Every now and then, something new shakes my world.
This last week, I've been caught up in my own cares. Some little. Some not-so-little. All of it tangled me, knotted me, and snared me into an inward sort of dark. In that place, it's easy to forget how much bigger the world is.
I let myself feel sorry, feel angry, feel bitter. I let myself think about me me me ME. And then I saw this:
Some of you may have seen this floating around the internet already. I saw it. Passed it over. Told myself I couldn't bear to watch anything sad right now. And that's okay. It's okay to know when you just can't do something. but I saw it often enough that I finally told myself I should click play.
And it shook my world.
Jonah is an eighth grader who has been bullied for eight years. Who felt the need to resort to physical pain to escape the emotional pain. Who felt hated by others and ended up hating himself. And watching his young face in tears hurt my heart. Hurt it bad.
After seeing Jonah's beautiful, honest admission and declaration, I read THIS. I feel like an etch-a-sketch. All of the petty worries landscaping my screen have been so rattled that it's like they never existed. Sometimes, it's exactly what I need.
I never stand up in the canoe. I keep a steady balance. Oh, I like to pretend I've got the guts to call a spade a spade when I see it--but I usually don't. But now and then, something shakes me out of complacency and into the ring. So yes, I'm rocking the boat.
My dad teases me that he'll get me a bumper sticker that says, "Mean People Suck." It's the one thing that sets me off every time. I have been a "mean people" before, I'm no innocent, but I strive for kindness and abhor every unkind act I ever committed. I will never understand Hate. I don't care what age, color, sexual-orientation, religious belief, weight, creed, mental illness, or IQ a person has. But mean people? Mean people do suck.
There's no excuse for it. No justification I can ever stand behind. Meanness is simply that: mean. You have beliefs? Great. Believe. But if your belief means tearing someone down, means destroying someone emotionally or physically, means embracing intolerance? That's not belief. That's hate.
I have beliefs, beliefs that mean everything to me, but they are my beliefs and I won't impose them on anyone else. I won't tell someone else that they're lesser than I am because they're different. People don't stop being human just because their lives don't align with someone else's standard. And guess what? Viewed through the lens of someone else's standard, I don't measure up. But it doesn't mean I don't count, I don't matter, or I don't deserve basic human kindness. Everyone does.
Let me repeat that. Everyone deserves kindness. Everyone deserves love. Even someone unlovable. Even the sucky mean people.
There's not enough life vests on a boatload of hate. Whether it's name-calling, "harmless" teasing, or outright violence, it's hateful to the person on the other side of that action. Even if they never hear you. Even if it's just "some stranger" being poked fun of for they way they dress or talk. Even if it doesn't matter to you--it matters.
Likewise, love matters. If all you do is smile, if you share a compliment, if you hug someone, if you cry with someone who cries, if you pray for someone else, if you just plain give a damn, that Love matters. We can be tools that destroy a life or we can be the hand that shapes the world. Because when you're kind, you do change the world--change the world for the person on the other side of that kindness. I've heard countless stories of people on the verge of ending it all where their hand was stayed by one simple act of love. Because love isn't just simple.
Love is everything.
We can bestow it or withhold it. We can make someone believe in it or we can crush it. One choice. One moment. One word. That's all it takes. I choose to stand up for Love. I choose to love people regardless of their limitations, their wounds, their outer shells. I choose to believe that people can and will love others, too.
I choose to rock this boat, stand out on the water, and risk it all to love someone else. Because the opposite of love is hate.
And hate is one thing that deserves to go down with the ship.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
“I realise there’s something incredibly honest about trees in winter, how they’re experts at letting things go.”
Winter has never been a favorite of mine. Something about the tapered, empty arms of maple and oak. Or the death-rattle whisper of frozen wind. But last year, someone else who never loved winter told me he learned to appreciate it because of the emerging spring. Had winter not wrapped a chilly fist around the world, he might never have appreciated spring’s rebirth in its thawed hand.
After discovering today’s quote, I think I have two reasons to appreciate winter better, now.
I’m a child of spring and summer. Tightly furled buds and tenacious greenery. Sunlight clinging to sky and skin. I come from a place where things are clutched tight. It’s foreign to me to extend my hand and let the breeze whisk away. Yet I’ve had a flat palm for some time now.
There’s something very naked about letting go. I’m a bit of a fighter—I hold on. It’s hard to let go: of memories, of worries, of fears, of grudges...of people. But here I am. My fingers outstretched. Nothing but a stinging chill in hand.
I’m a stranger in this place. And for a first time, that doesn’t frighten me like it might have. There’s a knotted bit of resignation in place of fear. I don’t think there’s anything to be done for it. Because sometimes, things die.
I’ve never heard a tree complain over shed leaves—but I bet they feel it. Like I feel it. Little bits of you left to spin away, faded and colorless. Dead. Sometimes, those memories are scattered around me, sprawled in sunny gold, dusty cumin, and rusted blood. Before, I might have fought to keep them. Now, I feel like all I can do is stand against the breeze and watch it all whirl beyond reach.
The beautiful thing about words is that I get to be purposely vague, saying so little with so much. Perhaps I should just say that it hurts when things die. It hurts to lose something that mattered. It hurts when the best thing to do is to let someone go when it gets brittle and crumbles.
I guess there’s a third thing to appreciate about winter: a blanketing field of numb white. All of those torn, shredded bits that fell away disappear beneath the cold, and for a time, everything’s still.
Despite the lost leaves, I still have it all. Deep, life-giving roots, strong branches—a family foundation I bless God for daily. And come spring, new life will grow. Some are old seeds, given new life. Some are new seeds, giving life. I’ll uncurl a frozen fist and my heart will thaw.
Because hope is like that. It lives—even after it dies.
*image from flikr