"There's a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out." -Lou Reed

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Who Can You Give Your Bagel?

There are sometimes when I read something, and I am so inspired to share it that I immediately update my Facebook status, type my 140 characters on Twitter, and then, point my browser to Blogger to get the word out. This is one of those posts.

Since we moved to California, I have been even more aware of the issue of homelessness, because frankly, on every corner, I am seeing it. It's more prevalent here than it was in our former home state of South Carolina. Even though we live in a little suburban area well outside of the city of San Francisco, I see it. Every day.

The problem with seeing it every day is that you start to get used to it. It is sad but true. In the first days when we moved here, I was stopped in my tracks by seeing a person sleeping in the doorway of my local bank. Five months later, I notice, but I am not quite as frozen in place with each sighting.

Please take a few moments to read this piece posted by Julianna Morlet this morning. A friend of mine shared this on Facebook, and her comments on the post made me click through and read. I was moved to tears.

I struggle a great deal with faith, religion and how some people judge or hurt others in the name faith. But this post and these words are the best example of "walking the walk" of being a compassionate human being, and remembering to give, listen, and pay attention...to everyone.

This is a reminder to all of us that those struggling with homelessness, addiction, mental illness, and other tragic circumstances that take control of their lives are someone's child, someone's sibling, someone's parent...someone's connection to another life. Thank you Julianna Morlet for writing this, and to my friend Lori for sharing this today.

(I am sharing her post in its entirety here, as I don't want you to miss a word)

Who Can You Give Your Bagel?
by Julianna Morlet
"Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor." Proverbs 22:9 (ESV)
I woke up at 5 a.m., hit my snooze button, dragged myself out of my warm sheets and started my normal-every-Tuesday-morning-routine. I drove to Starbucks, swapped the typical weather jokes with my favorite barista, ordered my grande coffee and bagel, and walked out the glass door.
What wasn't routine was the scraggly teenage boy I ran into on my way to my truck. He was asking for something. Though I didn't clearly hear him, I assumed it was money.
I told him I was sorry but I didn't have any, and continued on.
He didn't ask again and he didn't pester me. But something in my head did. Did he ask for money or food?
Quickly, I spun around and asked, "Do you need food?" His reply was so innocent and affirmative. I held out my goodie bag. "Here ya go, a toasted bagel with cream cheese made just for you." He smiled so big, I thought his lip ring was gonna pop out.
I didn't think anything of it until I got in the truck and started pulling away. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the boy peeling open the cream cheese, carefully and joyfully, like it was Christmas morning.
On my drive to the office, I wept like a broken-hearted mother.
I didn't know this boy. Had no idea what kind of trouble or circumstances got him to the streets, but I did know he was someone's son. And if my son were out on the streets, asking for food at 6:30 in the morning, I'd want that busy-looking girl to stop and give him her bagel.
Almost a month later, my mother forwarded me an email she had received from a woman in her Bible study. It read:
"Hi Alma, Viola told me she read Julianna's blog which talked about giving a hungry teenage boy her bagel. Viola wondered if it was my son Kyle because of the lip ring Julianna mentioned. I was overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude for her compassion. He was hungry and she gave him something to eat. I have attached a picture of Kyle to show Julianna to see if he is the one she fed that morning. If not, I know there is another mother out there that would be very grateful for her compassion if she knew."
I scrolled down to see the face of the boy and gasped as my eyes instantly filled with tears. It was him! The boy had a name and it was Kyle. But more than that, he had a mother. And now she knew someone had taken care of her son, even if it was just a small meal.
We are not all called to mission fields far away. We are not all called to pastor a church or lead a women's Bible study. However there is one thing we are all called to do as God's people: we're all called to stop, to be aware of the hurting around us, and to have compassion. We are called to share our bread with the poor.
The Lord asks us to care. He calls us to be on the lookout for those who need our time and kindness. And yes, our bagel and cream cheese too.
Check out the video of Julianna interviewing Kyle's mom:

To read the original post, click here.
Click here to go to Julianna's personal blog.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Places We Have Lived

I lived on my own for the first time during my freshman year in college, occupying a two bedroom apartment  in a not-so-great area of town near campus. (I have huge regrets about not living in the dorm that first year, but that’s for another post). I was so ready to start my life away from my parents, away from my father, away from my past struggles, away from the things that I felt defined me. I had no idea that so much more was ahead of me that I was not equipped to deal with. The shaky foundation of my family proved to be poor preparation for the next stage of my life. I had no idea.

Everything I saw ahead of me for college and especially that first year fell apart within the first semester. I was already dating the man I was certain I was going to marry, that I had met just before the end of my senior year in high school. He was also my first love, my first real relationship. It was innocent and burdened-- lovely and flawed. Looking back, we never stood a chance because I had no idea who I really was or why I had so little faith in myself. I had not yet begun to define or heal the wounds that were taking a little more of my happiness every day. I had planned on a lifetime with him. We didn’t make it to Christmas.

Having been an honors student in high school, I thought I would repeat that success in college. I never worried about my academic abilities, and had no idea how emotionally trying it would be to sit in a huge lecture hall of hundreds of students I didn’t know, trying to figure out where I fit in and why nothing seemed to make sense. The weight of it all was smothering me. Nothing I thought I could depend on was lasting or working out. It all fell apart so fast.

I wasn’t equipped to deal with such independent choices, a serious relationship, or living on my own, and I certainly wasn’t equipped to deal with losing it all in a matter of months. All the things I had looked forward to, the things I had banked on that were my light at the end of the tunnel, were mirages. At the beginning of my life as I saw it, I had lost everything.

The worst part was that people judged me so harshly. I was viewed as this unstable girl who fell apart after her boyfriend left her. In part, that was true. It became a joke in the circles I had traveled in, my classmates. I was laughable, ridiculous. I will never, ever forget how that felt. I was so confused and felt so alone. The words others said, many of them people that I had come to regard as close friends, still ring in my ears at times of doubt, this many years away from all of that.

I am sure it was a foreign thing as a young person who had grown up in a stable, supportive family to watch someone like me disintegrate…or worse, seem fine one day and a wreck the next. We were so young. No one is supposed to be wise and enveloped in the capability to see the big picture and the real reason behind such things. I know all of that now, but it still hurt and took me so long to understand. I had a few close friends during college, one I had known in high school, another I made during my freshman year that were the exceptions and somehow had that wisdom. I am forever in their debt for the support they gave me during that first year and the years after at that time in my life.

When I go back in time in my mind, or when I reread a journal page as I am rearranging a bookcase, in the same way a song or a scent can transport me back to a singular moment…the place I lived during that first year in college is as clear to me as the four walls I am looking at now. I can see the marked, scuffed wooden floors, the metal blinds that made constant noise when I had the windows open, the bathroom with the black and white checked tile that crawled up the walls, the two small steps that led into the kitchen from the backdoor that I must have walked up and down a thousand times. The pink phone that hung on the wall in the hallway, and the countless nights I sat in the floor just below it, twirling the cord in my fingers, talking to close friends that I missed desperately who were far away at other campuses. The pieces of furniture that a teacher and friend gave me to help me make my start in the world. The way the sheer curtains in my bedroom blew in the breeze at night and floated above me as I laid awake.

I cannot believe the perfect still pictures I have in my mind of that little apartment that was nothing extraordinary, except that it was a beginning for me, and a place that honestly, to this day, brings a physical pain when I think back.

I started a tradition then, quite by accident. When I was moving out of that apartment once my lease was up, I had just finished putting the last small items in my car. I had cleaned and scrubbed and was taking one last walk through to make sure that I hadn’t forgotten any detail or left anything behind. I remember it was getting dark and I just kind of froze. I remembered that a year before, I had walked through this empty apartment in such a different place in my life. I was full of hope, so ready for the next chapter. I was so excited about every doorknob and window screen because they were mine. Now, as I stood in the hallway, I started to cry, to really weep, over all that I had lost. Over all that had transpired in one year of my life. I lingered in every room and made a note to remember all the happy things, the first moments of the life I had imagined, the despair I felt and the tears I cried in those rooms. It was such a huge thing for me to lose that first relationship, and I said goodbye to more than just a rented apartment, I said goodbye to a huge part of my innocence and hope.

I stood in my bedroom, next to shadowy marks on the floor left behind by my brass bed. I said one simple last goodbye, walked out the door, turned the key for the last time and took a deep breath. I made a decision right then to try and leave all that sadness locked in that place. To let it stay there and somehow suffocate in the tightly closed rooms, with nowhere to escape. It was silly and dramatic, but it helped that young, lost woman that I was put one painful chapter behind her.

Without ever planning it, I followed that same ritual everywhere I lived after that. After everything was cleaned and packed, when the sound of my footsteps echoed in empty rooms, I would take that final walk through and really remember everything- the good, the bad, the minutes and moments—all of it. I would do my best to say—That was me—here. That’s done. Onto the next place in my life.

The only place I didn’t do that was my childhood home. I was so ready to fly away when I left—and there was plenty to want to fly away from. Maybe it was because I knew I could come back to that house from time to time, but even when my parents announced they were selling the house and moving to another state, I had no desire to go and say goodbye. Maybe that was a mistake, because there are things that I still haven’t made peace with. Maybe I needed to shut it all away in the rooms of that house like I did the other places I lived later in life.

Today, a picture caught my attention on Pinterest, and I clicked through to find the story of this piece of a house in the middle of a field that had intrigued me. A woman had mourned the necessary loss of her childhood home, and all the dreams she had tied to it. The house, along with other buildings on the farm, had to be burned down for safety issues after years of deterioration. In the ashes, she remembered how she, as a child, was certain she would return to this house to raise her own children. Her memories moved her to erect a monument of sorts in the same spot where the house once stood. I so connected with her relationship to a place, a home, and the hope that grew inside it. 

We all walk through the rooms of the places we have lived in one way or another I guess. The places we have lived become a part of who we are, what we were, and what we remember. 

As I sit here tonight in a home that I know is filled with love, I have found the hope I had when I first walked through the halls of that tiny apartment in North Carolina in 1988. I could have never known how many years it would take to get back to that place of hope. Every place I have lived, every address change, every risk, heartbreak, and choice has led me here. 

I am finally home.

Please visit the site for "If We Lived Here" and Paula Rebsom’s work by clicking the photo below, which inspired this blog post.



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