Category Archives: Share the Toys

Make your life your gift to the world

Have a Seat at My Table

First a little background information: I used to work in childcare. Specifically, I was the lead teacher in an after-school classroom; my kids ranged from kindergarten to 12 years old, so while they were generally past the “how to function at a survival level” stage (how to eat, use the restroom etc), they were firmly in the middle of the “how to be human” stage. You remember what elementary school was like: half dumping in facts and data, the other half figuring out how to interact without too much bloodshed.

As a result, most of the disciplinary incidents could be resolved with a brief rules reminder or a bit of clarification–“walking feet, please”, or “we keep the cars on the carpet so people walking past don’t trip. Please take that one back onto the rug”. But every once in a while someone would have a super-rough day and need a break; you could call it “time out” if you want, but really the goal was something less punitive and more just removing the kiddo from the situation until they could cool off. The table nearest my supplies cupboard worked best for that–it was farthest from everything else in the room–so when someone was Hulking out, they were instructed to go “have a seat at my table” until I could clean up the calamity, stop any bleeding, console anyone left weeping, and come see what had set off the shenanigans.

Now here’s why I told you all that: yesterday some truly awful things happened in Paris. You’ve probably heard about them, and folks around the world are responding admirably and beautifully. But as with any truly awful thing, there are also some staggeringly insensitive responses coming from people who should absolutely know better (can you pick your own words to form a sentence? Then you can pick better ones and make better sentences. Try again, jerkfaces).

And initially, this post was going to be a full Buffalo Tantrum about that. I was going to scream and holler about people making racist statements, refusing to fact-check, lumping together groups of people who are literally on exact opposite sides of the problem, and so forth; and my rallying cry was going to be “All of you may have a seat at my table”.

But then I stopped and listened to those words: all of you may have a seat at my table.

And it occurred to me that I was about >this< close to committing the same sins I was railing against–lumping people together, refusing to hear where other people were coming from, declaring that any viewpoint other than my own was automatically wrong–when the truth of the matter is that I actually don’t understand what’s causing folks to say some of these things. At a guess there’s no small amount of fear at the bottom of it; but I don’t know backstories, don’t know histories, don’t know whether they (for example) lost someone on 9/11 and are now deeply scarred and reactionary about these sorts of things.

But perhaps if we have a seat at my table and talk about it, we can sort some of it out. We can brainstorm different solutions. We can look for similarities among the differences. We can pass the cookies and juice, and figure out why we’re using such angry words and whether there’s a better way to express the things we truly need.

Look, I’m not saying all responses are appropriate to share right out there in front of god and everybody. I’m not saying there aren’t people floating around who are just plain racist, just plain hateful, just plain malicious, just plain trolls. But I am saying it’s unfair of me to assume that everyone who has expressed an opinion that made me grate my teeth is automatically a bad person.

So maybe I should invite them to have a seat at my table. Maybe I should be willing to dialogue with people instead of dismissing them out-of-hand because of something they said during a frightened moment. Maybe I can insist on a model where my table is for cooling off and talking, not for sending people to sit in time-out until I’m tired of being mad at them.

And for the folks who have a seat at my table, and we talk, and I find out that they’re the sort of vitriolic hate-mongering fear-mongering jerks who will never be part of the solution?

Well, I guess they can go back to playing with the other kids, and I can keep on watching ’em like a hawk and praying that their grownups will come pick them up soon.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Don't Make Me Come Down There, General Musings and Meanderings, Play Nicely, Share the Toys

I’ll Sit With You

So there’s a thing going around Facebook these days, which I think is super nifty:

 

(I know, it’s pretty large, but the next size down was basically unreadable.)

And y’know what? I love this. But here’s the thing: I’m not entirely sure it’s quite clear enough, or provides quite enough information. So if you’ll bear with me, I’m going to expand on it just a touch.

First off, here’s what Moon Man and I look like:

As of March 2015.

As of March 2015.

Here’s Moon Man and Yours Truly with sunglasses, bein’ all swankylike right before a road trip:

Total rock stars.

Total rock stars.

I post these both because MAN do I ever have a cute hubby, but also because while it’s great to know that nebulous folks in the void are willing to be support systems, I think it’s a bit more helpful if you know what those people look like. So there we are–those are the faces you can look for. And here’s my promise to you, regardless of your gender, sexual orientation, race, religious belief, etc, etc, etc:

If you are in the situation in that first image, where Creepy McCreeperpants won’t leave you alone at the bar (restaurant, coffeeshop, bookstore, etc), and you happen to notice that we are in the same room, come sit with us. My name is Tricia (or you can call me “BW” if you want to signal me that you’re cashing in the I Saw Your Offer on Your Blog and Wish to Take You Up On That card), and hubby’s name is Nate (or, y’know, “Moon Man”). We’ll be glad to play along, escort you to your car, wait with you for a ride, or just sit and chat until Captain Creepalot creeps on down the road.

Here’s what I look like when I’m out walking:

Stern face for fun contrast.

Stern face for fun contrast.

If you’re out and about and feel unsafe/uncomfortable, come walk with me. As fair warning, I don’t really run; so you may have to slow your pace a bit if you’re one of those people who inspire me while I’m out trundling along. But if you’re cool with going a little slower than usual, I will gladly walk with you. For that matter, if you’re out exercising and get those self-conscious back-of-the-neck “oh man, they’re all gonna laugh at me” prickles (you know the ones), come on over–we can laugh and chat and compare sweat stains and distract ourselves until we’re feeling comfortable and triumphant again.

In related news, here’s what I look like when I’m goin’ on a hike:

Inasmuch as you can really hike in Kansas, the flattest land this side of Flatland

Inasmuch as you can really hike in Kansas, the flattest land this side of Flatland

If you’re out hiking and feel unsafe/uncomfortable, come hike with me/us (Hubby Hubbington and I usually hike together). Ditto if you’re out having adventures and find yourself in a bit of a pickle–we’re totally glad to share our water (with you or your dog), help your twisted-ankle self get back to the populated world, or use our phones to get help for you. We’re perfectly happy to pretend that you’re our old pal from the wayback machine and that we’ve finally made it to the completely intentional rendezvous point, that meeting up with you is not an accident and you’re not a total stranger, and we’re absolutely down to have you hike along with us until we all get safely back together.

And yes, the We’re Long Lost Pals offer stands in bars and cases of Creepington WontTakeAHint, but it also applies in broader circumstances. For instance:

If you’re in an unsafe situation at home and need help and spot me in a public place, come to the bathroom with me. Just come over, all smiles, say “BW! I haven’t seen you in ages! I’ve only got a few seconds but would love to catch up–I’m on my way to the bathroom, can you come with?”, and once we’re there I’ll call for help for you and wait with you until it arrives.

If you’re at the grocery store and having one of THOSE days and are >this< close to weeping in the spice aisle, come shop with me. We’ll talk about whatever has pushed you to the Sobbing Over Saffron stage, exclaim over good sales in the produce section, and make ridiculous combinations at the Jelly Belly display.

If you’re at a big event–concert, festival, state fair, etc–and are having sensory overload and need a break but don’t want to hang out alone, come eat nachos with me. I get overwhelmed in crowded/noisy situations too, so I’m perfectly happy to get us some sodas and find us a nice out-of-the-way corner to go sit quietly. We don’t even have to talk. (The nachos are only sort of negotiable, though. Mmm, nachos.)

I will sit with you in the waiting room until the doctor comes; I will stand with you at the bus stop  so you’re not alone; I will text you with an emergency so you can get out of a situation (you’ll need to slip me a note with your number and “please text with fake emergency” on it, or a similar cue); I will let you join our group through the haunted house or help you find the toothpaste aisle or tell you whether that shirt is a good color on you.

The world can get scary sometimes, is what I’m getting at, and occasionally we could use a little backup. So here’s my face; if you see it, and you need to push the Buddy System panic button, come find me. I can’t fix your life and I won’t hold your jacket while you commit a crime, but I’ll gladly sit with you.

10650038_1038371192858113_7200929884890564777_n

 

 

6 Comments

Filed under General Musings and Meanderings, Share the Toys

Will You Go

I need to tell you about this friend of ours.

The first time I met him–or I suppose I should say “the first time I remember meeting him”, because there was a period there where I met a lot of people in very rapid succession and tend to jumble things up a bit–he was sitting in the corner of Star’s living room with a guitar.

(Side story: I went to Nerd Camp–not its official name–during the summer between my junior and senior years of high school. The year I attended it was held on a college campus in the middle of nowhere, and the first several people I met were variations on the Cheerful/Perky/Chipper/Future Greek Pledge theme…and at that point I was firmly into my grunge-angst-meets-hippie-DamnTheMan period, so I felt pretty out of place. So I went on a walk, and ran into another attendee–a long-haired guy who looked like Jesus, wearing an ankle-length crushed velvet skirt, sitting under a tree and playing the guitar. We became fast friends and are friends to this day, some 20 years later. I have good luck with Guys With Guitars.)

…So this guy was in the corner of Star’s living room with a guitar. I was there because Star was throwing a party, and while I now look back on Star Parties with a great deal of nostalgia and fondness, at the time they were a source of full frontal terror: everyone there knew each other, most of them having been friends for periods ranging into the decades, and I was the new kid. The new, socially awkward kid. The new, socially awkward kid who doesn’t like to be in situations where she doesn’t know most of the people (but they sure do know each other), in a new place, in a new city that was about 10 times bigger than her comfort zone really allows for and apparently populated by drivers who believe it’s Thunderdome all day every day around here, who gets overwhelmed pretty easily by a) large groups, b) new places, c) loud situations, d) heavy traffic (did I mention Star lived right off one of the main roads?), and e) being the odd man out. Whee!

So this guy was in the corner of Star’s living room with a guitar, and because I was about ten seconds from shutting down completely and maybe going to the bathroom to cry for a little while but because I knew from experience that Guys With Guitars are usually safe places for me, I went and sat down. And Moon Man came and joined me, and someone called for a tune, and somehow or another (there’s a certain amount of grey, Overwhelmed Just Existing Please Don’t Ask Me Anything time in here) the guy with the guitar ended up playing “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon” from Sesame Street. Doing a passable Ernie impression to boot, I should note. And I sat there and listened and within about two bars had sunk beneath the surface of the music and shut out everything and was mouthing the words and holding back tears and holding Moon Man’s hand and the only things in the world that existed were the sound of the music and the pressure of Moon’s hand and suddenly, easily, everything was ok. There was a Guy With a Guitar and a voice that resonated at exactly the right frequency to open the peaceful places–carefully, oh so carefully guarded–in my heart, and everything was ok.

Eventually we became friends with this guy and his family, and we get together sometimes to do social things or we go see him perform. And while he’s not exactly playing Shea Stadium–he’s more in the “coffeeshops and occasional private parties” circuit, including playing at our wedding because he’s also a damn good sport about driving 45 miles to Topeka for a tiny private ceremony on the day after Thanksgiving–his music always, always takes me to that place where everything is ok. Even when everything is most decidedly not ok–I went to see him once a couple of weeks after Dad died, and those two hours were the first time in 14-ish days that I believed that I might actually be able to get through this. I played his CD for Little Bit, my feline best friend of 16+ years, while Bit was dying–it calmed him down, and calmed me down, and didn’t change the fact that I was holding my little buddy while he died, but it made it possible to believe that things might be ok again later.

And y’know, it’s just this thing this guy does. He just, like, plays the guitar. And sings some things. He also makes clothes and builds decks and does something complicated with computers and fixes dinner and raises children and, I dunno, tells inappropriate jokes sometimes and grumbles about the price of things. He’s just a guy with a guitar, doing what Guys With Guitars do.

But as it happens, he was the guy with the guitar in the place where I was at exactly the time I needed a Guy With a Guitar. And he’s been that for me more than once, which makes me a little extra glad we both happened to agree to go to that Star Party in the first place.

And here’s the thing, y’all: being a guy with a guitar is just part of his day. If he’s going somewhere, he takes his guitar with him just in case there’s some music that needs playin’. And it occurs to me that a lot of us have That Thing We Do–we have words, or we have music, or we have interpretive dance or underwater basket weaving or being a kung fu master or being a rocket scientist, that Thing We Are Made Of that we do just because it’s in our soul to do it–and I think that sometimes the most important thing we can do is to do that Thing. Even if we’re not making money at it, even if it’s not our main occupation, even if we never get more than a few hundred hits on our blog post or a slightly overfilled coffeeshop for an audience.

Because you never know when someone in the room is going to be in desperate need of a Guy With a Guitar…and if she’s there, and you could fill that need, why the hell would you leave the guitar at home?

Love ya, brotherman.

Love ya, brotherman.

Leave a comment

Filed under Play Nicely, Share the Toys

Hide It Under a Bushel? No!

Hey, guys?

It’s come to my attention that perhaps it’s been too long since we covered this, so today we’re going to have a little reminder session, ok? In the interest of streamlining all of our lives, it would help if you’d grab a piece of paper and a pen right quick, and write down the following:

I am amazing, and I deserve to behave in a way that lets other people recognize this.

If you’ve got some free time, feel free to make your note as colorful, decorative, or fancy as you like. Use stickers and stamps if you’ve got ’em. Cross-stitch it into a sampler. Tattoo it on your arm. Whatever works for you.

‘Cause here’s the thing, gang: the world right now, for a whole lot of people, has gone all flappitybats crazy. Some folks are chalking it up to various planets being in retrograde; some declared it to be fallout from that Friday the 13th we had; some figure it’s just another burst of chaos because that’s what chaos does; and frankly, I don’t much care which explanation you choose to roll with. Whatever it is that’s behind it all, the net effect is that for a lot of us, things have gotten…a touch on the hectic side.

And while it’s true that many people will let their fight-or-flight lizard hindbrain take over in situations like this, I know that you all are too awesome for that. You all are not the sort of folks who hide your light under a bushel; instead, you’re people who look at chaos and hear Mr Rogers speaking softly in your soul, reminding you that when things get scary, you should look for the helpers because there will always be someone helping–and if you don’t spot the helpers immediately, you take the opportunity to become one. You are the people who join the incredibly long line at places like the DMV, sit calmly with your book or your phone or your tablet while you wait your turn, and who are friendly and smiling and making little jokes to lift the clerk’s spirits by the time you reach the head of the line.

You are the people who see someone crying and immediately want to comfort them (or find someone else to comfort them. That’s ok–we’re not all great with grief). You see someone injured and want to patch them up. You see someone carrying a heavy burden and either offer to help shoulder the load or suggest resources that would be more helpful than you can personally be.

You hold the door for people.

You tip your server.

You file your nails while you wait for your call to be answered in the order in which it was received, and you talk to the person on the other end of the line as though they are an actual human being with their own set of fears and worries and stresses and problems and you want to be remembered as the Nice Caller of the Day.

And as a result, you are beginning to see the karmic payout from this. You’ve noticed that you don’t seem to have as many rough conversations with clerks as other people, because you smile at the clerks and the clerks smile at you and while every once in a while you get a cranky one, for the most part they’re generally lovely people who just want to help you get through your business and out of their line. You’ve found, every once in a while, that your bartender has “forgotten” to include a round of your drinks because that was the round when she seemed really harried and you told her you were in absolutely no rush and tossed an extra coupla bucks in her tip jar so she’d remember that not everyone is as demanding as the guy at the end who should probably switch to water for a bit.

Sometimes people just spontaneously show up at your house with an adorable wee critter another friend has knitted for you, or a gorgeous ceramic dish with an outline of a child’s hand in it that they bought at a charity event and thought you’d love, or a jar of their strawberry-lemon jam, or a bouquet of flowers and a hug.

Sometimes people write you thank-you notes or group poetry that make you cry.

Sometimes people go out of their way to track you down at their niece’s wedding reception, or they send you a Facebook message out of the blue, or they bound across a room full of people at a party to hug you and tell you that something you did or said or wrote made their day/week/month and that they are so, so grateful to have you in their lives.

And if you’re not to that place yet, if you’re just starting out on your journey of being That One Amazing Person Who Was in My Checkout Aisle (or That Delightful Fellow Who Helped Catch My Receipts When I Dropped My Folder as the Wind Was Picking Up, or The Only Person Who Remembered My Birthday This Year, or what have you), then that’s awesome, because you’ve got all sorts of random blessings to look forward to.

It’s one of the things I love about you hooligans: that you are amazing people who want to be more like Mr Rogers’ helpers and less like Loki With a Chip on His Shoulder. You are folks with a near-infinite capacity to change the lives of the people around you for the better. You are people who treat others not “as you want to be treated”, but “as we all deserve to be treated”.

You are people who understand that you deserve to let people see you at your best, because perhaps it will inspire them to do their best, and we all do better when everyone does better.

And if that ends up netting you a free margarita every now and again, well, that’s just one of the perks of being the amazing folks you already are.

Love you hoodlums. Now go love on each other.

Every person you meet

2 Comments

Filed under General Musings and Meanderings, Play Nicely, Share the Toys

That’s How We Roll

Ahh, Kansas. One of these days we’ll stop doing the little things that make us look bad to all the neighbors, and I’ll be so shocked I’ll have to sit down for a spell.

But that day is not today. Well, not a week or so ago, anyway; because it was about a week ago when the story came out that Leawood, one of the towns in the Kansas City metro area, was making a resident take down their Little Free Library. For the record, the little free Leawood librarian is nine years old.

/sigh

A little free library, for those of you unfamiliar with the concept, is basically the “have a penny, leave a penny, need a penny, take a penny” of books–they’re boxes, built to withstand weather, usually shaped like adorable wee houses, and inside are free books. Want one? Come get it. Got some books you’re not reading anymore? Leave ’em inside, and the magical library fairies will pick them up and add them to the rotation. There’s a certain amount of work and upkeep involved–culling books that nobody ever takes home, keeping new and interesting titles coming out fairly regularly so people don’t give up on ever finding anything they want there, making sure the box itself stays sound, etc–so it’s a labor of love for folks who want to run one, but the word on the street is that it’s a hoot and a half, because you end up getting to connect people with free books and have wonderful book chats with your neighbors.

There are plans out there for building your own, but you can also buy premade Little Free Libraries through the organization's site. How adorable is this one?

There are plans out there for building your own, but you can also buy premade Little Free Libraries through the organization’s site. How adorable is this one?

Leawood’s argument against the kiddo who’s trying to run one is that these charming little boxes are prohibited by city regulation, as they’re free-standing structures unattached to the house–and those are banned, because they’re eyesores that bring down property values.

Please scroll back up, look again at the picture of the adorable blue bookhouse, and tell me how that’s an eyesore that brings down property values. /eyeroll

So you had to know that all of this was going to kick my Damn-the-Man/Hulk-Smash/Ain’t-Nobody-Got-Time-For-That self into overdrive. I mean, c’mon. It’s books.

So I looked into the bylaws of our own Homeowners Association (I have strong thoughts about even having an HOA, let alone what their bylaws say, but that’s a topic for another time), thinking that perhaps I should set up a nice solidarity Little Free Library in my own yard, and lo and behold–we also are prohibited from having any free-standing structures. Especially storage structures–they make a huge point out of that bit–so I’m guessing this won’t fly here either.

So, y’know, I did a bit of table-flipping and tantrum-throwing and generally making myself a nuisance to our critters, who were just trying to nap. And over the weekend we went to visit my BFF, and I vented about the whole ridiculous thing to her for a bit.

And as I was talking with her–about how perhaps I could still set up a Little Free Library and just, y’know, move it every day, bring it inside at night, put it in a different spot on the lawn every afternoon, etc–I stumbled upon what I’m reasonably sure is one of the smartest ideas I’ve ever had.

Are you ready for this? Hold onto your hat.

We talked a couple years ago about how Moon Man and I had started going to a nearby beach (by which I mean “lake”–we don’t so much have “beaches” here in the middle of the continent). This quickly became our Official Sunday Afternoon Activity, and as you probably know, these sorts of outings tend to come with a pretty good pile of accessories, towels and blankets and coolers and books and sunscreen and such. And since the parking area for our favorite beach is a good quarter-mile away from the beach itself, we soon grew weary of hauling everything via straps and handles and backpacks and things. I mean, c’mon, this is supposed to be relaxing.

So we went and got ourselves a wagon.

This wagon.

This wagon.

I bet you see where this is headed.

It occurred to me, as I was talking with BFF, that free-standing unattached storage structures are prohibited in our subdivision…but ain’t nobody got any problems with wagons. Besides, if I’m ever going to go on a dogsledding adventure (more on that another time–it’s been a while since we talked, so we’ll have some catching-up to do), I really do need to start getting into shape. Training for it, if you will. By, oh, I dunno, walking.

Around the neighborhood.

With, say, a wagon.

Full of books.

/grin

So there we have it: the birth of the idea of the Little Free Bookmobile. I still need to go through my bookshelves and pick out the first round of inventory, and I should really see if anyone I know can make me a nifty sign for it (I feel like a hand-lettered posterboard sign simply will not do for this endeavor); but once that’s done, Operation Circumvent Your Ridiculous Bylaws can commence.

I mean, really, I reckon somebody has to do something to balance out Kansas’s shenanigans, and this time it may as well be me. Watch for me, then come on out and borrow a book–or bring some of yours to drop off! If I’m on the big hill at the end of the neighborhood, the break will be especially welcome.

4 Comments

Filed under General Musings and Meanderings, Share the Toys, The Bibliophilic Buffalo

Thank You, Fred Phelps

Dear Reverend Phelps,

Word has spread that your health may be failing. I am in no position to offer you anything but sympathy and my prayers: if you are to recover, may your recovery be swift and simple; and if it is your time to leave this life, may your transition be smooth and peaceful. I hope that your nearest and dearest are keeping you good company, and that you are comfortable and well-cared-for, wherever you may be. Illness can be a frightening time, and I hope that yours passes quickly.

But since recovery gets harder as we get older (it happens to us all) and someday the fight will simply be too much for your body, I want to take this opportunity to thank you while there is still a chance that you will (somehow) stumble across and read this blog post.

Thank you, Reverend Phelps.

I don’t suppose you hear that all that much these days. It’s pretty “in vogue” to publicly rebuke you, to curse your name and to sling hate at you. If we’re going to be completely honest here, I’m sure you can understand–you haven’t exactly been known for your “free puppy kisses and lollipops for everyone” approach to spreading your message. But I believe strongly in the idea that everyone who enters our lives is a blessing in some way or another–even if it takes a bit of soul-searching to find the blessing buried at the bottom–and you are no exception to that rule.

Here’s what I mean:

1. You’ve taught me about respect. If this is your first visit to BuffaloTracts, you may want to stop at this post before your blood pressure shoots too high, but if you’ve been here before, you know that you and I don’t really have a whole lot of beliefs in common. That’s ok; we don’t all have to agree. But the process of writing this letter–more precisely, the process of deciding how to address this letter–has really underscored what I’ve learned about the difference between agreement and respect; i.e., I don’t have to agree with a single thing you say to respect that, for instance, you have earned the title of “Reverend”, at least within your own organization. Whether I would join your church or not is irrelevant; and whether you would have any title at all in a church I would join is irrelevant; “Reverend” is your title in the church you lead, and “Reverend” you shall be called. It’s a respectful thing to do, much like calling the Pope “Your Holiness”. Thank you for helping me pin that down.

2. You’ve taught me that a person should never, ever be judged by their parentage. I went to school with a couple of your grandkids; as I recall, they were actually pretty nice folks. I mean, sure, we had to steer clear of certain topics, but even that was a good learning point: that it’s absolutely possible for people with radically different beliefs to coexist peacefully, as long as they’re all willing to play nicely and share the toys. And since I came from a lineage that included a lot of blue-collar folks but went to school with a lot of doctors’ and lawyers’ kids, I came in primed to feel inferior based on my background–but you and your grandchildren helped me see past that and start learning to recognize people’s individual merits regardless of what family tree they grew from. It did great things for my self-esteem, frankly. Thank you for that.

3. You’ve taught me that wildly disparate people can absolutely work together to achieve common goals. I think the various counterprotests around the nation are excellent examples of this–there is no way anyone can possibly convince me that every single person in the human wall at Aurora, or the human wall at Texas A&M, or the human wall at the University of Missouri, or the human wall at Newtown, or the human wall members of Angel Action, or the other human walls that come up when you search for “human wall Westboro Baptist Church” (about 425,000 hits when I searched just now–wow, that’s a lot of object lessons!) all knew each other before they arrived to form their walls on those days. But there they all were, some of them arm-in-arm, some of them wearing huge angel wings that they’d built for the occasion, some carrying signs, some revving motorcycle engines to drown out your chants–there they were, united by a common purpose. Total strangers. Working together. It brings a tear to my eye every time. Thank you for that.

I suppose the bottom line here, Reverend, is this:

rock-of-ages-e1380981517484

I have (again with the honesty) absolutely not enjoyed the experience of interacting with you. We are not friends, and we are not particularly likely ever to be friends. I have not enjoyed seeing you on the streets of my childhood hometown, I have not enjoyed having your signs as part of the background scenery as I grew up, I have not enjoyed watching you gain a national stage, I have not enjoyed seeing Topeka’s private shame get international press, and I have not enjoyed witnessing the hurt and anger and fear your message has caused.

But I have learned to appreciate your existence for the lessons you have taught: about respecting someone despite fundamentally disagreeing with them; about basing your opinion of someone solely on that person’s own merits and actions; and about people’s abilities to overlook their differences in pursuit of a higher common goal. All those lessons, I think, were important in deepening my relationship with god. My god–not your God, because they are not the same entity at all.

If the role of a pastor is to bring people closer to the Divine, then by gosh, I reckon you’ve done it. For me, a woman whose sexuality and beliefs and politics would absolutely have inspired a garishly colored sign had you and I ever met in person.

Thank you for that, Reverend. You’ve done your work. Now rest comfortably, recover quickly if that is to be your fate, or transition gracefully if your time here is done. You’ll be in my prayers–whether you want to be or not.

Blessings to you,

Mama BW

 

Update, March 20, 2014: Fred Phelps has passed away. I hope his transition was peaceful and that he was surrounded by love as he left this life and entered the next stage of his soul’s grand adventure. I will continue to pray for his family’s peace during this difficult time for them–it is never easy to lose someone you love–and I trust that we will all take this opportunity to tell our own loved ones how much they mean to us. Remember, gang, today also happens to be Mr. Rogers’ birthday; let’s all be good neighbors and make careful choices about which Fred we want to be most like. Love you hooligans.

2 Comments

Filed under Don't Make Me Come Down There, General Musings and Meanderings, Play Nicely, Share the Toys

Please Help. Thank You.

Nobody panic: the title of today’s post is not actually a request. It’s a script, and one I would do well to memorize. One I think a lot of us would do well to memorize. Here’s why.

About a week ago, a dear friend of ours returned from a four-month trip around the world. She’d originally planned to be gone for a year, but the fun ran out and she came home a little early. Exactly zero people were sad to see her back so soon, and everybody fell all over themselves in an attempt to make her re-entry as easy as possible: people drove her to pick up her car, people brought her coats and crocheted her a beautiful scarf because it’s cold right now, people took her out to dinner. People literally debated who would get to have her come stay with them for that first few days. It was adorable and lovely, and made my heart smile.

But then the First Week Re-Entry Period wore off, and she started looking for longer-term options. I mean, you can couch-surf for a little while, but sooner or later you want a bedroom with a door. So she came over, sat down, and said “I’m given to understand that you have a guest bedroom. Do you think I could live here for a while?”

We said yes (because duh), and now we have a housemate. Hiya, roomie!

Now, here’s the reason I’m telling you that story: I’ve realized, as I’ve thought about it, that if I had been the person needing a place to stay, my dialogue would have been ZOMG so insanely long. I would have said something like “Hi! I brought you these cookies. I hear you have a guest bedroom, and I am currently looking for a long-term place to stay, and I know it’s probably terribly inconvenient and I will absolutely understand if you’ve got other plans for that room–like family coming to town or occasionally using it for overnight guests or storage or something–and that’s really totally ok, and I won’t be offended at all if you say no, but do you think I could maybe possibly sleep here just for an incredibly short amount of time while I frantically try to find anyplace at all to live? I promise I will cook and clean and grovel and shovel the driveway with a teaspoon and give you footrubs and make exactly zero noise and I am willing to give you every single dollar I ever encounter in exchange for rent while I live here, and OMG please no don’t feel like you have to feed me because I will live off melted snow and whatever acorns I can steal from the neighborhood squirrels”.

Because that’s how I roll, yo. That’s how I’ve always rolled. The idea of coming right out and asking for something I need–especially if there is any chance whatsoever that it will inconvenience someone else–makes my head explode. I get into a guilt spiral like you cannot believe, and I tend to avoid these sorts of conversations at all cost.

My friend, on the other hand, had a need, identified the need, and came right out and asked for help.

/blink, blink

Mind = blown.

Which is why we’re talking about this today. How many times have you needed something from someone, and approached the request in that slinking, tail-between-the-legs, hat-in-hand, sheepish, oblique way? How many times have you started the conversation with “I’m so, so sorry to ask for this”? How many times have you built an “out” into the request–things like “I understand if you can’t, and that’s totally fine, because I know you probably have plans on that day, but if you happen to be free…”?

But hang onto your socks, kids, ’cause I’m about to drop a cosmic bomb on your head: What if you started thinking of requesting help less as this Big Horrible Thing That Will Inconvenience Everyone You Love, and started thinking of it as a gift to the person you’re asking?

What if you took a second to revise your role in your own head, and decided that you were no longer the tragic supplicant but were instead the Bringer of Opportunity–in this case, the opportunity for someone you love to build up a little extra karma, or repay you for a kindness you’ve already done for them?

What if you chose not to slink into the room, but to stride in, knowing that you were offering the chance to be an agent through which the Universe could work its magic?

Ecstatic Motion

 

Sure, asking for help can seem really scary and overwhelming–what if the person says “No”? What if it really is a huge inconvenience? What if it turns out that nobody actually loves you enough to show up when you need them the most? These are all legitimate, valid fears, and it’s totally ok to take two or three or a hundred bracing breaths before you make the request. It’s also totally ok to have a Plan B, Plan C, and Plan OMG in case the request-ee really isn’t able to provide the help you need.

But it’s also ok to make that leap of faith and trust that the Universe has put the safety net in place. It’s ok to approach this as your way of letting your friend pay you back for that time you helped him haul 40 boxes of books into his new third-floor walkup apartment. It’s ok to think of this as an opportunity for the request-ee to build some preemptive karma, so that when they need a new kidney, they know who to call first.

It’s ok to need other people, and it’s ok to let them help you out. It’s ok to be the Universe in ecstatic motion, and trust that the Universe knows who needs to build some karma and who needs a chance to learn some things about themselves and who needs a chance to grow, and it’s ok to be the person who provides those opportunities.

It’s ok to call in a favor.

At the risk of showing the depth and breadth of my geekitude, it’s ok to help us help you help us all.

And you can do it with four simple words: “Please help. Thank you”. That’s it–no apologies, no excuses, no circuitous language. The world won’t end. The friendship won’t be utterly destroyed.

You can do it.

I have faith in you.

Help prove me right on this one. Please. And thank you.

3 Comments

Filed under General Musings and Meanderings, Play Nicely, Share the Toys