“It is the things I have left undone which haunt me far more than the things which I have done.”
Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water
Yesterday I spent more than an hour on the phone with a friend. I very rarely do this these days.
Our conversation touched race and class, mothering and courage, friendship and truth-telling. It was one of those blessed talks where a thing leads to another thing, and you suddenly feel like your eyes and heart have opened up in the best of ways.
This friend is bold, curious and gutsy, and even though I’m still growing to know her, I’ve known I love her for some time now.
We share in our multi-cultural, multi-generational church family together. We believe in the healing power of stories. With our sisters and brothers, we believe in the call to care for the forgotten. Above all, we believe in Jesus, the reconciler and lover of each and every one.
With evidence of misunderstanding, ignorance and injustice piled up high around her life’s path, my friend is choosing to kneel down and get her hands dirty. In relationship. With one complicated and messy human being at a time.
She asks good, hard questions. She is passionate and humble. She celebrates hard-fought wisdom and believes it’s to be shared. She listens, and she laughs hard with people of all shades.
As we talk, I realize how often my heart fills with responses to what I see around me and beliefs of all that should be different from what is. I realize, too, how easy it is to fill my mind with more information and, though I need to be informed because histories and experiences are nuanced and complicated, I want my knowledge to do more than fill. I want it to wake me up to do something in this week, this day.
Pay attention. Listen. Encourage. Engage. Help build a bridge.
I can feel overwhelmed in the bigness of the vision to reconcile and to reach out a hand to those who’ve been repeatedly dismissed from the conversation, to make peace and to give. And in its echoes, I can do nothing. Stuck.
I know this well because the same stuck happens in the small, material world of this home.
To-do’s fill lists. Papers cover counters. Photos cram hard drives. Inwardly, I half-shrug and put it off for the day when kids are a little older, when time frees from the snarl, and I can complete what I start.
For the four years we’ve lived in this house, I’ve wanted to bring a slice of beauty to the space outside our kitchen. With a view of only our dear neighbors’ beige siding, I’ve often envisioned a window box filled with color, reaching to find sun, cascading over edges, pluckily encouraging us as we cook and wash.
A few weeks ago, the girls and I pulled pansies, grass and a trailing beauty from black plastic pots. We dug holes, and we plunged the living things into dirt inside a window basket my mama and I purchased from the garden store with some of my birthday money.
Then Michael hung the basket under the kitchen window.
Such simple things. These colors. These flowers. This basket. This dirt.
So small. But in the time since, I have looked at these flowers hundreds of times. When I enter the kitchen, when I make my coffee, when I wash the girls’ breakfast dishes, when I listen to phone messages, when I round the corner to walk downstairs to the basement.
From the outside, we see it when we carry out the garbage and recycling, when we walk through the back gate, when we draw with chalk on sidewalk. Our neighbors see the basket daily, too, living as it does in the small space between our homes.
Over and again we see the flowers I’d put off for years. These simple things.
This life where there once was none.
This color springing from dirt.
These petals and leaves reminding of the good in doing some small thing.
Meeting the neighbor I’ve been putting off. Extending a piece of the forgiveness I’m working to muster. Listening with full attention to someone with a story and experience different from my own.
Taking one small step.
Doing one simple thing.
Getting my hands a little bit dirty.
Thank you for your support in my first-time book publishing adventure. Your encouragement is no small thing to me. I’ve dropped the entrants’ names into a bowl, spun them about, and the winner of the free copy of the MOPS devotional, Always There (featuring two pieces I wrote) is “I Think Therefore I Should Write.” Congratulations!