Thursday, February 25, 2010

am i really writing a post about how someone unfriended me on facebook?

i was defriended on facebook recently. i like to think i'm more mature than i am, but the truth is that this defriend really bothered me. and i find myself, weeks later, still pretty upset. so i guess some back story would help . . .

i've talked very little about what i was actually doing in the grand canyon in the first place. back in college, i went there with A Christian Ministry in the National Parks. i was there with 16 awesome people. we lead worship services on the rim of the canyon, in the woods, we struggled with community and our differences as christians - but we all loved one another, deeply. all of us. we all connected, in some way, and respected one another. we treated each other with dignity. we talked openly, we struggled openly, but we always loved and listened and tried.

so this past summer, i decided to go again. i was supposed to be a "leader" but because of some trivialities, i ended up not having that role, formally. there were 18 of us there. the group was very quickly split between the drinkers and the non-drinkers and the people in between. i, personally, often felt very excluded by a group of boys who seemed to have more "conservative" ideas than me. i say, "seem" because in reality, i don't think either sides really ever came to really understand what the other side thought/believed. i never felt like i fit in with them, like they were open to me, or even interested in anything about me. like, i doubt if they even know my last name. i remember trying very hard. sitting with them, even when i could tell they didn't want me to sit with them, asking them questions even when they ignored me, going out of my way to be around them - even when i could tell they sort of maybe just didn't like me. i still tried to respect them and love them even when i'd hear the awful things they'd say about me behind my back - i'd even approach them and tell them i forgave them - and they'd still lie to my face. i said some mean things too, i won't deny that, but i will also say that i tried hard - harder than them - to love them, know them, understand them.

there were fights. there was yelling. there were awkward meetings. boys called girls "sluts" behind their backs. they were told not to "associate" with us. i once sat down with one of the boys for lunch and another one walked past and text messaged him, "i want to sit down with you, but i can't because she's there." i was yelled at by a boy - i mean, anger. i've never been yelled at by a man. and i had the nerve to apologize to him after he yelled at me. and honestly, i've never been a person who ever thought she was "right" and someone was "wrong" in their beliefs - i think i'm one of the most open-minded people i know, especially when it comes to belief and faith. i didn't care that they thought i might go to hell because i was 24 and drank beer sometimes, i didn't care that they read the bible literally, i didn't care that our "beliefs" were radically different - i knew that we could still be friends, members of a body and family. because we could have been - Jesus says so - because i've experienced love, forgiveness, reconciliation in community before. but, i have to say this:

in the end, we will be judged by our love. not by how much beer we drank. period.
and if you believe that i am a bad "witness" because i drink, this is my news for you: no one cares how much i beer or gin and tonic i drink. but they do care about how well i love my neighbor, the stranger, my enemy, by how well i love the "other." and i'm not perfect at this. but i'm going to chose to waste my energy on this. waste my time and energy on getting to know and love my neighbor, and the strangers and the outcasts and even . . . the people who hate me, judged me, condemn me, yell at me, talk about me and my friends behind my back, make fun of me and disrespect me. i'm not going to waste my time condemning people who are imperfect, people who drink, i'm not going to waste my time making them feel like outcasts, making them feel unloved - and i'm certainly not going to hurt them for the sake of a man who IS LOVE.

towards the end, there were small signs of peace. a long, awesome talk on a trip to flagstaff with nate, a few good talks with mike, mutual love, respect, understanding and forgiveness with elijah, and a last night dinner of hot wings and pizza with brady - he invited me! once they all left, and i was still in the canyon for a few months, i felt . . . okay. it wasn't great, it wasn't even good, but things ended fine.

and so i got defriended by one of them. and it brought back all of these feelings again. i watched my friends cry because of how much they were hurt. i heard people doubt God because of how they were treated in that community. i heard people give up hope. and i don't know how this story ends, except maybe in gratitude. that it's over. that i get to go to a church and be part of communities (believing and non-believing) that know that to know God is to love people. to respect people. to listen to people. to serve them. to consider them more important. to be humble. to wash their feet. to confront them in love and with dignity. to see people as precious gifts; beloved.

and so, here's my peace. you, who defriended me on facebook, are His beloved. and i believe that you are loved, and valuable, smart and important. i enjoyed your company, i like you as a person. you threw rocks at skunks at the campsite to keep them from getting into my tent. you invited me to dinner. you even paid, i think. that one time you gave a sermon on Mary and Martha - i thought it was awesome. and you did some awful things to me - and to the people around me - you said some awful things. you made me cry. you made me feel worthless. you ignored me. you left me out. but i still think you are fantastic, in so many ways. i still think you're a good man, i still think i have things to learn from you, i still believe that you are no less than me. and i don't know a lot about heaven, but i think that some day, you and i will look at one another and we won't see any of the hurt or differences - there will only be peace and love. and if your feet were dirty from a dusty road, i'd like to think i'd still wash them.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

the smiles returns to her face?

i was driving home yesterday from work on bigelow blvd. it was almost dark. the smoke was billowing out of some of the stacks on the northside. i could see the river. the snow was black and ugly. the lights of the city were shining. it had nothing to do with the city - but i smiled.

the first smile since moving home that had no cause. things, therefore, are looking up.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

new job

i remember walking into the room. you were sitting at a table, peacefully. the rest of the room was wild - i was overwhelmed myself. i was the new kid. the insecurities came rushing back to me - are my clothes okay? how does my hair look? are they going to like me? am i going to make friends? you were sitting there with your hands folded - you seemed safe. i sat down across from you. your finger nail paint was chipped - it made me happy to see that someone had taken the time to pain your nails. i asked you about them. you told me your mom had painted them. and then you told me my hair was nappy and that i needed to brush it.

i started a new job on monday. and i think i like it. but i find myself missing the kids at the hill house more than ever. i can't seem to get ty'asia thomas out of my mind. i can't seem to get rid of her face when i wake up, go to work, drive home and go to sleep. i guess i just miss her. and i miss that job. it seems like nothing will ever really replace it. i was young, too young, to be doing my job. i was often overwhelmed, and always underpaid, but appreciated and loved by the kids, their parents, my boss and the people who worked for me. i think about mr. fred and ms. marcia - they were my team. both older than me by at least 30 years. i'm learning how rare it is in the education field to actually work with people who really, really love kids. i remember us sitting together and crying when we'd find out that another one of our kids was beat so bad they couldn't come to school, i remember mr. fred bringing in coats he got at the salvation army for our kids - and he even got one for me, a nice one, for when i started student teaching, i remember sitting with ms. marcia and she'd talk, and i'd listen. i remember stuffing the extra snacks and food and drinks into our kids backpacks so that we knew they'd have dinner. i remember going to the swimming pool with them and playing for hours.

and i remember ty'asia. her infectious kindness. her unwavering loyalty. i asked her one time if she remembered the first thing she said to me. she said, "that you were beautiful?" and i said, "no, you told me my hair was nappy." she apologized. when i told her i was leaving the job to start student teaching, she cried a lot. i asked her what i'd taught her - "that i'm beautiful, and nice, and smart and that i'm going to be something good." and so we cried together. over that year, i'd fallen in love with so many of those kids - and their names are written on my heart. nancy jackson, david bell, timothy walls, demar and jamar, dj, mya grant, keith harris, kiera garner, martel hedge, samual foster, nina & naomi, keyshawn and over so many other years more names have been written - kenny, quentin, kashawn davis, d'eondre stewart, dolly, francis.

my favorite part of the day was always driving them to their homes in the projects. i liked knowing they were safe. i liked talking to them in the van. on my last day, i made sure to drop ty'asia off last. she lived on chauncey court. i pulled up to her building. her christmas lights were shining. she was wearing the new blue coat we got for her at the salvation army. she was chubby, so the coat hardly zipped up. when we first gave her the coat, she started jumping up and down screaming because she was so happy. i remember watching her back as she walked away. her backpack, her coat, her little beads - and i remember her stopping. with the sort of purpose, and almost shock that i thought something was wrong. she turned around and looked at me and screamed, "miss laura!" and i was worried, "ty'asia, what is it? is everything okay?" and she looked at me, and paused, "thank you." and then she turned around and ran inside.

i drove home in the dark. the snow was coming. the black birds flew over my head as i crossed the bloomfield bridge.