In memorium.

Should we grieve more for one person and not another?

Is the death more tragic if it is a young mother, or if it is an old spinster?

Is it more sad if a child dies or if an adult dies having never really lived?

Is it more tragic if a famous person or an unknown dies?

All deaths are meaningful. All deaths are sad. All are different. The homeless woman’s death is just as important as the Queen’s. Death will take us all. Death is the great equalizer. Death wins.

We can pretend that death is far away. We can pretend that it will happen another day, to another person. We are special. We are different.

We aren’t. All of us are going to die, one way or another. Like it or not, you can’t escape it. You can’t take your toys with you. There are no guarantees of life, no do-overs.

Tomorrow never comes.

Until it does. Don’t take it for granted. Take it as a gift. Don’t waste it.

Every day is a new gift. Every day is another chance. Make that phone call. Write that book. Start that search for the job where you feel useful and needed and worthwhile, where you get to do what you feel called to do. Go back to school. Whatever. Or learn how to be happy where you are.

One of my friends from high school died today. She was in her mid 40s. Young. With children. A beautiful soul. We hadn’t seen each other since then, and had only recently found each other in the past few years on Facebook. She had brain cancer. Cancer is a terrible way to go. It eats you up, slowly transforming your cells into cancer cells. The treatment is barbaric. Slash and burn, poison and cut. Sometimes the treatment is worse than the disease.

Sandy and I first knew that we had something in common while we were in Economics class. We were bored. We were sitting several rows apart. Somehow I caught that she was quietly singing a Violent Femmes song with a friend of hers. I knew it – and I started singing along. “I take one, one, one cause you left me, and two, two, two for my family…” I knew it, and I was in. I had the secret code that let her know I was weird. Once you were in, you were there. We were great friends after that. The last thing I remember doing is going trick-or-treating with her and two other friends. We were too old to go, really, but we went anyway. Sandy drove, and we picked the rich neighborhoods for our hunt that night. We did well.

I’m grateful to have known her. I’m sad, not really for me, but for her family. I hadn’t seen her in many years. We’d grown apart, like people do. Her loss won’t hurt me as much as it hurts them. But I hope to remember something of her spark, her spirit, her smile. She was funny, and snarky, and smart, and beautiful in all the right ways.

Rest in peace, Sandy Scott. May your memory be a blessing to all who knew you.

Kindergarten 8-21-13

Today in kindergarten we were working on spelling our name. Well, when I say we I mean the children I’m assigned were working on their names and I was helping. And when I say helping I mean keeping them on task, opening the marker, cheering them on, and realizing when they have had enough and then sending them back to class. There is only so much one-on-one work you can take when you are five.

Kindergarten is hard work. There are a lot of distractions. Today the biggest distraction was that I have a bandage on my thumb. I had cut my thumb while cooking a few days ago and I wanted to keep it clean and dry. Plus, it was a bit ugly, so I didn’t want to distract them. This didn’t work. The girls were fascinated, and asked about it. One even wanted me to show her the cut. They boys didn’t even notice it. While the lesson was supposed to be about how to write your name it veered off into a lesson about cooking safety.

I was bored with the lesson anyway. We did this last week. Can’t they write their names already? But I’m not there for me. And if you can’t write your own name then you are not going to do well with much else.

Not all children grow at the same level. Sometimes it is really hard to wait through the dry patches, the quiet time. Sometimes there is a lot of waiting. Sometimes progress stops and everything seems to go backwards.

And that is ok. That is part of it all. Sometimes I’m not very patient with the slow times. I want to know I’m on the right path. I want to know I am having some positive impact. I want to know there is a happy ending, that everybody comes out OK in the end. This isn’t just about kindergarten.

Not every kid gets it. Not every kid gets it in the time period allotted. Sometimes they have to repeat a grade. It isn’t a sign of failure, in spite of what some parents think. It would be a huge disservice to the child to push her when she just isn’t ready yet.

I’m here for the stragglers. I’m here for the ones who need a little extra attention. If they can be helped now, they are more likely to do well in the future.

Don’t we all need this? A little time, a little attention, a little love? Because this is love, and this is real. I pray for these children. I pray in words and action. I encourage them and celebrate their successes. Being able to write your name is a big thing. I’m proud when they can, and I’m proud to see them try so hard.

I’m grateful for the chance to help them grow. I’m grateful that the Mayor lets Metro employees volunteer in the schools on work time. I’m grateful that my workplace can spare me. I’m grateful I found a teacher to work with who is enthusiastic and kind.

And I’m grateful for every little success I see. I don’t get to see a child “get” reading every day, but just being able to write her name without tracing it is a beautiful thing. Baby steps.

Mourning church

So many of us are disillusioned with church. We want to love Jesus but we can’t stand what we are being told. The more we read of the Gospel the more we feel that church isn’t where we will see it lived out.

We’re angry. We feel duped. We feel deceived. We feel like we have wasted years of our lives in the service of an institution, a machine, rather than a living God.

We feel that we have been controlled and manipulated, not to shape us into stronger members of the Body of Christ, but to make us more docile and compliant.

We are grieving. We love Jesus, and we feel that the only route we have been offered to find Him has taken us far away from Him.

So we leave church. We’ve left with fear and trembling. We’ve left because we feel that to stay is to get even further away from what we know to be true.

There are many of us.

We are slowly finding each other, the misfits, the outcasts. Some of us left church of our own accord, some of us were asked to leave.

But we still need community.

Remember how Jesus says that if two or more are gathered in his name, he is there? He says nothing about doing it on your own. Jesus came to gather up all the lost sheep, the lost crumbs, the lost coins. He came to unite us. So it is important for us to join together.

There are virtual communities of us, who find each other on social websites under the banner of “Progressive Christian.” A lot of us are sad that there has to be a way of separating us from “those” people who say they are Christian but use it as a social club, or as a club to attack anyone who isn’t them. Can’t we all get along? That is what Jesus wanted – for us to join together. But we don’t feel we can be silent anymore in denominations that are anti- any of God’s children. We don’t feel we can be silent when our faith is more interested in stopping gay people from being married than stopping children from starving. Women’s reproductive rights are important, but environmental destruction is more important. We are being distracted as to what the important issues really are.

We feel that our faith has been hijacked. We feel that the wool is being pulled over our eyes. We feel that we are being sold a bill of goods that we know to be bad. We feel that we are expected to be quiet little sheep.

We need to take time to grieve. And then we need to move forward.

We are angry at how many people are being mislead. This is not just by the prosperity preachers. It is not just by the ministers who preach hate and intolerance. It is even by the liberal churches who welcome everybody. I feel that we have been lulled into a false sense of security, and we’ve given up our own power. We’ve forgotten how to follow Jesus when we follow others. When we put our faith and our trust in authority figures and in the establishment, rather than in Jesus we will always be mislead.

We’ve not been taught how to hear from God. We’ve not been taught to trust that still small voice. We’ve been put down and ignored. We are embarrassed to talk about God in church. We have been told that we are crazy.

We know we aren’t.

We are starting to think that we’ve been ignored and mistreated and abused and talked down to enough. We are realizing that the church hasn’t been a good parent to us. We are divorcing ourselves from this dysfunctional family, and going out on our own.

Big library/little library

There are twenty branches and one main library in our system in Davidson County. One of them is closed for the foreseeable future because of flooding. The entire basement flooded, six feet up the walls. Men in hazmat suits have had to go in and clean things out. All the books have been removed to prevent them getting moldy. The employees have been reassigned to other branches.

This is a big deal. The branch that closed was a tiny branch, and my branch is a huge branch. There are patrons that went to my branch when it opened and shortly learned that it is not their style. They now are having to come back to us. It isn’t very easy for them.

It reminds me of when I tried to leave Bank of America. I was sick of being treated like a number. I was sick of stupid rules that made no sense. I should be able to write my account number on a check I’m depositing when I go through the drive through, rather than park my car and come in to get a deposit slip. But, they didn’t see things my way. They have a lot of customers. They can’t make exceptions. I opened an account at a smaller branch and was greeted by name every time I went in. The turnover of the tellers was minimal. I got to know them, and enjoy going in. I refinanced my mortgage that was with BoA in order to begin the process of leaving BoA. Sadly, the mortgage was resold to BoA within two weeks. My master plan was foiled. I was stuck dealing with a huge entity.

These patrons are in the same boat. They want the personal service of a tiny branch, but that is impossible with a large branch. The employee who has been reassigned to us said that two hours on the desk at my branch was like a whole week at his branch. We serve 800 people a day. We can’t take the time to learn your name and the name of your children and husband and what books you like to read and how your medical history is going. We just can’t.

And I’m OK with that. It is a library. It isn’t a bar and we aren’t bartenders. It isn’t church and we aren’t priests. People forget that sometimes. There is something about a library that makes people think we want to hear all about their problems.

Sure, we care. We do. We are human. We enjoy stories. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t read books. Books are full of stories. But people aren’t like books. We can’t close them when they get to be too much. Books don’t get their feelings hurt when we get overwhelmed with what is going on. We don’t feel trapped when the problems in books are too big for us to handle. It is human nature to want to handle problems, to fix them, to make things better. That expectation isn’t there with books. Books are books, and people are people.

People are messy things. People are difficult and complicated and weird. They are amazing too. But there isn’t any training when you go to work for the library that tells you how to deal with people who feel that they need to tell you everything about their lives.

I don’t remember this happening in retail. Working in the library is a lot like retail and yet different. People treat you better, for starters. But they also share a lot of deeply personal stuff. Sometimes it is too much, too deep, too personal. Sometimes I want to run away. Sometimes I’m fascinated. Sometimes I’m grateful for the pastoral care training I’ve had that helps me to just be a calm presence for them.