“…he’s my brother…”

There’s a song I remember from years ago, and it’s been brought back to memory today. I didn’t remember all the words–just the chorus: “He ain’t heavy…he’s my brother.”

Today there have been a couple of things that made me think of those lines. I guess it really started when I read some of the paper before going to church. There was a column by Nicholas Kristof that tore my heart. It was about a 13-year-old girl who knocked on a stranger’s door, hoping to avoid having to go on upstairs to meet the customer her pimp was sending her to. She was hurting too much to endure yet another rape. She was helped, but his column exposed an ugly side of life…again. I have a grandson who is just a little older…who sometimes gets angry with his parents. Never angry enough to run away, as this girl had–but I wonder what her parents and grandparents were thinking. Did they miss her? Did they worry about her?

Then at church, we had bad news about one of our friends. He is homeless, but he has been coming for quite a while and has been involved in activities. We found out that Thursday some of his other homeless friends found him lying in a pool of blood, bleeding from both ends. They were able to call an ambulance, which came and took him…but they didn’t know where. We tried the local hospitals, but no one had anyone by his name. We don’t know if he survived his injuries or not. We don’t know his family–and don’t know if they know about his connection with us.

Are these two my sister and my brother?

Absolutely! One I don’t know…one I do–at least a little bit. But I can’t stop thinking about them.

There are so many people who are alone…for various reasons. Some carry heavy burdens. Some I may never meet. Yet I am called to help carry their burdens as best I can. They are my brother…my sister.

Too many books?

Is it ever possible to have too many books? I don’t think so…

My dream home would have one room that would be a library–a large room. Maybe even with books floor to ceiling–and an attached ladder to be able to access them all. They would not be “show” books–they would be books I’ve read and enjoyed…and re-read.

I was thinking about this today as we were sorting through some boxes from our old house. We’ve sorted through books, but today I discovered a couple that I decided I want to keep.

At one point I did let go of probably half my books. I have access to them through a library that is close at hand, so I decided it was time to let them go. And I passed quite a few of them off to my son.

I remember reading when a rich person was someone who might have 20 books. Wow! What does that make me?

I have four bookshelves that are 2′ wide by 8′ tall–plus three additional bookshelves that are about 3′ wide by 3′ tall. And they’re all full of books…almost all of them read at least once. There are a few that I haven’t gotten around to yet, but not many.

Books are so important!

I read a study once that said that a top predictor of success for kids is the number of books that is in their home. If that’s so, our kids should be in good shape–and so should our grandson. His parents have lots of books themselves…and so does he!

Too many books? Never!!

Your actions speak so loudly…

…I can’t hear what you’re saying.

That’s a statement I remember hearing quite a bit growing up. “Your actions speak so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.”

It took me a while to really understand what was being said. But once I got it, I began to see just how much it applied to every day.

It seems particularly apt in this political season.

As I watch the various debates, speeches, questions-and-answers, I’m discovering that I have difficulty hearing some of the words coming out of the GOP because actions have spoken so loudly.

They’re a party of family values…right. One of the front-runners has been married 3 times, with at least one of his wives having been a mistress during his previous marriage. Uh-huh…that’s the kind of family value I want promoted–not!

They’re a party that is pro-life. Sure, until an infant takes its first breath. Then woe betide it if there are any major medical  issues that the family could use help with.

They’re a party that believes in Christian values. Whatever happened to the idea of reaching out to those in need…in prison…the hungry…the sick? Seems to me that Matthew 25 has something to say that relates to those values:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’

“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’

“Then he will turn to the ‘goats,’ the ones on his left, and say, ‘Get out, worthless goats! You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because—

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’

“Then those ‘goats’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?’

“He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.’

As a woman, I deeply resent reading an email from a staffer of another major candidate that says that having a woman president would put our children in danger because God doesn’t want a woman to rule public institutions.

And apparently–according to this candidate–God doesn’t want women to have any choice over whether they get pregnant or not…not should we have sex unless it’s for the purpose of having babies. Hello…what about those of us who are past that age but still like sex?!?

Don’t even get me started on the support I’m hearing from GOP supporters about the abominable actions taken by the Marines who were videotaped urinating on the bodies of dead Taliban soldiers! What kind of message does that send? It certainly doesn’t enhance our ability to engage in respectful discussions around the world…

I’d really like to believe at least some of the words that I hear coming from the political parties–but right now, actions are drowning them out.

Gone too soon…

Last night I got word that a good friend had succumbed to the cancer he had been fighting for a couple of years. His death wasn’t unexpected–but the timing was. I had thought we would have David around for a while longer…

David was a distant cousin. We had known each other for years and claimed each other as family, even though the relationship was about 3rd or 4th generation. But he was family.

In recent years, David was a support in a different way. He was serving as president of GALA (Gay and Lesbian Acceptance), and when my husband finally admitted to himself and to me that he is bisexual, we began to develop a different relationship with David as we began getting involved with this organization that supports LGBT folks who desire to stay connected with our faith tradition…and which is trying to bridge the gap between church and community.

David was a couple of years younger than me, and that may be part of the reason why his death has shaken me. You’re not supposed to be this young when you die! I know, I’ve seen other obituaries for people in their 60s, including some individuals I graduated from high school with…but they weren’t people who were family. This death is too close to home.

You’re gone too soon, David. We need your passion, your humor, your caring… But now you’ve left it to us.

Rest in peace, my friend.

I want her back…

Last night we went over to my mom’s to play games. It’s something we’ve done for years–long before my dad died.

My mom lives in a nursing home, in the assisted living section. It’s been a good move for her–her friends were all there, and it was a place where she could be safe.

She still plays the game reasonably well. There’s some mistakes periodically–but at almost 91 years of age, those are allowed.

The bigger problem is the dementia we’re seeing develop. I don’t know how much longer she’ll be able to stay in her assisted living apartment. Right now she’s okay as long as nothing throws her routine, but down the road I can see a move to skilled nursing.

Yesterday afternoon when I called her to remind her that we were coming over (something we need to do regularly–and then she doesn’t always remember), I felt like I was in the Abbot and Costello conversation “Who’s on First?”

Our conversation went like this:

Me: Mom, Aunt D’s back in town so I just wanted to remind you that we’ll be over for games tonight.

Mom: Oh, that’s lovely! But I don’t know if Dorothy’s back in town…

Me: Yes, we just talked to her yesterday, and she’s back in town.

Mom: So will Dorothy be here?

Me: Yes, we’ll all be there.

Mom: Have you talked to Dorothy?

Me: Yes, that’s how I know she’s back in town.

Mom: Oh…Dorothy’s back in town?

Me: Yes, she got back yesterday.

Mom: I’ll be glad to see you. Will Dorothy be coming?

Me: Yes, Mom. Aunt D will be there.

Mom: Oh, she’s back in town?

You get the idea!

I think watching her slip away bit by bit is the hardest part of watching her age. Sometimes I rage at God–I don’t want to lose her mentally before we completely lose her. But I can’t control that.

I want her back…want the mother who was always on top of things…the woman who was a stronger woman than she gave herself credit for. I want back the mother who engaged in intelligent conversations about what she had read…the people she had visited with.

But that’s not what I have now. I have a mother who is sometimes fearful because she can’t always make sense of what is going on…who at times knows that she’s losing her mental sharpness…who will read the same couple of pages in the same book for a month and still not know that she’s read any of it…who is really cocooning herself in her room and not attending activities she always used to enjoy.

I try to enter into her reality–good advice my cousin gave me. But it is so hard–especially when at times I’m not sure where the entrance is into that reality.

I want her back…but I know that’s not possible.

So I guess what I really want is to have the patience to love her and mother her as she loved and mothered me when I know I drove her nuts.

A year of giving thanks…

A little over a year ago I caught part of a news story on the TV while I was at the dentist…just enough to know that some guy had decided to write a letter of thanks every day for a year.

The idea intrigued me, so I decided that 2011 would be my year for doing that. I thought briefly about using email, but that didn’t feel right. If I was really going to focus on this project, I needed the discipline of actually sitting down and writing with pen in hand.

But 365 notes?!?! How on earth was I going to come up with that many names?

I made a list of people I knew I wanted to say thank you to–about 30 names. I figured I’d just have to really work hard on coming up with the other 330…or trust!

I’ve now finished this year’s project…and have been truly blessed.

Yes, I went through my initial list–but not in the first 30 days. Other names found themselves interspersed with that initial list. When I started really paying attention, it was surprising how names came to my mind–and why.

Some were people I’ve known for years–who’ve impacted my life in significant ways, but I’d never told them that. Some were coworkers–paid and volunteer. Some were simply friends. A couple were the children of someone who had died before my project started. But a number were individuals I met in the course of daily activities who did something that I felt needed to be acknowledged…some waitresses or other service people.

As I look back over my list, I’ve been surprised at another fact. I had assumed that probably there would be a number of repeats, and I was okay with that. But out of the 365, I think there are probably only between 5-10 notes that have gone to the same person a couple of different times.

I wasn’t looking for any response. That’s not why I started the project.

Some did respond, though–and let me know that the note touched them in significant ways, sometimes bringing healing…other times reminding them that they are people of worth.

Am I going to do the same thing for 2012? No, I don’t think so–at least not as intensely and intentionally. But I am going to continue to try to be sensitive to people who touch my life–and let them know, even if it doesn’t end up being every day.