Thursday, November 26, 2009

On Giving Thanks

 The question was asked a few days ago: What are you thankful for this year?

I looked around the table at friends gathered.  We all seemed a little embarrassed and put on the spot, which is awfully weird for church people four days before Thanksgiving at an annual event called the Agape (Love) Meal. 

"I guess I should have known that was coming,"  I said.  Everyone laughed.  Then we made a few jokes about what we are not particularly thankful for: conservative TV pundits, the economy, the extra pounds headed to our waistlines in the coming days.   

It was a table of eleven well-fed, highly-educated Americans.  We had all driven cars to the event.  We were wearing clean, weather appropriate clothes, and sat in a candlelit room full of 120 people, any one of whom would have walked a mile or more with any one of us on his/her back, if that were necessary.  

Why were we so squirmy?

I can only speak for myself.

It seems I'm so drenched in the good life I can't even formulate an honest response to the question.  I guess, truth be told, I'm a little self-conscious about the utter blessedness of my days...

I have had nothing but opportunity this year - to write, to refresh my soul, to rediscover deep joy, to connect with the sweetest little amazements of this life; things like:  rain falling off my roof, babies smiling at me from their car seats, a full moon over the ocean, fresh greens in baskets at a local farm stand. 

I will sit at a table later today with my mother, who eight months ago had a heart attack after chopping down a tree in her front yard.  Today, she is cooking a turkey.

I have never been hungry.

I have always been loved.

I have stayed out of hospitals and chemo facilities and a myriad of scary sounding diagnostic machines.

I have not bailed a child out of jail, a husband out of rehab, a family member out of financial ruin, or a friend out of an abusive marriage.
The question is just too easy.   

So, please let me take a moment to say thank you...

To those of you who help keep my eyes open to the fact that life is, indeed, very good.

To those of you who trust me with your stories of brokenness and heartache when it comes your way.

To friends and family who struggle, alongside me, with the absolute abundance that defines our American lives.  Thank you for teaching me, reminding me, leading me to see the big hurting world that lives outside my warm and cozy upper middle-class window.

I am about to watch the sun rise outside that very window. A clear and beautiful morning is emerging.  I am huddled around a good cup of coffee and a day that will be filled with the comfort of family.

I will pause in these moments to give thanks - and to pray for a sunrise like this in the days of each of your lives as the next year miraculously unfolds. 

Give thanks.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

On Paying Attention

I am haunted by images of an adorable child in my past who was always eager to tell me his stories and share his unique view of the world  - with little or no implore on my behalf. 

(I told you he was adorable.) 

The images of this my kitchen, in the backseat of my car, in my bedroom before dawn's earliest light and long after the last dish was washed in the evening...haunt me for one simple reason - I wasn't listening. 

I was busy.

Busy doing what, I cannot tell you.  Making the beds?  Baking the cookies?  Organizing the fundraisers?  Taking soup to the sick?  It is beyond anything worth searching for in my junk drawer of a memory, I can promise you that.

There is one scene that comes in loud and clear, though...from 13 years ago.  I was in the kitchen - busy. My storyteller was talking, and I was paying enough attention to say "uh-huh" and "really" in response. Exasperated, he stood up, looked me squarely in the eye and said, "Mom, you're not even listening."

He was right.  And he stopped talking.

That boy is 23 years old today.  His view of the world is now bigger than mine - so much more studied and wise and complete. He's traveled Europe, lived in California on his own, read hundreds of books I've only talked about reading, worked alongside the homeless, written music, played in orchestras and rock bands and church ensembles, loved deeply, lost painfully, and lived - always - authentically.

I am very lucky.  This boy still tells me his stories (although he usually waits to be asked).  It is one of the most significant measures of grace I have ever received.  I try not to think about the things I must have missed when I was too busy to listen.

We think they'll be 3 forever...and then, poof, they're 23.  Pay attention.

Happy Birthday, Travis!