I left working at our church almost three months ago because as much as I loved the people I and the place, my heart was being pulled elsewhere. I felt a pull back INTO my own community. Out of offices and into a place where opportunities would arise to actually be WITH people. When the opportunity came to work at my favorite, local store with people I adored, I jumped. Okay, maybe it was more like a little kid going off the diving board for the first time (I think this is going to be amazing and just what I want it to feel like, but I’m a little scared to leave the security of this thing called land) but I did jump and it was exactly what I wanted it to be.
My heart is happy with all kinds of people, all of the time. And, they are my people. Not because we are all alike, some are, some aren’t, but they all live in my town, my mountain community, so that makes them mine. I’m happy to be the first to say it because I know we are all thinking it – people are weird. Even my people. Some of the requests they have, comments they make, they way they look… but it’s kind of what makes my work so fun, weird people. I can’t imagine going in later this afternoon and everyone being the same. Everyone looking and acting like me. Gah. That would be awful.
I’m reading through the Bible this year and yesterday I was in John. A repeated phrase is something along the lines of “love all.” In fact, love everyone so that they know you’re mine (Jesus talking here). Not, “love the ones that think and act like you.” Not, “love your own race but by all means disregard others.” Not, “love the ones that smell good but not the stinky.” Not, “love the ones that don’t annoy you.” None of that. In fact in John 15:17 it says this, “This is my command: Love each other.” I don’t see any qualifiers.
Man, we are screwing this one up.
Midway through my day yesterday a lady came in. By all appearances she was your typical Evergreen lady, put together, in style and adorable. I asked her how she was doing and her reply was “okay.” It was a response people don’t typically throw out. Most don’t want anyone pushing in so they keep it safe at “fine” or “good.” I said something like, “I hope your day can move from “okay to great” and that’s when it happened. Tears kind of filled her eyes as she said she didn’t think it would because she had just had her second child diagnosed with cancer. Not as in her second in birth order, as in BOTH children now carried that awful diagnosis. Daughter is in remission and now the son was just diagnosed. I was dumbfounded. I’m not sure what kind of response you’re supposed to have to that, but I immediately started praying that mine wouldn’t be trite. She moved through the store grabbing all the things because he loves to cook and she was just trying to find anything to help lift his spirits, he is two weeks away from turning 16.
When she came to check out there was someone behind her but I just kind of whispered, “I bought your berry bowls for you, think of it as a ‘I’m so sorry this sucks gift’ and know that I’m praying that God would bring healing to your family.” Maybe, just maybe when she sees those berry bowls on her counter she will think about me praying for her, or maybe she will just see raspberries. I’ll never know. I just did what I could, which wasn’t much.
When I got home last night, more conversations on the deck with my boys about events that had taken place in our nation… events that seem unfathomable in this day and age, but perhaps only seem that way to me because I’m white. My friends that aren’t will tell you these talks have been a part of their dialogue from day one. My mind raced back to John and that one simple command, “Love each other.” I begged them to love all people, ALL people, no qualifiers. And then I begged them to do something tangible about that love and stand up for all people, ALL people, no qualifiers.
Everyone needs a little more love today. That’s what I’m learning and trying to impress on my boys as well. Maybe that love is buying berry bowls as a reminder that you “see” that person and what they are walking through, even if you can’t understand first hand. Maybe it’s having the hard conversations about race and asking friends what one tangible thing is your family can do to help bring peace and love to a very hurting community. We are running after it. We can’t sit around and pretend that things are okay when they are very much not. My heart was pulled back into my community for a reason and it’s a pretty simple one, love them. All of them. And teach my boys to do the same.