Yesterday, I was sitting on the couch with my pink leather-like jacket zipped all the way to the top. It is a boxy cut and by no means a tight fit. Sounds like I am making excuses already, I know. I leaned forward to grab my hot cup of tea and suddenly the zipper started to undo from the bottom. “Oh dear”, I thought as I tried to zip it back down. Oh double dear, the steal was not budging one iota! With the zipper half way down to the point where it stopped separating from the bottom; I wriggled out of it. I have fixed many a zipper in my time, but this looked like I would have to have it replaced. With one more push on the zipper head, I could hear a faint pop, and I felt it move just one tooth down. Okay, a hundred more teeth to go, but maybe I can do this? It took and hour with several breaks to give my sore thumb a rest. What is the lesson I kept wondering, but the only thought that came was, “Zip a Lip”. My mom used to say it, and then I have said it to a thousand children in my teaching career. I have to admit that my questions and concerns for my daughter have been on overdrive the last few weeks. We have covered many subjects and discussed strategies until I fall asleep exhausted every night at 8:30. Now it must be time to “Zip a Lip” and just live. My daughters have advised me on occasion and I know it is just as important to listen to them as it is to cast forth all my wisdom and reminders. I am lucky they are so easy to talk with and it is so fun to laugh at ourselves together. And also, I am lucky my hubby does not give me the “Stifle yourself, Edith”, speech that Archie Bunker was so famous for. Why mothers like to micro manage their children, or why we feel that everyone should think like we do is most likely self-centered. If we put God at the center, there is a greater peace in daily living. So, if our zipper should break or if we say more than we should; it can be repaired with patience and humility. Tomorrow, I shall wear the jacket with buttons.
Yesterday, I saw a wonderful example of fearless during a walk in the city with my daughter. It was a child that took us by surprise as we neared a corner of a large grey stone cathedral. She came around the corner ahead of her mother and stopped right in front of us and looked right at us with her big brown three year old eyes and said, “Hello”. Of course we said, “Hello”, right back as her mother came around the corner and walked by smiling. Then this precious bundle with a Hello Kitty hat and a kaleidoscope of color jacket zipped to her chin, ran to Hannah and threw her arms around her knees for a big hug. I was astonished at her boldness and sweetness and naturally hoped I would get a hug too. I did not have to ask. She then hopped over to me for a big bear hug as her mama waited. Wow, we were charmed by her enthusiasm and love. In a place where the sky is as grey as the buildings and the cold temperatures keep us inside most of the day, it is a delight to have these moments that blossom into a ray of sunshine that outshines the sun. A hug is so personal. One can melt into another person, or reassure them with a simple side hug to the shoulders. That touch can heal someone who is hurting, or it can speak volumes without words. Scientists have determined we need ten hugs a day just for general health and I have a few friends that give hugs that feel like twenty all in one. Yes, Lisa, Mary, Michelle,Camille, I am talking about you! What does it mean to get a hug from a stranger, especially if it is unsolicited ( because I do get plenty of them when I wear my “free hugs” pin)? Is it an angel visit, is it a message from God that he is smiling down on us, is it a rare gift because our heart was open and ready to give and receive love? Maybe all of these. Maybe that is why I have been given this precious time with Hannah the hugger who was not unlike that little girl, and still gives me big squeezes when I least expect them. It is such a good reminder that we are appreciated and cared for. As we boldly look at the needs of others we may see many people with whom we would hesitate to even shake hands; and embracing with our whole self seems unthinkable. They are the ones who need this free gift most. If you cannot picture hugging a scruffy old man in a nursing home or a child in a cancer care unit, I could not either. I pray the Lord will give us courage to go where others fear. Just this morning, my friend Stevie posted a thought to Facebook that said, “Do it afraid”. Fear can slow us down, but don’t let it stop you from doing what is right and good. Be fearless my friends and let the world of unknown possibilities open to you. I would love to hear the ways you have left your comfort zone and crossed the line into courage. “If I can, you can!”
Yesterday, I did not sleep well with the noise of snow plows scraping the pavement, the sirens of the ambulances echoing off the concrete walls in the corridor of South Salina Street, and the busses rumbling and backfiring right across the road. There is such a cacophony of sounds in the city it is a wonder we don’t get a headache from this daily barrage. This sleeplessness apparently affected my motor skills too. I had a day of the dropsies where I was slopping the salad I was serving on the table, spilling soup on the stove and the grand finale was fumbling a package of blueberries that hit the floor with enough force to send them rolling across the entire room. We keep finding a stray blueberry every time we get on the floor for exercise. No, I did not throw them all out. I rinsed them all and then boiled them in a pot to make a wonderful syrup for our oatmeal. I can’t stand to waste good food. I know I have caused Hannah some concern as she grips my arm snugly on our daily walks through the slush on the curbs and the icy skating rink sidewalks. She may see signs of me aging that are unexpected. At the same time, I see signs of her maturity that I rather enjoy, such as the sharing of all responsibilities. So, back to the cacophony; which when you break down to “caco” and “phony”, it means really bad and unbelievable or unreal. These noises sometimes penetrate our dreams and become nightmarish. My friend Lorna suggested earplugs. The lesson, however, is that in a world where we are constantly being pummeled by the “noise” of others, we must learn to block it out. Negative talk and false accusations follow us into the subconscious realm and affect our ability to be ourselves. Gossip is counterproductive and criticism can be demoralizing, but this noise tends to be as constant as the urban traffic at noon. We may not be able to stop the noise but we can filter it with positive platitudes in return. Constructive ideas instead of wrecking ball words will more likely to put others on a peaceful path. Ear plugs may not be an answer for me because I have a hard enough time understanding the people I need to hear. We don’t want to ignore all the noise when something beautiful is trying to break through with an important message. At noon the church bells start ringing. They stopped me in my tracks the first time and reminded me that harmonious sounds from above are like a prayer. We are called to be a people of prayer and not noise makers. Let’s be fearless with our prayers in the midst of all the noise. I know I will be less likely to drop things if my hands are clasped together in thankfulness.
Yesterday marks one week of downtown life in Syracuse. My daughter Hannah and I are here for the semester and we are feeling settled in a furnished apartment. We’ve developed a routine and met several residents we greet by name, as well as several shop keepers along South Salina Street. We are across from the bus station and in an area known as the Mission District, so I immediately realized I needed a mission. Everyday we venture outside and see several people in front of the building who appear jobless or underprivileged. Are they my new mission? Maurice, the part time security guard, has cautioned us not to get chummy with those who loiter, because this was once a hot spot for drug transactions. Far be it from me to recognize a dealer, even though our quaint Ashtabula Harbor in Ohio has seen those troubles as well. Hannah and I have already witnessed two men wrestling in the snow- which ended quickly when I asked a shop keeper to call 911. Nevertheless, most people we walk past either smile and nod or avoid eye contact. Some make remarks which sound friendly to me. When the blizzard hit we thought about staying indoors, but instead, Hannah and I went out with extra gloves to offer warmth to the frozen bystanders. How can we ignore the urging of the Holy Spirit? Two men eagerly accepted them and one gave us a big hug and asked what he owed. “No charge” was our response. We then walked down a couple blocks to a convenience store and bought six more pairs of gloves (and, yes, two lottery tickets). We are now on a mission to help warm the hands of the homeless and the needful. When insulated fleece cost only three-fifty, it is a small price for kindness. Yesterday, Hannah and I walked to the Rescue Mission Offices two blocks away and officially signed up as volunteers. They offer meals, clothing, and housing on a daily basis for those who are desperate. You may be thinking like my husband, “Be fearless but not foolish”, and I am working on that one. At first every person, even Maurice and Freddy, the super, gave me pause. Now, I can’t help but look at each face and wonder if the “street people” are the ones often referred to by Jesus. I am finding my sense of “place” in the neighborhood and pray for wisdom on this walk. If you are feeling cold this winter, give me a call; we’ve got some extra gloves.
Yesterday was New Year’s Eve, and of course I was asking everyone what resolutions they were making for 2016. Diet and exercise are never on any lists in my family, but one thing we all agree on is more laughter no matter what the situation. Yes, even when we are sick or sad, a joke or humorous look at the problem at hand can turn the focus to the positive side. I know I should resolve to pay more attention to the tasks at hand so that I will not be plagued by goof ups and gaffes. If you have been reading my weekly reflections you know that a week does not go by without a blunder, and this past week was no exception. In my effort to help my children move into a new house, I was trying to be careful not to break things as we rearranged furniture and fragile articles. After feeling rather satisfied with the progress, I went out side to enjoy a little sunshine and gardening. Oddly, it was my removal of dead grass beside the walkway to the front door that caused a minor flood stream during the first downpour of rain. We all agreed that a gutter might be needed as we watched a waterfall spill right in the middle of the archway leading to the front porch. Apparently, that layer of dead grass that was not even rooted was holding a smidgen of topsoil and an inch of sand in place. Now I had a problem to fix- a project to landscape the side beds by the front walk. My immediate thought was garden stone to match the pavers and mulch. After my industrious husband stopped at three nurseries we found what I had in mind. Crimson red river stone now graces both sides of the walk to the approval of my children. They may add succulent plants in the future, but for now the stones provide a tasteful and finished look. What strikes me is that a fragile layer of dried unrooted grass was holding the soil together. Don’t we all have someone in our family that does exactly that? An elderly grandmother, a shy sister, an unassuming son perhaps, who act as a glue between all the strong and assertive personalities, quietly helping and holding the family ties so they don’t unravel during chaotic times. Thank you to all of you sweet souls who have wisdom that no one seems to pay attention to, and a purpose that is so essential but seemingly unimportant. You are a deeply loved minority of overlooked introverts in a world where so many people are elbowing to the front to be noticed. I resolve to notice and acknowledge your worth forevermore and not to relegate you to the compost pile ( which of course has tremendous value when given time). Without the soft spoken intuitive people, we could all be washed down the stream of pop culture and trendy ideas. In the meantime, I am praying those rocks will hold.