections, stoplights or off-ramps, we encounter members of a large homeless population. They sit in the in the rain and the cold holding signs and pleading for help. For the longest time, I didn’t know an age-appropriate response to her inquiry of why we didn’t give them money. I worked with this population for three years in a drug and alcohol addiction treatment center. The general consensus is that giving them money is not particularly helpful. However, food, warmth, kindness are allotted in spades. So, with that explanation, Lucy then asked why we don’t give them food. That was another question I had a hard time answering. Until finally I said, “We could and we should. I just need to remember to keep granola bars and water in the car.” Subsequently, each time after that when she witnessed someone sitting at a stoplight with a sign, she would remind me.
Then, one day we had a surplus of protein drinks that we couldn’t fit on our shelves with a new load of groceries (the irony is not lost on me). Those drinks then became the base for what would be Lucy’s new project. That night she asked if we could go to the store to buy the rest of the supplies that might be helpful. We brainstormed what we could fit in a gallon ziplock bag and she included needs and possibly wants, pleasure and something to pass the time. Her kits include: a water bottle, a granola bar, a protein drink, a mini maze game, a sucker, and some Bazooka Joe bubble gum.
Walking back from the store with our loot, her energy and excitement was palpable. She rushed in the door and began opening up packages and created a sort of mini assembly line. Every minute she enjoyed arranging the bags, making certain each one had every time. Lining them up in a row, counting how many she produced. There were 16 bags in all. We then decided to divide them up; 6 in my car and 10 in our van.
Since the genesis of her project, sadly, she has not gotten to hand out any of the bags, yet. We live in a city where we don’t have to get in the car and go very far very often. But, this week, I had the privilege of handing out two. During my first experience, I noticed the awkwardness first. Pausing too long at the stop sign. Handing someone a bag that they may or may not appreciate. For certain, they have no idea what’s inside, and may feel confused. But after the pleasant exchange, I found myself looking in the rear view mirror. I was delighted to see them opening the package and begin perusing its contents. The second time, the awkwardness still lingered, but the kindness triumphed in the end.
I recognize that this gesture is not grand. But it is more than anything I’ve ever done on my own accord. To remind oneself, plan, prepare and package something for the mere chance of an opportunity to be kind requires more faith, hope and love than my numb heart allows for. Someone wise said, “A little child shall lead them.” My 10 year-old daughter, with her fresh spirit and fierce tenderness, softens my hard heart and leads me to kindness, compassion and action. And that is just one of many reasons why I love Lucy.
Earlier this week, Karl and I were outside and needed to get Lucy and Peter’s attention. They were just inside the front door sitting on the living room couch. So, we did what any timesaving, energy-efficient parents would do. We texted them and told them to come to the front window.
Afterwards, I looked at Karl sadly and said, “Gone are the days when you had to throw pebbles at someone’s window to get their attention.” I proceeded to tell him about the time in high school when my best friend, Summer, came to my house early on a Saturday morning and threw pebbles at my second-story bedroom window. That weekend, she was going on a holiday with her parents and needed to get back her rollerblades that I had borrowed. This was circa 1994 and neither of us had cellphones. And she was conscientious enough not to call the house that early in the morning and wake anyone else up. So, instead, she did a Summer-Sort-of-Thing and came calling to my window with small stones. I woke up to the sun shining in my window and Summer on the ground looking up, wishing and hoping I would hear her. Thankfully, I did, and she was able to quickly and quietly retrieve her rollerblades.
It was a simple gesture, to be sure. Yet, in its simplicity, a magical memory was created. Unlike the time where I had asked Kathy to pick me up on her way down south to Travis’ house. Everyone we knew was going over there for a party and I wasn’t old enough yet to drive. Kathy and I were the only ones of our friends who lived north of Hwy 285. So, frequently, she swung by my house on the way to just about anywhere and picked me up and gave me a ride.
On that particular night, I had a hankering to listen to Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” as loudly as possible. It was a rare evening when no one else was in my home; my mom and dad were out, and so was my brother, Nathan. Amazingly, there wasn’t anyone to tell me to turn my music down.
So really, what better way to preen oneself for an evening out than listening to Madonna at full volume?
Unfortunately, when Kathy did arrive, she knocked on my front door, banged on the downstairs bathroom window and peeked her head over the back fence. She heard the music, but could not get my attention. That would have been a nice time for her and I both to have had cell phones and for texting to have existed. Because, it wasn’t until much later that evening, long after which I thought she should have been by, that I turned Madonna down and heard the phone ring. She had driven all the way out to Travis’ house and used his home phone to contact me and let me know she’d already been by. After I apologized profusely, Kathy graciously came all the way back to pick me up. I promised her that Madonna and I would quietly await her arrival this time.
Whether by magic or mishap, I’m grateful I grew up in a time where meetings were in person. Where people came and knocked on your front door to tell you they were there to pick you up. Where you had to walk to a friend’s house and crash on their couch and watch Soul Asylum sing Runaway Train on MTV because your mom thought you didn’t get out of practice for another two more hours. Where you dropped by the mall just to see if the boy you liked was working in the food court. Where on a regular basis you surprised or were surprised by someone’s presence.
So, I guess if I had to Say Anything, it would be that John Cusack’s character got it right when below an open window, he held a boom box over his head and in one iconic image, conveyed something that we might never read in a text or even hear in a phone call. His presence, just like yours and mine, bears an indescribable, yet poignant message that can’t be communicated any other way except face to face.
*Sunday Specials are a weekly round-up of happenings on the web-o-sphere. So enjoy your coffee (or late night beverage) while checking out what’s caught our attention.
I know you’ve been led to believe that it’s the girl’s fault; the way she dresses, the shape of her body, her flirtatious nature, her mixed messages. I know you’ve grown-up reading and hearing that since guys are really “visual”, that the ladies need to manage all of that by covering-up and keeping it hidden; that theyneed to drive this whole physical relationship deal, because we’re not capable. That’s a load of crap.
What is happening across culture is, per usual, more complicated than some assume. Americans are not intrinsically allergic to Christians, but rather certain expressions of Christianity. The pope’s popularity helps us understand exactly which types of Christianity people resist.
Using the coupons was even worse. The stares, the faux concern, the pity, the outrage — I hated it. One time, an old, kind-looking man with a bit of a hunch was standing behind me with just a six-pack of soda, waiting to check out. The entire contents of my cart were splayed out on the conveyor belt. When he noticed the flash of large white paper stubs in my hand, he touched me on the shoulder. I was scared that he was going to give me money; instead he gave me a small, rectangular card. He asked me to accept Jesus into my heart so that my troubles would disappear. I think I managed a half-smile before breaking into long, jogging strides out of there, the workers calling after me as to whether I still wanted my receipt.
Composite Mothering by Christine Canty
Please share with us what caught your attention this week.
*Sunday Specials are a weekly round-up of happenings on the web-o-sphere. So enjoy your coffee (or late night beverage) while checking out what’s caught our attention.
I love the 4th of July. I love that we celebrate the holiday with relaxation, community, food and fireworks. But more importantly, I love that as a diverse collection of people we celebrate the beauty of freedom. Ideologically and theologically, I lean toward pacifism so some might think it strange that I can appreciate a holiday commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence – which was ultimately the conclusion of the American Revolution (a war with an estimated death toll of 25,000 people). Let me reiterate – I love that as a diverse collection of people we celebrate the beauty of freedom. We may have different ideas around how to achieve freedom politically, spiritually, or otherwise, but nonetheless, it is (at the very least) claimed to be a widely held value in our country. Freedom is a big old messy category. One that I can’t unpack in this tiny little post, but it’s on my mind this week. Here are a couple of posts that have generated further thoughts.
The Path of Freedom from Addiction
A colleague and husband of a friend, Jay Stringer, continues his this week in his post Part 2: Buying (and watching) Sex: It’s Not About Sex.
Buying or viewing sex is rarely, if ever about sex; it is about power and control. When life is difficult, when it does not work the way we want it to, when our accomplishments gradually fade or are exceeded by those more gifted, we will almost always experience a dimension of the curse that is described in Genesis 3. Pornography and purchasing sex in hotel rooms, massage parlors, and vehicles offers the seduction of an experience that is unlike anything that can be experienced on this earth– to dictate what one desires without any immediate fear of failure or relational futility. A committed relationship does not provide a context for such control. This is evil’s seduction to men; give me your defeated and angry heart and I will give you a kingdom where it will all go away.
Fighting for the Freedom of Others
I continue to be challenged by the writings of some of my favorite bloggers who recently went on trip with an organization called Exodus Road where they explored the issues of Sex Trafficking in SE Asia. I am in the midst of sorting out how I can enter into this issue in a more concrete way, but for now, I continue to learn more and more.
It’s why I send my husband out into brothels to look for children. It’s why we work long hours to raise funding for equipment that trusted police partners have asked for. It’s why we advocate and travel and write and have meetings, and quite frankly, bleed-out. Because a girl or boy in a brothel, and even millions of them, are begging for freedom, are desperate for it. And it’s not a half-hearted effort that will provide it for them. – Laura Parker (read more from But What About Trafficking in the United States)
I’d love to hear what caught your attention this week!
As we round out the month of June, I’d like to piggyback off this month’s Feature Story (Part 1 and Part 2) as well as Shauna’s most recent post “Body Talk”. For today’s Happy Hour post, I’d like to share my current dilemma with body image through a series of vignettes that like bullet points cannot stand alone, but as a cluster will make my point.
- For those of you who know my daughter, you know that Lucy takes after her father and has always been in the 90th percentiles for height and weight. She has stood in the back of every class picture. She has always worn a clothing size bigger than her age. And at 10 years old, I just bought a pair of shoes that I knew would fit her because they were the same size as mine.
- When I was pregnant with Lucy, my mom came to one of my doctor’s appointments to see the ultrasound. The technician commented, “This baby has long legs and big feet!” My mom thought she sneakily discovered the sex of our baby because a girl couldn’t be thus described. So, when I gave her a boy outfit and a girl outfit to take home and wash in a special laundry detergent and bring back to the hospital after we discovered the sex upon delivery, she almost just cut the tags off the boy’s outfit, washed, and brought it, that convinced she was that our baby was going to be a boy. It didn’t help matters that Lucy was born on April Fool’s Day. So, when Karl exited the hospital room to tell everyone the good news, that our baby was girl, they thought of course he must be joking.
- This week, we traveled from Seattle to Denver for our summer vacation. We were excited to get back to my hometown to see family and friends. Once, when we were all discussing the trip at dinnertime, Lucy said, “I just know everyone is going to look at me and say ‘My, you’ve gotten so big!’” And she was right. That has been the common reaction when people see her. Even a boy she and her brother met in one of the hotel swimming pools said he couldn’t believe she was the same age as him because she was so much taller than he.
I am fully aware that our appearances are often the first things people notice and therefore comment on. However, my dilemma presents when people expect, or rather demand, that someone either act or know or be what it is they look like. So, someone who is tall and beautiful should be a model. Someone who has an athletic figure should be an athlete. Someone who has the exact opposite kind of hair that you have should be grateful. Someone who is overweight shouldn’t be running marathons. Someone who is tall for her age should act older than she really is.
Oftentimes what is expected of Lucy is that she must behave more maturely than she does. I am as guilty as anyone in assuming something like because she can reach the top shelf in our kitchen, she shouldn’t need my help. Or because she is bigger than most of the people in her 4th/5th grade class, she should know more than she really does. And most importantly, there is a pressure or demand that she grow up emotionally – that she not get her feelings hurt so easily, or make such a big deal over small injuries.
Can we name that we do indeed draw conclusions that are likely stereotypical and often plaster our values on someone else’s appearances? Knowing is half the battle, right? And how do we suspend the assumptions about what it is we see long enough to allow room for curiosity, difference, mystery to fill the gap between what we think we know and what is really true of another human being?
I certainly have more questions than answers. But one thing I know to be true today. My daughter is big. She is also small. In a phrase – she is Biggie Smalls.