Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Thanksgiving's Pause

Thanksgiving is obviously, a time to be thankful. This year for me, it's more than being grateful for blessings, it's also about being aware and being present. This morning while I was feeding my kids, my little one asked for more milk. As I poured him more milk, I stood there thinking about all the mothers in the world who couldn't even give their children a cup of clean water. Later, after the kids had breakfast and were cleaned up, I sat down to eat a quick bite. Again, my little one toddled through the kitchen and asked for a bite. As I relinquished half of my breakfast to those chubby little hands, I thought of all the mothers who had to chose between food for themselves and food for their children. Hunger even in my own backyard of Tennessee is a desperate situation for so many people. I have never known it. My children have never known it. And I would venture to say my parents never really knew hunger. They may have known want or even tight circumstances for periods of their lives, but true hunger, I doubt it. I hope we never do.
So today, as I put the finishing touches on the casserole and brownies that I'm taking to my in-laws, I pause and give thanks for uber-blessings, clean water, clean air, warmth, food, family, and friends. May none of us ever know hunger or thirst. May we strive to meet the needs of those who do, not only during the holidays but all the time. Blessings and peace to you today and always.

Monday, November 9, 2009

In Community II

To continue the thread from yesterday's posting, I wanted to take a moment to share with my readers the infinite blessings I receive from being in community with others. The term synergy comes to mind. When many people are acting in one accord, it is amazing what can happen!

Living in community with my sisters (and brothers, but mostly sisters) has strengthened me in so many ways. For example, there is something powerful and holy about knowing you are prayed for by others--particularly in those moments when you just can't pray for yourself anymore. You can truly feel yourself being carried on a wave of caring, love, and communion with God. It is amazing to me how a note from a friend in my mailbox lifts me up. I find it mood altering to spend an evening in good company with good conversation and good wine making plans and discussing life's problems. It is energizing to do practical "good deeds." Not only does useful work get done, but the end result brings people together in ways that create a positive, non-threatening, and interesting atmosphere.

Being in community with others also keeps me humble, honest, and focused. It isn't about others being grateful, it is about my own personal gratitude. Is my heart in the right place? Are my motives selfless or selfish? Is my participation a help or a hindrance? In the event I do get on my high horse every now and then, I have honest friends available to call me to account. What a blessing I have so many beacons of light on my journey. There is nothing more valuable on earth than a good, honest, and true friend to call you out.

Have you ever participated in a recipe exchange "chain" email? Well, group participation is kind of like that. You post two recipes and you get 20 in your inbox. Putting yourself in the stream of God's grace and allowing Him to bless others through you, is like being a ripple on a pond. The chain reaction of events goes on and on and circles back to you again and again and again. I have been so blessed by the wonderful women in my life. We have created many wonderful moments in the last year that have left lasting impressions on us as well as our communities. Every time we get together for work or for play, our own lives are enriched just by being present.

I close with a quote from a piece of fiction I am currently reading: "Mr. Simpless, my parson friend thinks [Grace means] that if one cares deeply about someone or something new, one throws a kind of energy out into the world, and "fruitfulness" is drawn in." (p. 116, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Living In Community

We Davidsonians tend to be civic minded people. You know, often times when I read all the alumni news, after the surge of pride and interest, a little self-doubt and insignificance begins to creep in. But I've been working on those feelings and in the last year I've developed a new perspective about what a civic minded Davidsonian (who no longer lives on campus) looks like. Perhaps it's all the Facebook time I've been logging. Catching up with everyone and their families and what they're doing with their lives has helped me look at my own life with clearer eyes. Perhaps it's staying connected with a dear friend whose daily life is its own challenge. She uses her own limitations to change those around her through sharing her very personal story in a weekly blog. Perhaps it's spending time with former Davidsonians and their own children and watching how they engage in their own communities on a daily basis.

I probably won't ever do anything spectacular or world changing. I had the audacity once, to tell my English teacher I wanted to be an ambassador. Well, it turns out I am an ambassador, just not to a foreign country. Instead I reach out and proffer olive branches, world peace, and mutually beneficial trade propositions in small ways. I hold little hands in parking lots and crossing the street. I try to help two small boys and their friends who come and go through my house reign in aggression and curiosity and channel that energy into productive play and participation in preschool, Sunday School, and with our neighbors at the playground. I lead a circle of friends by helping us all stay connected through emails, phone calls, food, and friendship. I support another Davidsonian in her quest to revitalize and reshape a children's ministry in our church by participating in as many opportunities as my schedule allows. I facilitate a Bible study gathering of women that spans three generations. None of these activities is particularly earth shattering, but each of these activities shares a common thread--community engagement.

Community participation is so critical to our well being as human beings. In all our ways (big and small) we seek to better the lives of those around us as well as bettering ourselves by pursuing a life lived in community with one another. While none of my current pursuits fall under the banner of social justice or economic development or political change, all of my activities help me stay connected with other women. I am so fortunate to know so many who when hearing the call: take dinner to a friend in need, pick up a child at school for a mom who has an emergency, organize a family service project that exposes their children to those who make it work with less, collect school supplies, coats, backpacks, bedding, clothing, and linens for families who have sustained losses, are starting over, or need help bridging the gaps. We take care of each other and collectively work to take care of others.

In my current stage in life as caretaker of small children it makes sense to use my time and energy wisely doing what I am able and not hankering for CNN news headlines. Since so many Davidsonians actually make CNN with big picture decisions, it is sometimes hard for me to remind myself that even my small little life is important in big ways to others around me. So I do my part with a cheerful countenance and with joy in my heart (most days). I never know when doing a small thing like taking dinner to a friend will have a big impact. Maybe that rotisserie chicken I picked up at BiLo to go with the green bean casserole I made will free up enough time for her to finish that presentation she was doing before the crisis hit that prompted me to bring dinner--and her idea revolutionizes how we manage health care. Who knows? Maybe I'm teaching a child who will grow up to cure cancer. Maybe my friends' daughters and sons, having been raised in homes where love for neighbor is a way of life, grow up to start foundations that change lives.

Engaging in community and working towards sustaining community through friendship, service, work, and play is really an extension of my youthful desire to make a difference in the world. Making a difference isn't always about the big things. Often times, it's about the small things--a note to a friend suffering a loss, a thank you note to a friend for their empathy and help, an intentional word of kindness to someone difficult to get along with. God is in the big and the small. If I can take care of some of the small, maybe it will give Him more time to do the big. So I think I do make a difference these days--one playdate, carpool, or casserole at a time.