Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Homeless People Don't Have Icy Hot

The other day my daughter was experiencing some growing pains in her knees so I scrounged around in a drawer and found a tube of Icy Hot and gave her a little massage. We both remarked at the immediacy of the mint in the air. (I remarked a little more colorfully as I forgot I still had the ointment on my hands and rubbed my eyes.)

My daughter went to bed, still feeling sore but comforted by the small attention given, and I went back to my laundry folding. The news played numbly on the TV in front of me and I paid little attention until a story about homelessness came on and caught my watering eye.

It struck me that one of the loneliest things in the world must be to be alone, and sore, and have no one there to comfort you or give you a little attention. There's no Icy Hot in a drawer somewhere to provide even a little relief when you are homeless. That's got to feel so overwhelmingly sad, especially as people march along importantly every day, knowing you are there, and doing nothing.

I lingered only a few moments in that melancholy and then I had to cast the thought aside so I could stay focused on what keeps me busy. I'm one of those callous marchers. Then again, this morning, as images of Oklahoma seeped into my consciousness through the jabber of morning radio and the shock of front-pages I had to think about my absurd level of wealth and how I fail to appreciate it and share it.

One of the women in the photos I saw had a french pedicure - white tipped toenails - on the feet of a (newly) homeless person. And I thought how little it must matter to have pedicured feet when you have nowhere to rest your weariness.

I'm pretty sure I have two tubes of Icy Hot in my house - one of which I care so little about I can't remember what drawer or basket or shelf it's in amongst the many I have. What silliness it is to have such luxury, I think. I think that sometimes and then, too often, I forget.

I'm praying today for the people who have lost their homes - not just during a storm last night - but ever - and for whatever reason. I'm praying they find comfort and relief somewhere. And I'm praying I remember - if nothing else - to be thankful for my riches.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Task of the Mother

The joy of motherhood is without question, the perils well-known, and the humor unending fodder. But what of her duties, her tasks? A mother finds herself with many tasks every day - long lists of tasks that stack and stress and wreak havoc on a calendar. But really, she has only one task: to come back.

A mother must come back to her child after his pout and his tantrum, after she has scolded him and doled out consequence.

A mother must come back to her child after the child's timid - sometimes bolder - venture across the line of permission.

A mother must come back to the table after the child has assured her he has wiped it clean, to remove the errant crumb.

She must walk away from the child who threatens with pudgy fingers not to obey, and come back to the child whose teen rant is a mask for pain.

A mother must turn, many times, from words delivered to her in distaste, dishonor and disrespect and come back with understanding, warmth and acceptance.

A mother must weather the friendships of some, the betrayal of others, the injury of many who will harm her child, and so her, to her core. She must come back strong, willing and open.

Her back will grow weary. Her hands ache with their tire. Her hair grays with the days spent worrying, praying. Her peace is only in her child's comfort, no matter how she strives to be her own self. The mother is only to herself what she sees reflected in her child.

And so she comes back. That is her task. It is a mighty one indeed.

With thanks to my mom for always coming back with love, and appreciation for all the moms in my life and my children's lives, who share some of these gifts with me and my family... Happy Mother's Day.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Let's Get Rid of the Music

Recently I had the pleasure of visiting my children's band practice as they rehearsed with a another school's band for an upcoming joint performance. I stood there with my back to the wall and watched the music fill the room. Like people leaving a concert, groups of three and five notes tiptoed forward, and then more, filling, spreading, seeping through every exit until a throng of musical bodies in every color and pattern forced a broad tide into the open and then disbursed, leaving behind a tingle, a touch, that would not dissipate.

Everyone felt it.

I came home and, later, thought a bit about recent goings, conversations with friends, with my children. It's been difficult for the past few weeks, watching some stumbles and some falls, scraping our knees on the parenting pavement. I suppose they're not called growing 'pains' for nothing.

As I reflected I thought about the struggles of my own youth, about wanting power, not knowing how to channel power, feeling power that scared me, finding the immensity of higher power.

There is certainly power in risk. There is thrill and blur in it, heart race and dry throat. But what comes after the moment of risk is the test of its value.

Risk a drink. What do you get in return? Risk a note. What comes? Multiply the risk - what then?

In my life I was fortunate that my risks were met with grace and I was endowed with chance after chance to right myself. Mostly, I think I have. I believe my education saved me more than once when the good Lord decided to let me figure it out on my own.

When people talk about education - especially public education - and they think about ways to cut budgets, many (myself, sadly, included) will suggest that if children must lose out on something, they cannot risk losing out on math or reading. If something must go, let it be art or language. 'Let's get rid of the music,' we might suggest.

Truly, nothing could be more dangerous. In that room the other day, where all those children sat expressing, reflecting, managing the power of music, invaluable lessons were learned about how you can have and use power, about how others can have and use it to, about how cooperation creates something beautiful and transformative. Peace was received and extended in that room.

What more important lessons could we teach?