Nov 17, 2015

Saving the World

"It's funny: I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools - friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty - and said 'do the best you can with these, they will have to do'. And mostly, against all odds, they do." 
— Anne Lamott

As I poured a second cup of coffee, swirling the cream around with my spoon, it suddenly occurred to me that it's already mid-November. I looked out the window at the rain coming down in sheets, loud and insistent, at the leaves covering the ground in mix of bright yellows and dull browns. It's nearly the end of the year, and like every year, I wonder how we got here so quickly.

Immediately after those thoughts, another thought came: Paris. I keep coming back to it, like so many others. Somehow, I'm still a little surprised each time things like this happen. I've been reading profiles of the victims, imaging the families who lost someone, trying to make sense of something that will never be fathomable to sane people. Tragedy after tragedy we jump, from one breaking news story to the next.

The end of the year is upon us, and it is too easy for me to look at those stories and sum it all up in a defeated sigh. It's been a hard year in many other ways, too. A friend I've known since I was 5 years old had twin baby girls born prematurely, and while one is still in the NICU, I attended the memorial service for the other. As I sat in the wooden church pew, looking at her sweet picture, my tears fell as much as in anger as in sadness, because something like that isn't fair, and shouldn't happen. Paris shouldn't have happened, nor should the hundreds of other mass shootings this year, every year. My health has been a bit of a mess lately, and it pales in comparison to what others I know are struggling with right now. Our state is six months into the fiscal year without a budget, without heating/electricity assistance for the poor, with people losing jobs, with no help for disabled and elderly people. As all these thoughts circled in my mind, I had to put my mug of coffee down and wipe my eyes. None of this makes sense. It doesn't even feel like a reality.

I looked up at Millie and Walter. Someone is dancing and singing on Sesame Street, and they're giggling and paging through books, oblivious to all I'm worried about this morning. I'm constantly astonished at how beautiful they are, and how beautiful people like them can even exist in this kind of world. Sometimes it feels like God is reminding me of what I have to be grateful for, because their light shines through the bleakest times.

At age 31, I have so much yet to learn. One thing I am learning, perhaps the hard way, is that I have to count my blessings where I can. Not in a blindly optimistic, Pollyanna way, but in a deeply grateful, even reverent way. In a way that clings to everything I've been graciously given because those things are little life rafts from God in a wildly stormy sea. Because I think that's the only act of defiance I have, and maybe how good wins in the end. To sing "It is Well" despite it all.

So here I am, clinging to the life rafts of those two little souls, of a husband who lets me order pizza when I feel bad, of this small miracle of warm coffee held close to my chest, of Sunday sermons, of good books. I'm clinging to the last flowers of the year my dad gave me from his garden, a big bunch of green with yellow and orange blooms. I'm clinging to the visit from my mom soon, and how we'll laugh until we cry next to the glow of a mismatched, multicolored Christmas tree with an angel looking over the whole room. I'm clinging to Walter's hugs and whispers of "you're my sweetheart" from this blonde little boy with the widest blue eyes I've ever seen. I'm clinging to Millie's excitement after choir practice, and how smart she is, how it blows me away sometimes. I'm clinging to the sight of her shaking an elderly man's hand and thanking him for his service in the military, and a beautiful song that I can't stop playing. I'm clinging to the smallest of things, like the soothing, sweet smell of a candle burning steadily, and how smooth my sheets feel when I finally wrap up in them at night, and the dance party that's happening in my living room right now.

Will dance parties and soft sheets and flowers save the world? No. Not really.

But maybe, just a little. Maybe it's enough grace for the day.

And when I slow my breathing and inhale the good for just a moment, I realize that grace for one day at a time is really all any of us need. One day after one day after one day at a time, the world is saved.
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