Saturday, June 15, 2013

Moving From the Sidelines to Active Participant

 I had big plans for this weekend. And by big, I mean HUGE. The weatherman has been warning of endless wind and rain, huge accumulations of water and even flooding in areas. So, I have three books lined up, a full tin of coffee and time to write. I was planning on recharging my energy by cocooning into my little writing corner and reading with caffeinated joy for hours on end.

It's not how this day has gone down. I think it all started with a new-to-us trampoline that arrived in our backyard yesterday afternoon. It's huge and sturdy - one of those old school trampolines we had when men were men and safety nets weren't invented yet. The kind we held sleepovers on and put soapy water on despite the trampolines tilted angle on a steep backyard hillside. A few launches into the typical west coast bark mulch and cedar shrubs did little more than spur us on to go higher with just an angry red rash for our efforts.

So, this morning, in a downpour, Jason and I were daring our boys to go outside and jump in the rain and enjoy the new trampoline. They barely rolled their eyes at us nevermind disengaging from the couch attached to their backsides. I took it upon myself to encourage them by going out there myself and having a few celebratory jumps in the torrential rain. They remain unmoved but I have to say, it was energizing for me. I'm still maintaining that our back neighbour was not coming out to watch me, I believe he was checking the rising water level in his backyard. At least, that's what his worried expression told me.

So, after breakfast, the boys and Jason went to see the new Superman movie. I passed on the obligatory invitation they gave me and decided to spend the afternoon as planned, caffeinated and creatively cocooned. A simple glance at Twitter (curse you technology) reminded me that it was Pride Week here in Saskatoon. It's been niggling at me all week to somehow show support for the gay community, particularly those who are searching for equal rights in marriage. I simply haven't been able to put it out of my mind that we are living in an era in which two people, committed to each other as a family unit, are unable to be given the rights to each others' lives and deaths in an equal manner as heterosexual couples. It just doesn't sit well with me. I don't think it's about the word "marriage" or whether being gay is a choice or any other rhetoric. I think it's about human rights and equality. Anyways, I guess at best, I was thinking that putting something "pride friendly" on my facebook was going to be about as actively supportive as I was going to get today, given the weather.

So, I proceeded to make myself probably the greatest grilled cheese sandwich of all time. (If I do say so myself…and I do.)  Two thick slabs of sourdough, cream cheese, cheddar and feta melted together? Mmm and mmm. And if you think that I was energized on an empty stomach jumping on a wet trampoline, you have no concept of what that grilled cheese did to me. In fact, as I sat enjoying the beauty that was the sandwich of the century, I flipped through my messages and saw a map of the pride parade route. Hmmmph, I thought, with my mouth full of glorious goodness, I could at least put on my wellies and slicker and go stand and cheer on the parade? Never underestimate the motivational power of a killer sandwich.
Isn't that the least I could do? So…checking that I still had time, and I did, I proceeded to put on my rain gear, grabbed an umbrella and headed out to stand supportively on the side of the road, cheering on the parade.

When I arrived near where they were marshalling the parade, I walked along the still stationary parade of people looking for my friend, Cathy, and the AIDS Saskatoon float. I was just walking along when the parade started to move and so I walked a little faster and caught up with the float and asked where Cathy was. They told me that she wasn't walking, she was manning the booth back at the center. So, I went to step out to the sidewalk and suddenly the inner dialogue ensued. This isn't complete but it will give you some idea of the craziness that I'm challenged with internally on a day to day basis when I start stepping out of the cocoon plans.

"I could just walk with these guys, it doesn't mean I'm super activist gay." (whatever that is…I'm just reporting what is happening in my brain, peeps.)
"What if I get on the news or the front page of the newspaper?"
"What will my boss think"
"What will my husband think!"
"What will my ____________ (insert any known associate here from dental assistant to my grade 2 summer camp counsellor) think?"
"Why do I care what people think?"
"Isn't this where Jesus would be?"
"Isn't this much more actively loving than standing on the sidelines?"
"Isn't this the sort of thing I would want to be caught doing on a rainy, windy Saturday?"
"Why are gay men ALWAYS so freaking attractive and well dressed?"
(Again, just reporting the facts….not going to justify where my mind went!"

So, about a block into the walk and chatting with a couple women around me, I started to really just enjoy myself. I mean, how could you not surrounded by rainbow coloured EVERYTHING on a day that was doing it's best to invert every umbrella and render it useless?  And, how is it NOT love when you see couples of every race, gender and description just enjoying each others company, whether sitting in lawn chairs on the back of trailer or skipping hand in hand in multicoloured wigs?

See, this past week, I listened to a sermon that centered around Jesus' miracles and the fact that he was accessible and lived in proximity to those that needed His help. I felt some cosmic finger (that looked eerily like my Grade 5 teacher's)  pointing at my conscience when I heard the comment that in our culture, "success leads to the suburbs". I don't wear my suburban culture too proudly on the best of days. I find it challenging when I hear things about the culture that allows us to drive into our garages and close the doors behind us and not engage with those around us unless we choose to.

Well, today I chose to. Partly because of proximity…I mean, I was there anyway, right? And why sit on the sidewalk and cheer on a parade when you can actively participate? While I'm not saying that my participation changed a single thing for those around me who are struggling for rights and recognition on an equal footing…it changed things for me.  Because on the way home, the things rattling around my brain were things like:

"I can't wait to tell J and the boys what I did today while they were at the movies."
"I totally should have dragged ___________ along. (insert your name here).
"I hope Graham and Craig went home and said they were surprised to meet some suburban wife who walked with them for a while in the parade."
"I need to get out more."

But most of all, I hope that when I look back on today, I will see it as a starting point, when the challenge to "love not with words, but with actions and in truth…" began to be a daily reality in my life.

Friday, June 14, 2013

...and this....

So, one of the beautiful things about technology is waking up to a message from across the globe. While I was sleeping, Jason was working the night shift, and the rain poured down across the prairies, our dear Kristal was in the home of my friends, Dorothea and her children in Mulenga. I had told her to ask one of the care workers, Reuben, how Dorothea and her kids were getting along. I also wanted to know about the baby that Dorothea had been pregnant with when I last visited her in March.  Reuben told Kristal his heart couldn't rest until she met this family. So, Reuben took Kristal and they visited Dorothea and her little ones on my behalf. Kristal said she was all smiles, I can just see her. She's the most beautiful woman who should be on the pages of a magazine, not in a shanty town scraping for an existence. But that's my idea of fair...skewed as it is.

I woke up to this. This is Jesse. He's the newest member of a family that literally fills my thoughts daily. He's Eva's newest little brother and joins Natasha, Joshua and Calibo. He's gorgeous and overdressed (as all little African babies tend to be) and sweaty and here. I can't wait for my next visit to this little home. I miss them every single day.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


This little conversation made my day. And made me cry. And miss the kids we love so much in Zambia. Particularly this little sweetheart.

Kristal: Do you know Shelly?
Peggy: Head Nod
Kristal: Who is Shelly?
Peggy: Msungu
Kristal: Does she come to visit you?
Peggy: Head Nod
Kristal: Where is she?
Peggy: She stays in Luyansha.

Ah, if only Peggy...if only. I would come see you everyday if I lived just down the road, my girl.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Borrowed Words

I'm short on words these days. My heart feels more than a little tired. I have spent my moments thinking of and planning ways to get back to where I think my heart lives when it's not right here in the midst of Jason and the boys. Be aware, travellers, that if you give your heart to others far away, there is less of it to bring home. You have to figure out how to nurture it on two continents, as I do mine. It's changed me which means it has changed my life in many ways. Where I work. What I read. What I hear when the news is on in the background. Who I see when I'm in a crowded grocery store on a weekend. In changing me, it's both sharpened and softened my personality, my character and my ability to sit passively. I may sit for long periods in quiet, contemplation but it's not passivity. I will speak up but do my best not to speak out of turn. I will speak on behalf of others hopefully more than on my own behalf. There's loneliness that is involved in these changes. There's an urgency in things I do that wasn't there before but there's also a restfulness that won't indulge in busyness for the sake of being busy. I'm not sure what I feel is self-pity but there is a mournful nature to my thoughts when I think of my blissful ignorance.

I'm going to borrow words. Applicable but not mine.

Much that may one day be possible can already be prepared by the solitary individual, and built with his own hands which make fewer mistakes. Therefore love your solitude and bear the pain of it without self-pity. The distance you feel from those around you should trouble you no more than your distance from the farthest stars. be glad that you are growing, and realize that you cannot take anyone with you: be gentle with those who stay behind. Be confident and calm before them, and don’t torment them with your doubts or distress them with your ambitions which they wouldn’t be able to comprehend. Find in a true and simple way what you have in common with them, which does not need to change when you yourself change and change again. When you see them, love life in a from that is not your own, and be kind to all the people who are afraid of their aloneness

-Love the Solitude.
Worpswede, July 16, 1903
Letters to a young poet