Juneteenth

June 18, 1865 dawned much like every other morning had for the folks on the Island of Galveston, TX. No doubt quiet whispers of the Emancipation Proclamation had been circling since the day Lincoln issued it in 1863 but nothing had changed here. Texas did not see itself as  part of the United States and, therefore, did not feel the need to comply with the freedom of slaves.

Most of the 250,000 slaves in Texas at this time had moved there from other states when their owners moved west to escape the fighting during the Civil War. A few came through domestic slave trade and fewer still came through illegal African trade, but most had moved in from the deep South. By 1860, the average price for a slave in Texas was $800, though the best field hands could bring $1200 and blacksmiths were valued at $2000. Sugar and cotton production had grown by leaps and bounds, as a result of these slaves and the economy was booming.

But the army rolled in with the heat that day. Union Army General, Gordan Granger, arrived on the island with a troop of 2000 Federal Soldiers. The next day, June 19, he read the General Order No. 3 which stated:

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

This day became known and celebrated as Juneteenth.

Upon hearing the news, many slaves left the region. However, over the next seven years, a group of African Americans located across the state of Texas collected and saved money to purchase a piece of ground they would then dedicate to the celebration of Juneteenth. In 1872, they purchased ten acres of open land and named it Emancipation Park. This park can still be found today in Houston’s Third Ward.

153 years have passed. While I believe with all my heart that Juneteenth is worth celebrating, I also know down deep in the basement of my soul, that the fight is not over yet. “Absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property” floats through my mind like a living, breathing, ancient mantra. It’s the way things should be. The way things are meant to be. Yet, too many people are still living as if it were June 18, because, let’s be honest for minute, if the stripping away of personal rights of another human being makes us safer, wealthier, more powerful, we tend to forget about the person behind those stripped rights.

If we really lived this, we wouldn’t have more black prisoners than white, neighborhoods wouldn’t be still largely segregated, mothers at the borders would not have their babies taken from them, Native Americans would not be relegated to small corners of this wide land without so many basic rights and blood would stop spilling on our sidewalks.

White people, June 18 is over. What is it that we are grasping to hold on to?  When we choose to believe in absolute equality, we find something so much better than safety, wealth and power. Push yourself into June 19 and discover the freedom that comes from living life as it was meant to be…a beautiful, colorful community.

Ten Things You Should Know About Undocumented Immigrants

  1. An estimated 50% of undocumented workers pay income tax. In 2015, this was in the amount of 23.6 billion dollars. While some are paid under the table, many find a way to pay taxes because they believe it will help them to become a citizen someday.
  2. Even though they pay taxes, they are unable to take advantage of any government programs such as Social Security, Medicaid, Earned Income Credit, Food Stamps, SSI and Pell Grants/Student Loans.
  3. 67% are between the ages of 25 and 54. They are not content to sit around taking benefits, they work. They tend to take on low-paying jobs, mostly in agriculture, construction, production (manufacturing, food processing and textiles), service and transportation.
  4. They help create jobs. 13% are self-employed and have found legal ways to open up businesses. In 2014, these entrepreneurs generated 17.2 billion dollars of income.
  5. Studies have shown that where immigrants increase, crime tends to decrease. In one study, the ten areas with the largest growth of immigrants had lower levels of crime in 2016 than in 1980. Another study showed that while the population of undocumented immigrants tripled from 1990-2013, crime in those areas fell by 48%.
  6. Current immigration laws make it nearly impossible for anyone to immigrate lawfully. Immigration 101 breaks it down into three ways – if you have an employer in the US who is willing to sponsor you, if you have a spouse who is a US resident (or after 5 years if you are single and your parents are US residents, and after 10 years if you have a sibling who is a US resident) and, lastly, if you are seeking asylum. An undocumented immigrant who has a child that is a US citizen aged 21 or older, can apply as a family member but the wait can be 20 years long. To understand how immigration laws have changed since our ancestors arrived, read this article.
  7. Not everyone who is undocumented came here illegally. They may have had a tourist or student visa and overstayed. They may have been brought here by parents when they were quite young. Even for these children, it is almost impossible to become a US citizen.
  8. Asylum seekers cannot apply for entrance until they reach a US border. Refugees are people who are seeking asylum and receive permission for entrance before they enter, a process which takes years. Asylum seekers are held in detention centers until they can have a Credible Fear Interview to establish that their lives would be in danger if they were forced to return home. For more on the process, read this article. Families were kept together during this time until the recent Zero Tolerance Policy began. Now all undocumented adults entering the US, including asylum seekers who are going through the “legal” way to do things, are criminally prosecuted, which gives authorities the “right” to take their children away from them. Now, instead of being held in detention centers, they are jailed. This separation of families violates international law, according to Amnesty International.
  9. It costs an average of $10,854 to deport one person. Mass deportation could cost the US Government $400 billion. The labor force would shrink 6.4%, resulting in a $1.6 Trillion reduction of US GDP and the US economy would shrink 5.7% according to New American Economy.
  10. Undocumented workers already give more than they take. Imagine if they were given a clear path to citizenship. Not only would most of them be paying taxes, it would open up doors for education and better jobs. All of this would result in an estimated $68 billion in local and state tax revenues within a decade. Federal Tax revenues would increase by $116 Billion and the estimated GDP growth would be $1.4 Trillion.

If you remove the humanitarian motivations, the religious dictates, a heart of compassion, and look at it purely from an economic viewpoint, studies overwhelmingly demonstrate that it costs us greatly to dismiss those often referred to as “illegals”. But these undocumented immigrants give back to us in so many other ways as well.

May their bravery give us courage to speak up against unjust laws. May their willingness to leave everything behind give us the willingness to leave behind our prejudice and the fear of cultures different from our own. May their hard work and payment into a system that they will never benefit from give us at least a little courage to work harder to be open to new ideas and to give them a chance, whether we ever benefit from it or not. Instead of viewing these fellow humans as lawbreakers or animals, may we learn to see them as risk takers and trauma survivors who are also our brothers and our sisters.

Shifting Realities

A few years ago, our school system went through some shuffling that felt a lot more like a life-altering quake than the gentle mixing of cards for a new round of things. The 6th grade kids joined 7th and 8th at the Middle Schools. Kids no longer had to go to the middle school closest to them, but could apply at any of the four middle schools in the city.

A year later, community-based elementary schools joined in the shuffle. Preschool through 2nd grade all went to one elementary school in a particular area, while 3-5th graders took over the nearest elementary school, which became known as a sister school.

As a parent who doesn’t like change, I complained, A LOT! I had legitimate complaints. For instance, some years I had three boys in three schools with three different schedules and it felt like I was making breakfast for an hour every morning and between the time when the last kid left for school and the first kid got home, I didn’t have that many hours to work. I also mourned the break up of communities. I loved when my kids were all in the same school, with their neighbors. I volunteered for the PTA and it gave me the chance to get to know my community. My kids walked to school and made friends within walking distance.

After spending years overseas, putting down roots and feeling connected here in our own neighborhood was valuable to me. I understand that the superintendent and the board had their reasons for this switch up in our school system, but I wasn’t feeling it.

This week I had eye-opening conversations with my 8th and 10th graders. They told me that their school friends have never had a birthday party thrown for them, at least not a party outside of a family gathering, one that they could invite their peers to. My 10th grader, for whom we had just thrown a large birthday party, said some of the kids that came had never been to a birthday party before. I’m pretty sure my mouth hung open in disbelief because he repeated it to me.

One thing you need to understand is that we when we host birthday parties, we don’t print cute invitations or blow money on decorations. We don’t rent the skating rink or the bowling alley or paint ball place. We don’t order in pizza and wings or a fancy cake. It’s a simple throw down, at home, with a home cooked meal because that is what we can afford.

When they were in elementary school, they thought it was unfair that we did not throw elaborate parties in party places like their “neighborhood” friends did.

As I had these conversations with my teens this week, I realized several things. The way we do parties hasn’t changed, which means they are going to school with a very different set of kids. Instead of being embarrassed by their homemade parties, I think they have become rather proud of them.

My 10th grader invited thirty kids to his party before I knew what was happening. In the end, about twenty came and they had a three hour round of Capture the Flag in the park, followed by Beef Curry, Vegetables, Rice, Naan, Ice Cream Desserts and Cinnamon Rolls in our home.

We had a little bonfire going in case anyone wanted to roast hot dogs but everyone opted for the curry instead. We chased the last dude out at midnight so I think it’s fair to say they had a good time.

But what really got me in the gut, a punch, leaving me breathless, struggling to speak, is the realization that these school shuffles that I complained so much about were for some, the opportunity they desperately needed. While I complained like a middle class, white, privileged housewife about different schedules and loss of the familiar, there were kids in really tough situations who suddenly had a greater choice of where they want to go to school.

For most of us white folks, this might not seem like a big deal because, let’s be honest here –  white folks have pretty much always had more choices for education. The era of slavery, followed by years of segregated schools has left many in the African American community behind.

In the years following slavery, school boards across the country routinely set aside much more money for white students than black. Black schools were often not more than one room shacks. At one point, the state of Delaware had only one black public high school. One county in South Carolina had thirty buses for white kids but none for black kids.

Even though the US Supreme Court decided on May 17, 1954 that segregated schools were unconstitutional in the Brown v. Board of Education decision, 1963 found not one black kid going to public school with white kids in the states of South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi, according to Carol Anderson in White Rage.

In some parts of the country, when desegregation finally happened, many whites relocated to other areas where most black people could not afford to live, in an effort to keep things segregated. While this trend may be more subtle today, I still see it happening. It’s still easier for white people to move away from trouble and towards opportunity than it is for black people and other minorities.

You might say that anyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and choose a better life but what if your bootstraps have been cut off and taken away from you by the same hands holding you down in the dirt?

Imagine that your great-grandfather was a slave. I’m serious – picture it and feel it. Then your grandfather was denied an education and thereby forced to take a back-breaking job at minimal pay and constantly keep his head down to avoid run-ins with the KKK. Imagine that your mother was the first one in your line of ancestry to earn a high school diploma.

Imagine seeing your parents forced to sell their home because the city agreed to put a highway through your neighborhood and the resettlement money was barely enough for a run down home in a rough section of town, where the schools are underfunded and there are no grocery stores, and no gas stations or laundromats.

You are told on the news that you live in a land of equal opportunity but you see your reality is very unequal and it doesn’t matter how hard you try, you are still stuck in the same place. But your baby! Oh surely the world will be a better place by the time he goes to school.

Imagine if your baby had a choice of education, without you having to move. Imagine if he could choose a middle school that allowed him to begin earning high school credits, a middle school that would more easily transition him into a high school where he could not only earn a high school diploma, but an associates degree. Basically, imagine generations of no real choices and then being given this opportunity. I would be ecstatic!

I realize now how shallow my complaints were, how relatively easy I have always had it and how blind I have been to the realities of others. And while life would be less complicated if my kids could walk to a neighborhood school where everyone looked like them, thought like them, lived on the same income, had the same political leanings, and talked the same way,  somehow I think that would be a very impoverished life. Diversity has made our lives rich. I hope that the friendships forged during these last few years of schooling, the stories told, the realities exposed, will open my boys’ eyes to a whole new world.

 

 

Ten Reasons to Celebrate Fair Trade

Saturday, May 12, is a very special day. Thanks to WFTO (World Fair Trade Organization) the second Saturday of May is set aside to celebrate Fair Trade.

Here’s why –

Many of the things we consume and use every day are made by modern day slaves around the world. While reports vary, there are between 40 – 45 million modern day slaves. In America, we have the luxury of being far removed from the origin of just about everything we consume. This puts us, as consumers,  in a lot of ignorance and allows manufacturers and importers to excuse themselves, saying various components of the end product have changed hands so many times from origin to destination, that they cannot verify if slaves were involved or not. I’m calling that a bunch of BS. It’s the 21st Century. If we put a man on the moon in the 20th century, surely we can have clean supply chains in the 21st. Fair Trade business prove that every day.

So why do we celebrate Fair Trade?

– It prevents modern day slavery and human trafficking.

-It prevents child labor and enables parents to send their children to school, thus educating future leaders and world changers.

-It keeps families together. Children aren’t sent to work in the homes of the wealthy. Parents don’t have to leave their children with other family members to work in factories in the city.

-The producers are paid living wages and have no need to put themselves in harmful situations.

-Fair Trade certified businesses go through intense scrutiny to prove that the working conditions are safe. They have no fear of walls collapsing on them or toxic poisons that take years from them.

-It changes entire communities as producers have expendable income, which creates the opportunity for other businesses to begin in the area, thus boosting local economies.

– It is the opposite of a hand out. Fair Trade gives dignity to everyone involved.

– Supply chains are clear and there is no need to feel guilty when you know your purchase and consumption are creating a better world.

-Those who work in the Fair Trade supply line are more connected to the earth and are committed to environmental stewardship.

-It gives hope to the poorest of the poor, a reason to get up in the morning, a way to do more than survive.

 

 

Monday Morning Donut

In a crazy rush to get boy #1 to school yesterday morning, I hit one of our city’s infamous potholes with my car, causing a tire to go flat within minutes. We inched slowly home to swap vehicles, only to discover that the van was on empty and I had no time to go back for my wallet. I decided to brave it and we made it to his school mere seconds before the tardy bell rang. I rushed home to get my other two sons out the door and hopefully some gas in the van. The next several hours were full of Austin trying to to figure out how to get gas out of a new gas can and getting gas all over his hands and then trying to wriggle the busted tire off the car so he could put the donut tire on. Meanwhile I was getting boy #2 to his college classes and sent boy #1 back to bed after a bout of severe diarrhea. By this time I was muttering some not-so-nice words because this was supposed to be my quiet hour at home to work out, before heading to work myself.

And yet…in spite of all this, by the time we dropped our donut-wheeled car off at the shop and headed to work with our gas-filled van, my blessings towered large in my mind and my complaints stopped.  We have not only one, but two vehicles, a luxury unknown to much of the world. Like kings and queens who feast in the famine while peasants starve, we forget or just don’t see how nice we have it. For instance, approximately 150 million people throughout the world have no home. In countries like Bangladesh, only 2% have their own vehicle. Globally, 1 out of 7 are desperately hungry.

As Americans, we are at the top of the top when it comes to luxuries and I’m thinking it’s time to redefine the American Dream.

Happiness is not about the things we have, but about our gratefulness for the things we do have. The happiest child I’ve ever met was a little boy who lived on the streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh. His face was marked by Down’s Syndrome and a rather large cleft palate, which left him disfigured and made speech difficult for him. Held to the spot by a giant traffic jam, I sat in the back of a baby taxi alone, until he jumped in beside me and chattered unintelligibly, smiling the biggest smile ever, eyes shining with happiness. A little girl who knew him popped her head in and told me that his mother died of an overdose when he was a baby and he was being raised on the streets by his Grandma. He had nothing but a piece of plastic over his head at night and no one to love him but one elderly homeless woman.

No toys.

No video games.

No education.

Rice…and lentils if he was lucky.

No mother to read him stories and tuck him in at night.

No father to protect him from the cruelty that looked mockingly at his face every day.

No cell phone to scroll through when he was bored.

No hospital to bring normalcy to his face.

And yet, he was so happy that he radiated something tangible.

I want to take that tangible joy he had and squeeze it down my son’s throat when he complains because we are out of Ranch dressing or his video game privileges are temporarily suspended. I want to smack myself in the eyes with it when I complain of pot holes and flat tires and missed work-outs in a land of so much abundance, when the very reason I need to work out is because I have too much. I want to hit my people over the head with it when they are more concerned for their own well-being than with the needs of those who are other. I want to weave that tangible joy  tightly into the fabric of our existence until we slow down and let it sink in.

We. Have. More. Than. Enough.

Abundance surrounds us. It overflows into the thrift stores and peeks out of the garbage trucks. And still we want more. But what if we lived as if we had enough, right now? What if we gave thanks for the tiny things instead of complaining about the next big thing we lack? What if we saw a correlation between our own complaints and the narcissism of our generation? What if we discovered a new American Dream as a result of sharing generously with those in need even while we are still in need ourselves? What if we looked at what we hold in our hands and said, “Wow!”

Because wow! What we have is pretty amazing!

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Soccer Mom Thoughts

He rushes out the door for a week at college film camp and suddenly I feel as if the whistle has blown and the final quarter of the game has begun. I stretch my hands towards the invisible clock, trying in vain to slow it down. A lump rises in my throat and tears haze my vision as I wash the day’s dishes that only serve to remind me of the memories we made today. I’ve had nearly 18 years of crazy moments with this man child of mine, and yet I find myself wishing for more.

This child, born in Bangladesh, who was once the lone white face in a sea of Bangladeshis, is still comfortable, actually thrives in diverse environments.

This child who threw his toys out of our apartment window now throws himself into seeking justice for the oppressed.

At one time, more comfortable in a rickshaw than a minivan, he now bikes to work on hot summer days, saving money for a good video camera some day.

This child who pushed every boundary until I was exhausted and in tears has just been honored for the 5th year in a row for being the Most Outstanding Male in his class.

When did he change from being more than I could handle to more than I could have dreamt? It’s just a week at film camp, but my heart knows it’s the beginning of the end.

He’s grown his wings. They are strong and his heart is brave and kind. He will be more okay without me than I will be without him…and that’s okay. It makes me feel like I’ve done my job. I’ll always be cheering on the sidelines with food and water and a heart that never stops loving and believing.

I’ll always be his soccer mom, screaming as he nears the goal and steps into who he was made to be.