Today was going to be the day. This was going to be the day that I turned away from the stark realism, bordering on pessimism, of my most recent posts and affirmed the goodness of the world. I was going to talk about beauty and truth and goodness. I was going to talk about hope and faith.
Then the charges were dropped against the last three officers involved in Freddie Gray’s homicide and I felt myself being pulled back into what MLK called the pit of despair. I felt my mood souring and the desire was building to shoot lighting bolts through my fingers, Emperor Palpatine style, into the computer and rail against all of the injustice. I would be justified in doing so. And trust me, I will, but I realize that today more than ever is the day that I personally need to write about the good in the world. So I’m sticking with Plan A.
This weekend, after a transportation snafu involving keyless ignition (seriously, if you engineers are so smart, I shouldn’t be able to drive two hours away from my keys!), I left early Saturday morning to get to Pittsburgh to be with my kids. We had a full day of Tae Kwon Do practice (rehearsal?), Target shopping (at Target not for targets), and playing at the pool. In between we went to see Finding Dory. The short before the film was called Piper, a cute little story about a baby sandpiper learning to get food for herself. While the message of overcoming fears rang through loud and clear for me, I couldn’t help but be most impressed by how absolutely beautiful the film was. It was simply visually stunning. The rendering of the sand, the water, and the birds was just exquisite. We’ve actually begun to take for granted what the artists at Pixar can do. The movie that followed was a delightful experience that my kids and I enjoyed in equal measure; a truly rare occurrence.
Afterwards we went to the pool. I love watching my kids play! They totally lose themselves in laughter and singing. They are uninhibited. They play well together and they are considerate of those playing around them. Raising them continues to give me hope that I am helping to usher two pretty high functioning members of society into the world. They also help me see something that I can so easily miss; as ugly as the world can be at times, it is still worth fighting for.
Did you see Michelle Obama’s DNC speech? If not, take a minute and check it out. Besides FLOTUS’ overall fabulousness, the thing that stuck out for me from this speech was her emphasis on Sasha and Malia. Now, I’m aware that talking about “making the world better for our kids” is a pretty well worn political strategy, but it deeply resonated with me. There was a hopefulness and an optimism to her approach that I found compelling. I think of what she’s endured over the last eight years, the hatred against her husband, her children, and herself. Her optimism feels like more than just political theater. Mrs. Obama, probably more than anyone else, had a front row seat to the slow, incremental process of making change in this world. She watched her husband try to do what he could against unparalleled opposition and while having to be pragmatic when some of us would have liked him to be more radical. I think she gets the worthiness of the struggle, both historically and now. Listening to her makes me want to struggle on.
The night after hanging out with kids I hung out with a friend I hadn’t seen in years. We’ve remained in contact on Facebook, but it’s maybe been a decade since we saw each other face to face. He let me crash on his couch, took me out for a couple of beers, and then we came back to his place and smoked cigars and drank whiskey next to a fire that he built with a speed that would make any scout envious. It was a great night. Over the fire we talked about areas of spiritual growth in our lives and I realized how much I miss those kinds of conversations. Sure, I have lots of pastor friends, but we often talk about the mechanics of doing ministry and less about the areas of spiritual struggle and growth that we experience. It was good to have someone with whom I could connect on that level. He also offered to help me if I need assistance affording a conference I expressed some interest in attending. This friend and I don’t always see eye-to-eye on politics, but it was a great reminder that good people don’t need to agree on everything to be good to each other. It was also a reminder that while politics have real world consequences, it’s at the level of personal relationships where real life is experienced and where change and growth happen.
I came home the next day to my garden. Ah, I love my garden! The sunflowers have gotten tall and unruly. The tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini are producing fruit. Bees are buzzing around the pollinator garden on the side. Life is happening. Here I connect with the cycles of life, death, and rebirth that surround us and I’m reminded of the small part I play in keeping it all going. I’m reminded that if nothing else, at least I can plant flowers and in that way, I can be on the side of life and beauty.
The world is filled with injustice. It is run by systems of domination that dehumanize and enslave us. We can’t afford to be silent about the effect those systems have on us. But we also need to be reminded from time to time what it is we’re fighting for: our kids and their futures, truth and beauty, friendship and community. These are the things that I care about, the things that make life worth living. These things are not the domain of one part of the population but the God-given right of every person. There is goodness in this world and it is worth fighting for.
A special thank you to Joshua Dunham, Hugh Hollowell, and Doug Hagler for supporting me. If you liked what you read here, you can contribute a $1 to my writing here.