The White Moderate

Like a laboring woman who rests momentarily between contractions, the heavy sky pauses briefly outside my window. It rests from pushing out a howling wind and gasping raindrops, taking in deep breaths of cold, cold air to turn these drops into fluffy flakes. Soon, they predict, ice and snow will fall on this city and white will cover up the gray and the mud.

Isn’t that what we want – a fresh clean layer of something sparkly to cover up the muck of a thawed out January? Anything to help us forget the long hours of darkness and the ick underneath. The kids are happy to have yet another snow day, fingers curled around the remote, reports and books forgotten while parents everywhere hurry through the grocery aisles, stocking up for who knows how long, hoping to get home safely before it hits. Yet, for now, it’s still muck and mud.

Funny how much faith we put in the weather report, how quickly entire schedules are swept aside so we can be safe, yet pay precious little attention to certain other voices that have been telling us about their own un-safety for a long, long time now. If we aren’t stuck in the muck ourselves, why is it so hard to hear those who tell us they are?

This morning I came across some of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s quotes that the media won’t cite. They were fascinating. The quote that struck me the most concerned King’s disappointment with the White Moderate. He says,

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

He wrote these words in a Letter from a Birmingham Jail to the clergymen of Birmingham. It is a long, letter but well worth the read and I find myself a little more in awe of this man who was willing to sit in a jail cell to prove a point.

While some things have changed in this country since then, there’s still a deep layer of muck and mud that some of us choose not to see because we still love order (for ourselves) more than justice (for all people) and the absence of tension (in our own lives) to the presence of justice (for all people). I’ve spend my share of time in White Moderate communities where we are taught to love all people but not make waves. How can this even be a thing? Moderation is held high and radicalism frowned upon. And “tension”, forget about it. In these places I’ve called home, it has always been better to sweep things under the rug than to disagree or expose a conflict. I’m speaking about entire communities committed to keeping a calm, perfect face, of striving to maintain “peace” (AKA lack of tension), looking good at all costs.

Edmond Burke said “All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing.”

My point is that there are a whole lot of us that feel okay about ourselves because we aren’t out there committing acts of violence. We are nice to those we meet. We do not cheat our customers or hurl racial slurs. We don’t go anywhere that would be too uncomfortable but we still do our share of kind things for others. We hear whispers of injustice but we aren’t creating the injustice so we feel okay remaining where we are at. But, being good and moderate and remaining quiet is the very thing that lets injustice continue. If we are okay allowing injustice to continue, how are we different from those who perpetrate acts of injustice?

Outside the wind is again picking up speed, throwing bits of snow and ice at anyone who dares venture out. In my warm, safe home, I ponder and pray.

May I have courage to always speak up when I see injustice.

May I have the humility to listen to the voices telling me stories so different from my own reality. May I sit in the discomfort and truly learn to listen and to weep with those who weep rather than shushing them.

May I become a radical who dares make waves because I love so deeply, across racial, gender and socioeconomic lines. May I be stubborn enough to reject labels and boxes, to see each person as reflective of the Divine.

May I be wise enough to inspire my sons and all of this next generation to be radicals who will never look at injustice and say, “It’s not my problem”. Who will uncurl their fingers readily from the remote and wrap their arms around the broken instead.

May I be bold enough to yank the rug out from under feet, to expose the lies that lay beneath. The world does not need my silence any more. My “doing nothing” only creates more souls who feel like nothing.

May I love deeply enough to stop spending my time and my money, but to change the currency and spend myself.

And may I never, ever, ever, stand in the way of justice or be a stumbling block in someone’s journey to freedom. Let me, instead, be the one clearing the road so they can run to freedom.

Giving Tuesday – Celebrating Generosity

I recently asked my boys to share their favorite part of the Christmas Season. One of them practically bounced up and down in his excitement to share that his was buying and giving gifts to others. I chuckled because he has been pulling me aside for a few weeks now, telling me all the things he plans to buy for his brothers. I remember the Christmas a  number of years ago, how he spent his last penny on gifts for others. In a culture obsessed with owning much, it is refreshing to see those who love giving much.

He spent his formative years living in a very giving culture where the mix of poverty and generosity never failed to astound me.  The beggars that constantly surrounded was all he knew for many years. I can’t help but think that the generosity he saw in his Bangladeshi Aunties and Uncles, neighbors and ayah, had a profound effect on him. I take little credit for the generous person he turned out to be. And if you ask for the secret, I don’t know but maybe let your child look into the eyes of those in desperate need often enough so they see them as human, so they see them as fellow souls who share this earth with us and are a part of us. Let them see you model how to look into the eyes of a beggar, to acknowledge their existence, to feed their hunger that is so much more than the felt need of the moment. Teach your children to see the dignity in those who are less fortunate and to never, ever, ever squash that dignity. Whisper softly in their ears that giving dignity and honor is a gift they can always give. And while I think that giving must be a way of life, there are special times when giving is celebrated. That’s what I love about Giving Tuesday.

Giving Tuesday officially began in 2012, as a joint collaboration between the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation, to celebrate the generosity of giving. For me, it is the perfect time to pause in between busy holidays and flesh out my Thanksgiving.

Here are some of my favorite organizations that are serving the poor or marginalized with dignity –

Preemptive Love is on the front lines in war-torn areas, providing emergency relief and creating jobs for refugees.

Refugees Thrive raises awareness and funds local organizations in developing countries to ensure refugees have the protection and support they need to thrive.

The International Campaign for the Rohingya advocates and amplifies the voice of Rohingya with international organizations, governments, corporations, and civil society. The Rohingya are a Muslim people group who have lived for centuries in Myanmar but have been brutally attacked by the Burmese military in a recent ethnic cleansing. Hundreds of thousands have fled across the border into neighboring Bangladesh. Read more about the crisis and agencies that are responding here.

Basha Boutique works in Bangladesh where women in brothels, street corners and transit centres are forced to sell their bodies through desperation, circumstance, or force. They currently provide alternative and dignifying employment to 100 women and hope to train many more in the coming year.

The Lighthouse Ministries in SE Canton Ohio provides evening clubs and after school programs to neighborhood children and does a great job coaching the kids to see the gifts that lie within themselves.

TomTod Ideas works with Middle School kids in Canton, Ohio and empowers them to dream up ideas that are changing the city they live in.

The Martin Center is another safe haven in SE Canton. Hundreds of kids come through the door every week for hot meals and a safe place to play basketball. The upstairs classrooms are rented out to local businesses and non profits, including a homeschooling academy, a homeless shelter and us! We love hearing the happy hum of a neighborhood being stirred back to life!

Near and far, good things are happening. When we give, those good things expand and strengthen and evil looses its hold a bit more. So give this Tuesday if you can, but let that giving be a celebration of the way you have chosen to live.

Celebrate Giving.

 

 

Pro Life?

Standing among friends and strangers at a rally in the town of my birth, I wore my heart on my sign. I thought long and hard about what I wanted to say. How do you fit a journey of the heart into a tiny sign? After a night of little sleep and unsettling dreams, this is what came to me.

Pro Life? Then stand with those who fear for theirs.

Something fundamental is lost when a pro life stance is only pro birth. If I only care about preserving the life of a wee babe until it is pushed out from the safety and comfort of the womb, then I care nothing about that wee babe, only about making sure that someone else is keeping the letter of the law.

There is a pretty big difference between being anti-abortion and being pro-life. Anti-abortion will do anything to make abortion illegal. It is a political stance that hopes to influence policies, without personally needing to put in any of the work needed to serve those wee babes or their mothers.

I carried this sign because I wanted people to reflect on the idea that being pro-life should change the way you do life. Living eight years in a country where abortion was illegal showed me that laws do very little to change things. Abortions happened frequently there and they were only more dangerous to the mother because of the ways in which they were done. It got me thinking a lot.

Can we say we are pro-life if we marginalize and demonize the woman who has had an abortion instead of seeking to restore her to community? Can we say we are pro-life if, when that babe is hungry and her mom can’t make it on minimum wages and applies for food stamps, we judge her and call her lazy or entitled?  What about when the babe grows up and can’t get health care because of a preexisting condition and he dies? Are we pro-life when another babe grows up and spends days running through the jungle from a genocide in her country and we close our borders because she might be a terrorist? When the babe of one skin tone grows up and ends up having his blood splattered on the sidewalk though he was unarmed and was not threatening anyone but the one who took his life walks away scot-free, whose life are we really for? What about the babe who grows up and embraces his culture and decides to kneel during the national anthem as a way to signal to the rest of us that there is a group of people who fear for their lives because of events that keep happening throughout our country?

Pro-life is for life on either side of the womb. It gets to know the moms contemplating abortion and does life with them helping to carry their load. It shares food with the hungry. It works tirelessly to ensure that lives of all races are treated with dignity and it speaks out against injustice. Pro-life does not discriminate. It listens to people of other races, socioeconomic levels, religions and beliefs. It loves. It serves. It is never only pro (rich white American) life. It is for all life.

I also wanted to signal to those who are living in fear for their lives that they are not alone. Their voices are heard. Their pain matters.  Their life has value. I’m adding my voice to the cry, putting my body on the sidewalk with them and for them.

Pro life. It’s not a political or religious stance.  It’s a way of living.

 

The Rohingyan Nightmare

 

Embed from Getty Images

Smoke rises thick and hovers over the jungle like a greedy wraith, never pausing, angrily swirling on and on as proof of the genocide of the Rohingya of Myanmar’s Rakhine Province. Although they have been hunted down and killed by their countrymen and their government since 1948, the genocide has intensified over the last 30 days as more than 400,000 refugees have poured into Bangladesh, the closest country that shares a land border. Many of them have been walking for four days through the jungle, hiding from soldiers with machetes, dodging bullets, running for their lives. Many are mothers with small children, who no doubt put off this journey as long as possible, hoping against hope that something would stop the madness in time to save them. Now, with village after village going up in smoke and machetes swinging in the hands of the very ones who are supposed to protect, staying is most certainly death. So they grab their wee ones and run.

When I read this post today and saw their faces, something inside of me broke a little more and the madness of the world folded in on me. Breathing in the scent of the spices roasting for tonight’s curried lentils and rice, I was deeply aware of the solid floor beneath my feet and the running water in the sink. As rain poured down outside, I absorbed the dryness and safety of my home. Rice bubbling, vegetables frying, more than enough everywhere I look. But inside my soul weeps for those on the run. For the pregnant mother running through the jungle. For the baby born on the outhouse floor. For the terrified little one separated from her family. For hungry bellies fighting for the tiniest scraps of food. For families who have lost everything – their home, their country, their place of belonging.  I store the leftovers from our meal in the fridge and am overwhelmed by the much that I have. Scrubbing curry rings off emptied plates is a holy act as I am humbled to have so much, yet my soul roars within me, praying for this madness to stop.

While I know nothing of the terror they are running from and can only imagine what they feel, I do know what they are running to. Bangladesh is a tiny country, about the size of Iowa, yet it has a population of about half of the United States. Imagine if half of all the US would decide to move to Iowa tomorrow? And then accept 400,00 refugees in 30 days!

Bangladesh is already struggling to deal with the massive flooding that has hit the region, the worst in decades. As a developing country, resources are stretched thin in the best of times. Lack of space and resources are a very real problem.

If there is a family on the other side of the world that has to live in a concrete pipe, or huddle under a tiny piece of plastic while the flood waters rise inches away, can I say, “Be blessed” and scroll on to the next tidbit of news?

Every voice is needed when there is an ethnic cleansing going on. Never think your voice is little or your circle of influence too small. There is always something you can do.

For Myanmar, for the Rohingya, you can pray. You can be aware and share the awareness. You can give. Unicef UK, Oxfam, and UNHCR are all working with the Rohingya.

You can also write to your senators urging them not to support giving aid to Myanmar’s army.

And hug your lil’ ones a little more today. See past the mess of your home to feel the abundance that you have right here, right now. Feel the love, and then give it away.

 

Swept Away

Image taken by Austin in Dhaka, Bangladesh at the very beginning of the flooding.

Long before Hurricane Harvey blasted Texas with catastrophic flooding, Bangladesh, India and Nepal have been experiencing a monsoon gone wild. In Bangladesh, the Jamuna River has risen higher than in 1988, the year of the deadliest flood they have seen up to this point. The death toll across the region has hit 1200, and the rain continues to pour down with a vengeance. A couple weeks ago, one of the Pebble staff told me that 30% of the country was under water. Today it’s closer to two-thirds of the country.

Flooding in one of Pebble’s production areas.

 

Throughout the region,including India and Nepal,  some hospitals are filling with water. Clean drinking water is a scarcity. 18,000 schools have closed, affecting 1.8 million children. For  those that remain open, children must sometimes walk in water more than waist deep.  Homes have been damaged or swept away by mudslides.  Farmland, which is the source of life for countless families, is underwater, some washed away to never return. Crops gone. Lives are lost. Necessities vanished.  For the many day laborers, providing for their family is impossible. 32 out of the 64 districts in Bangladesh are affected and 335 shelters have been set up, housing more than 106,000 people. Most of Pebble’s production centers are in the southern part of the country and they have fared well. The center in the north that Austin visited this summer, suffered from sudden flooding. While the situation is better now, the flood left behind various illnesses which local organizations are helping to address.

Our hearts break for Texas, but there is also room in our hearts to weep for Bangladesh, India and Nepal? Imagine if half of the United States was under water. Imagine the news coverage and the rescue operations and charities that would shine through. You see this spirit at work in Texas right now. Yet this disaster is going down right now in a country that has only been a country for 46 years. A country that is constantly dealing with flooding, cyclones, and other disasters. A country that has made it onto the list of the 50 poorest countries in the world. A country that has the land mass of Iowa, filled with 163 million people. People who embrace life and welcome the stranger. Who love to share tea and curry and a hearty discussion.  Who held my babies when they were little and taught me to speak a new language and to cook with color and spice.  A people whose strength and resilience inspire me daily.

For more details and poignant images, visit here and here. To raise your voice in protest of the lack of coverage of the disaster in SE Asia compared to Texas, visit here. There is an email address there that you can use to join the conversation. There is also a very interesting conversation here on similarities and differences in the two floods.

Silent Too Long

Perhaps the greatest evil in our country today is the silence of the larger crowd. I think of the communities I grew up in, the line of people I come from, the hard working salt-of-the-earth folk who came here because they were tired of being hunted down like animals. People who wanted to own land and live and pray in peace and thrive. People who stayed out of politics and voted on their knees.

While I am proud of my heritage, I am so ashamed in times like these of the color of my skin. As a white American, I know I am lumped into the same box as those who are trying to stir the country to radical hatred. Take it from a girl who has traveled the globe – the rest of the world views America as a Christian nation. While you and I both know that’s not the reality, it is very much the way we are perceived. The hatred, the headlines in the news and the scandals portrayed by Hollywood; these things have defined who we are to the rest of the world and the bad name we have made for ourselves is getting worse by the day.

White people of faith, the time for our silence if over. The expiration date on this silence is so ancient the toxic effects will kill us if we continue to sip from it. Have we forgotten that if one part of our body suffers, our whole body suffers?

The events in Charlottesville have crushed all of us because they have crushed a precious part of us. Our refusal personally and as a community to speak out against hate is a silent endorsement of the deeds done.

Even if we live in a white rural community that feels peaceful,  we cannot assume these things do not affect us. There is someone near us who is shaking in fear, old scars ripped wide open while our pastors speak from their pulpits as if nothing has happened and the blood of the One we say we follow, lies fresh on the sidewalk. We speed down the road in a rush to get to the next place without fear of being pulled over.  We dig in our purses for our phone as we enter a store, never thinking that if our skin were a different color we would be profiled and either followed the entire time or questioned. We feel only comfort, not fear when we pull on a hoodie to ward off the evening chill. We do so many things every day that many in our country can never do without fear of what will happen if they do.

It is time for us to speak up, speak out, and speak to. And I’m not talking about social media, though that has its place. In our safe white circles, we must speak up. Love is not silent, it is not safe. Find the oppressed in your area and speak to them, welcoming gently. And then listen. Have the heart to seek out the strangers and sit with them until they become your friends, your family. If we already have these friends, we could ask them how the events of the weekend in Charlottesville are affecting them. Ask them if they feel safe. Ask them what we can do. If they feel pain, we would be foolish to tell them that our lives matter too. This is not our moment. This is not the kind of speaking out that shushes people or assumes that we have the answers. It is a speaking out that listens…and learns.

If we do not speak, we are in danger of becoming part of the monster of hatred consuming and dividing this beautiful land…a body much different than the one that we claim to be a part of.

We must speak.

Lives depend on it.

 

Waking Up to Painful Realities

 

A heaviness fills me. I struggle to keep my mind on the orders I’m filling but the labels blur as the tears of my heart pool in the corners of a soul that feels so old and tired.

Last night I finished reading the story of a young Jewish girl’s experience of growing up in the ghettos of Germany in World War II, before being put on the train for Auschwitz. Tears streaming down my face I thought, “Yup, it’s what they say. The only thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history.”

Earlier in the day I had watched  a short film of the journey of a young Syrian woman and her escape from Syria to Austria. From bombed out shells of buildings that once housed colorful vibrant communities, through raging rivers, and on to razor topped fences at unwelcome borders, she showed such courage and strength. What got me the most though, was not the plight of the refugees, as horrible as it still is for so many. No, what really broke me was the hate I saw pouring out in the comments afterwards. It was a raw and unfiltered hate, coming from mostly white people of privilege.

I’ve been reading a lot of posts on Facebook lately, trying to really hear the hearts of people who have had different experiences from mine. Some examples are the stories of four young people and their first experiences with racism. My son has been bullied and we’ve had some tough conversations but it pales in comparison to conversations the parents of  these kids have had to have with their children.

What drives this hate? I’m not a psychologist but I would venture a guess that there is fear involved. What are we, as white people, so afraid of that, generation after generation, we have pushed down those who are different from us? Why are we so exclusive? Why this frenzy to protect our freedom and way of life at all costs?  I must have missed that verse in Scripture somewhere. I always thought it said if you try to save your life you will lose it, but if you lose your life you will find it.

We are guests in a land of plenty. Does it really hurt us if someone else gets free health care coverage that is literally saving their life, while we pay a bit more for ours? Or does it ruin us if we’re turned down by a certain college while someone else of a different background gets in because of civil rights laws created to address past injustices? Does it matter if a video showing the trek of one refugee might possibly be fabricated, as some have suggested,  when either way it shows us the reality of life for so many right now? Do we really need to arm ourselves with more weapons to preserve our place in a land that was never ours to begin with? What is this clamor I hear? What is this hate? I don’t recognize my country any more, or maybe I am  finally seeing it for what it really is.

This waking up is painful, I cannot hold it inside or it will consume me. If I were an artist, I would paint a picture of what I see but it would hurt too much to look at and only the most sadistic person would buy it. But I’m not an artist so I weave my words together, hoping that my waking up can help others to wake up. It is in the waking that we remember we are alive. A people awake and alive can lament and heal and only then can we begin to bring healing to those we have injured.

 

 

Leaving “Whitopia” Behind

 

During a recent trade show, one of our buyers stopped by our booth to put an order together and told me how much she appreciated the cover model we had chosen for our catalog this year. The customers that walk through her door love the Pebble Pixie Rattles, whose variety of skin tones mirror their own. She told me that America isn’t a white country anymore, and she’s right. In fact, 2042 is said to be the year when whites will be a minority in this country. The landscape of us is changing.

Does that scare you or excite you?

As a descendant of immigrants who came here to escape terrible discrimination and death because of their faith, (read more from that post here) I dream of this land being a place where people of all backgrounds can find sanctuary and freedom.

My ancestors were of Western European descent (“white”). They boarded a ship and found sanctuary in this country during the time when Africans were forced to board the slave ships and live out a hellish existence in this country.

I struggle to wrap my mind around it. The disparity of the two experiences epitomizes white privilege.

I thought, in my naive, sheltered, rural “white girl” reality, that when slavery was abolished in 1865, it and all of the injustices associated with it truly ended. I understand now, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

One of my earliest waking moments was when I participated in a Privilege Walk done by Mennonite Central Committee. As a stay-at-home mom with no college degree, I was not surprised to be near the back of the room when the exercise ended. What shocked me was that behind me was a black mom, who worked full time and had a college degree. I was crying by the end of it, shaken out of my comfortable white bubble, while she matter-of-factly said, “This is how it has always been.”

Nearly a decade later, I’m still listening, learning and re-educating myself on the painful realities that make up the history of this land and contribute more than we can imagine to current realities.

Books like The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson are teaching me about the migration of nearly 6 million people from 1915 to 1970, fleeing slave-like conditions and unspeakable brutality in the south, who made their way north and west to begin new lives. Yet, even in these new places, they struggled dearly, often forced to do the most menial work for a fraction of what their white counterparts made, forced to live in segregated and over-crowded sections of the cities where they had to pay double for half the space. As a result, both parents had to work, leaving the children to fend for themselves.

Today people of color are often blamed for the drug and crime problems of these cities. But what if their ancestors had been treated with equality from the start? What if they had had fair and equal pay? What if they could have lived anywhere and done anything within their skill power? What if they could have afforded one parent to stay home and care for the kids? What if equal access to education had been made available?
I listened to a Ted Talk today on Whitopia, by Rich Benjamin on his journey as a black man through the whitest towns in America. A couple of quotes stood out to me.

It’s possible for people to be in Whitopia, not for racist reasons, though it has racist outcomes.

America is as residentially and educationally segregated today as it was in 1970.

This hits me hard.

I look at the beautiful face of Kahiniwalla’s 2017 Catalog cover model, and I get all soft inside. I see what will become a strong woman of color who is not left in the back of the room, but is leading the way to a new era. We can choose to embrace 2042 today.

If we treat minorities the way we wish to be treated, we will have nothing to fear when we become the minority.

When Your Neighbor Brings You Zucchini

Now that things are pretty much back to normal after our crazy trip to the ER the other night, I decided it’s time to finish using up the zucchini my neighbor brought over earlier that day. While zucchini bread is okay, I have found there are so many other ways to eat zucchini too. We love it grilled and chopped into pasta salad, quesadillas, mixed with spicy chickpeas and eaten over rice. The options are pretty endless. Today, though, I decided to turn this giant zucchini into 2 of our favorite kinds of muffins – Chocolate Zucchini and Lemon Zucchini.

In case you want to try these yummy bits of goodness, here are the recipes.

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

2 1/3 cup flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup baking cocoa

2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup yogurt – plain, unsweetened

2 eggs

1/2 cup oil

1/4 cup milk

1 cup shredded zucchini (I used 2 cups and it turned out great)

1 cup chocolate chips

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Stir into the dry ingredients, stirring gently until mixed in. Do not over mix or the muffins will be heavy. Spoon into greased  muffin tins or tins lined with paper cups. Bake at 400F for about 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Makes 18.

 

Lemon Zucchini Muffins

2 cups flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon lemon zest

1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

1/2 cup raisins (optional)

1/2 cup milk

1/3 cup oil

2 eggs

1 cup shredded zucchini (again I used 2 cups)

Combine the dry ingredients with the zucchini,  nuts and raisins, if using. Whisk together the remaining ingredients and gently fold into the dry ingredients, stirring as little as possible. Spoon into greased muffin tins or muffin papers and bake at 400 for about 20 minutes. Muffins should be slightly golden on top. Cool completely on wire rack and drizzle with a glaze made out of 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice. Makes 12.

 

I still had some zucchini left so I shredded it all and put into freezer bags and stuck in the freezer. Next winter when there is snow on the ground I’ll get out a bag and throw it into another batch of muffins and I’ll remember that there is still goodness and generosity in humanity and that summer will come again.

 

Finding Gratefulness in the Midst of Suffering

I spent most of  last night in the ER with my oldest son, while medical professionals attempted to troubleshoot what was causing his 106.5F fever. He had spent most of the day sleeping, waking occasionally to down some Gatorade and painkillers and complaining of a headache that was worse than any he’s ever had. My thermometer was broken so the prompting I had to take him to STAT Care on a beautiful Saturday evening when most people were outside grilling their dinners was definitely the voice of God.

At STAT Care he shivered in a blanket, head on my lap, while we waited for an hour to be called back to a room. When the nurse took his temp, she went into a very professional panic mode and he was led immediately to see a doctor. After a negative strep test and high doses of painkillers to bring down the fever, we were sent to the ER for an IV and more testing.

On the way there, we passed a homeless couple, begging by the side of the road, same spot they had been when I passed by earlier in the day. The brief exchange we had under the quiet dark summer sky, waiting for the light to change colors, stayed with me long after we checked in to the ER. As the hours passed, they ran many more tests; an IV,  CT Scan and X-ray. The plastic chair became too hard to sit on and I paced the tiny cinder block room, with noises and beeps all around, sirens letting me know that more and more folks were being brought in until all the beds would be full with many people still left waiting. We finally received the news that I was most hoping for – he did not have bacterial meningitis. They said that it could be viral meningitis or just a really nasty virus, but either way the treatment was going to be the same, so we could go home.

Gratefulness got me through the night.

We live in a land of incredible blessing. Our hospitals are not being bombed. Kids in this country don’t have to die for lack of medical care. Tylenol and Ibuprofen could have saved my son’s life, they certainly brought his fever down nearly 7 degrees in less than an hour.

Support. I lost track of how many friends who were reaching out in the middle of the night to let me know they were praying or taking care of my youngest son.

Technology. It allowed the doctors to diagnose relatively quickly and kept me connected to my husband on the other side of the world.

Humor. My son had me laughing out loud as we waited through his pain. He joked that he was turning into a super-hero, the Human Torch. He was sure that the fever had burned up all of his calories and he was starving, searching in vain for a food option on the call button but finding only water and toilet.

Kindness. When we finally got to the ER, another mom let me turn in my paperwork ahead of her when she saw my desperation. She also happened to be a Muslim, a distinct minority in this Midwest city I live in, and she was extremely generous.

Authenticity. I saw it in the eyes of the man by the side of the road. A mixture of suffering, strength, gratefulness, humility and dignity. A window into the human soul of all of us.

Peace. I’m a worrier. Anxiety is very familiar to me. Usually it’s for things I find later I didn’t need to worry about.  But in moments like last night, when I really have reason to worry, I have discovered a peace that comes from God alone. There’s no other way to explain it.

Home. It never looked so good. The reality of life’s unfairness is not lost on me. Around the world, many other parents have no hospital to take their feverish child to, and no home to come back to after a long night.

I hold these blessings in my hands, mindfully giving thanks.