There is so much going on right now in our country and our world that hurts my heart.
I could get on my soapbox and pontificate about what policies should be or what politicians should do but my tiny voice wouldn’t make a difference on the grander stage.
My world is pretty small in comparison to social influencers and the ones who want to be.
Even still, what I do and what I say each day matters.
It matters to my family and my neighbors.
It matters to the folks with whom I share social media space, the road and the grocery aisle.
So I make it a habit to extend and receive grace.
I extend it when someone else’s experience informs an opinion different than my own. I extend it when someone posts a meme or article with which I disagree. I extend it when I scroll past what I consider offensive-just ignore it and go on-instead of “taking them to task”.
I receive it when my friends do the same.
It’s not my job to police everyone else on the planet.
It IS my job to live according to my profession of faith in Jesus Christ.
Grace-unmerited favor-poured out abundantly on me and available for me to pour out on others.
Before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I could be awfully self-righteous.
I could not understand how some people (notice how I dehumanized them by lumping them together) couldn’t just act right, do right, pick themselves us by their bootstraps and get on with life.
Now I am more apt to wonder, “What awful thing has happened to this person?” instead of “What is WRONG with them????” when I notice someone acting a bit out of character or not quite living up to their commitments or somehow missing the mark of societal expectations.
Take all this coronavirus craziness.
Some of us are being more cautious.
Some of us consider caution a sign of insecurity or fear or lack of faith.
None of us have enough information (really!) to make an informed decision.
Lack of testing, lack of research, lack of transparency and not enough time means we are all essentially guessing what is the most prudent and appropriate individual response to this threat. I’m choosing not to judge anyone’s choices even if they are different than my own.
I’ve felt judged many times in the past six years since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.
People who haven’t buried a child really don’t understand how it changes EVERYTHING. But that doesn’t stop them from offering an opinion or advice or making comments on social media that are clearly intended to correct or shame me.
Now that things are opening up on the back side of blanket stay-at-home orders I’m probably going to be judged again.
What people don’t know about me-what they can’t see and can’t know unless they ask-is I suffer from an autoimmune disease. The treatment impacts my ability to fight off infections. It lowers my white blood cell count. It makes me susceptible to things that other folks never have to worry about.
I had latent (non-contagious and asymptomatic) tuberculosis a couple years ago.
I’m not part of population that would normally be considered “at risk” and only found out about it because it’s protocol to test for TB before prescribing some of the more potent medicines used in treating rheumatoid arthritis. I still have no idea where I was exposed to it.
Eight months of antibiotics with unpleasant side effects later I was disease free.
Based on first person accounts of what it feels like to have Covid19 (not even considering the most dire outcomes) that was a cakewalk.
So I’m not standing in line to try my hand at surviving this new threat.
And I have other, very real, very painful, experiences which inform my choice to be more cautious. I know that regardless of odds, of treatment and of what a heart HOPES will happen, things don’t always go as planned or as predicted.
I know the horror death leaves in its wake. I know the toll trauma takes on a life left behind.
My family has already had to deal with more than I could have imagined and I will not purposely expose them to something else if I can help it.
So regardless of local, state or national guidelines, protocol or recommendations I will be mostly staying home.
It’s not lack of faith.It’s not fear. It’s prudence based on experience.
You can make a different choice and I will absolutely positively respect that.
It rolls around every four years in man’s attempt to keep the calendar in tune with the cosmos.
It’s really a rather rough alignment but it’s the best we can do.
Truth is that each year there’s about one-quarter of a day unaccounted for even though our minds and bodies don’t notice so we tack on a whole day every four years and act like we catch up.
Most of us plod along as if the Monday (or Saturday, this year) is just another day in a series. For some it’s a bonus work day (maybe a bit extra in the check this month?). For many it’s only a date.
But for the tiny portion of the population who were born or married on this date, it’s a celebration.
Once every four years they get to mark-on the very day-what most of us take for granted. Friends and families can gather and honor a life or a marriage without trying to figure out whether to do it the day before or the day after.
This is the second Leap Day that’s rolled around since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven and it got me thinking about that little extra time each year or each month or each day holds that I hardly notice.
What if I took those moments (or hours) and wove them into something more meaningful than playing a game on my phone, watching another show on Hulu or scrolling through social media?
What if I choose to redeem those scraps of time that I normally toss away like they don’t matter?
In five minutes I can write a card, text or message to a friend.
In ten minutes I can call and set up a lunch or coffee date.
In thirty minutes I can preheat the oven and toss a storebought pie inside to take to my elderly neighbor.
So many opportunities to let someone know they are not forgotten nor unimportant.
February twenty-ninth didn’t really feel all that “extra” to me since I mostly did what I do every Saturday.
But it did make me think about how I spend my time.
One of the most interesting (and best) pieces of advice on relationships I ever read was this: Imagine the person with whom you contend as an infant or a very elderly individual.
Pick someone who rubs you the wrong way every which way to Sunday and think about him or her as a tiny baby or a frail and feeble grandparent.
Did you feel some of the hostility melt away when the image of your “thorn in the flesh” as a helpless human came into focus?
It works every time for me. It doesn’t mean that I won’t have to address any underlying issues between me and whoever. But it does tame the mean and vengeful out of me.
It makes me tender when I talk to a friend or family member about a testy topic. It helps me be kind to the cashier who has picked now to count out her drawer just as it’s my turn after I’ve been waiting in a long line. It moderates my reaction from road rage to a more appropriate and safe, “Oh, well!” when cut off in traffic.
It makes it easier for me to be gentle.
Gentle: 1. having or showing a mild, kind or tender, temperament or character; 2. moderate in action, effect or degree; not harsh or severe.
Truth is we are surrounded every day by people who are one unkind word away from falling apart. We drive down the highway with strangers whose lives are filled with pain. We work and eat and worship and play with folks who carry wounds we know nothing about.
I don’t have to understand everything about someone to appreciate that there is more than meets the eye. All of us have scars and secrets, stress and strain, unmet needs and unseen struggles.
So I try to give the benefit of the doubt, assume the best, extend grace, be humble, choose love.
I want to walk gently among my fellow humans.
At minimum I hope to do no harm. At best I hope to encourage another heart to hang on and keep trying. Most of the time I probably fall somewhere in between.
A friend recently posted that not all the lessons of grief are bitter.
Some are sweet.
I’ve learned a lot on this journey. And one of the sweet things I’ve learned is that the best thing to offer fellow travelers is a bit of my heart instead of a piece of my mind.
We all have pet causes, pet peeves and personal opinions. Social media makes it oh, so easy to promote them.
But too often one person’s post leads to another person’s comment which leads to snarky remarks, replies and reactions. Pretty soon what began as an exercise in free speech devolves into a free-for-all. The only thing stopping physical blows is the distance between keyboards across the Internet.
I don’t have to make a point every time I make a comment.
I can simply scroll past that tasteless meme or sarcastic political post.
Life’s too short to be offended over every. little. thing.
No long legs, long hair or graceful moves that might have caught the eye of the ever watchful gatekeepers who picked the favored few each year to represent beauty on the sidelines.
So (I’ll be honest here) I really didn’t give the position much thought beyond the fact that those girls always got asked to dances first.
But in these years since Dominic left us I’ve learned something very important about cheerleaders-both the ones in the cute clothes at sporting events and the ones that come alongside others in real life: they make a difference.
Cheerleaders are more important than you think.
Someone calling courage can mean a heart holds on when it’s about to let go.
Someone reminding you what’s at stake if you give up can help you dig deep for that last bit of effort hiding inside.
Someone chanting rhythm to your plodding forward progress can provide another focus for your mind besides the throbbing pain in every step.
Someone showing up and standing by your side even when the odds are against you says, “You are worth the effort-win or lose!”
You don’t have to be a certain size or a certain type to be a real-life cheerleader.
You don’t even have to fit into those cute little skirts.
The only qualification is an unqualified commitment to showing up and being seen and holding on and hanging in no matter where life takes the ones you love.
You have the power to be the difference in somebody’s life.