Sunday, August 26, 2012

To Tear Down and To Be Built Back Up

I fled today.  With urgency and haste, I jumped in my car and drove.  I drove to a place where cows outnumber humans, where the sweet scent of manure and barn stalls prevail over industrial and automobile fumes, a place where silence lives.  I watched as the gray, billowing clouds changed shape ever so slightly with the breeze and broke up the light cascading, dancing, and streaming down onto the fields and trees around me.  I fled to find a physical place of peace but my thoughts were still with me.

When I  jumped in my car, on the way out of the city, I was burdened.  The only emotion I felt was confusion, but I wanted to feel angry.  Anger is more definite than confusion.  Anger is solid and justifiable; it is also something that can lead to healing.  I willed myself to feel angry and instead realized I was indifferent.  Everything felt meaningless.  Meaningless!  I had lost total faith in and loyalty toward humanity and since humanitarianism is the core of me, I was lost.

I turned on the car radio and these words rang out:
Give me your love for humanity; Give me your arms for the brokenhearted, the ones that are far beyond my reach.  Give me your heart for the ones forgotten.  Give me your eyes so I can see.
A sign?  Maybe this is meant to bring me peace.  It didn't.  I placed those words in my mental back pocket and kept driving until I no longer recognized cross streets.  I drove until I didn't care which direction would take me back home.  My only destination in mind was one out of cell phone range.  I reached an area where I could safely pull off of the two lane road and I did so.  I turned the hazard lights on and got out of my car and climbed through a gap in the fence line, into some stranger's pasture.  I sat, barefoot and windblown, for a long time.
 

Ecclesiastes 3 talks about seasons and specific times for certain emotions and circumstances.  A time to be born and a time to die, for example.  A time to mourn and a time to dance.  What could define this time, for me?  Does Ecclesiastes define a time to be confused and indifferent and hardened toward humanity?  The only verse I could think of that might encompass my current state was, a time to tear down {and a time to build up}.  I definitely felt as if I was being torn down.  If that was the case, then maybe sometime soon I would be built back up?  So, I remained seated on the warm ground, the tough grass and sharp springs of loose hay dug into my legs; I was content to be alone.

A truck pulled up behind my parked car and a man yelled, "Car trouble?"  He sounded unsure since I was just sitting in a pasture, yards away from my car.  

"Nope; I'm fine.  I'm a city girl and just needed to get away."  I didn't look at him.  I just stared at the sky.  Normally, I would have tried to really engage or assure him that I was fine.  I would normally deflect and mask my current state so he wouldn't know I was being torn apart on the inside, but I didn't care at that moment.  

"If you're sure that you're fine, I'm going to go, but. . ." But, you're not fine, is what he wanted to say.  He probably thought I was crazy and potentially dangerous.

"Okay,"  I wanted him to leave.  I wanted to sit there and just be silent but then I blurted, "You know, my friend's grandpa was murdered today.  You know?  I just need to sit out here, alright?"  

He gave awkward condolences and slowly drove away.  I was emotionless, but suddenly, once I knew he was gone, I felt the weight of what I had just verbalized.  Murdered.  Slowly and painfully starved to death.  

I sobbed and it was painful.  Each burst of emotion seemed to pull at the veins in my heart, straining, threatening to rip away and explode.  It wasn't gratifying at all; there was no real release in this outward show of emotion only more confusion.  I did not know Frank Sedlak, not for even one moment of my life.  The last ten days of his life are now so deeply imprinted on my brain, my heart, and my soul that I will never be the same.  I don't ever want to be the same.  

I was witness to a man being legally starved and dehydrated to death.  I fought, alongside his family, for his rights.  We called government agencies, signed petitions, begged and pleaded, educated. . .and no one would help.  No one in power would help, to be more specific.  Our hands are tied, they would say.  They defaulted to keeping law rather than compassion; rather than doing the right thing.  

It hit me then that I was mourning for the loss of this man because I care about his family members, who are my friends.  He obviously impacted his family positively, although I'm sure he had his shortcomings.  On behalf of him and his family, I had busied myself for ten days with doing everything I could to help fight for Frank Sedlak's basic human rights to receive food and water, despite the orders from his doctor and the compliance of his wife (guardian) and daughter (power of attorney) to the asinine orders.  When the news came, "Frank Sedlak passed away today" I realized that I had had hope and confidence that something would change.  That was the most disappointing of all.  The entire time, I had actually believed that someone from the local government would step in.  I had hope that the doctor, the guardian, the Power of Attorney would have a change of heart.  I had hope that a lawyer, a human rights activist, a news outlet, someone, would intervene and save his life.  No one did.  Their hands were tied.  His death is on their hands.

Today, I have no faith in humanity.  In 2012, in the United States of America, a man was denied food and water for ten days until he died.  Meaningless.  

I believe that good can come from anything and it is my hope that I see some good come from this.  Tonight, I don't know what that good can be. Maybe, for me, because I have been torn down, I will be built back up.   Maybe all involved in this situation will live their lives fighting for others and being intentional about always doing the right thing.  Maybe we will error on the side of compassion more so than we ever did in the past.  

I ask that you keep the family of Frank Sedlak in your prayers.  The extent of the pain and sadness they are experiencing is something I cannot imagine.  Pray that they will be built back up.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Most Romantic Thing Ever

The Most Romantic Thing Ever is subjective.

For some, the most romantic thing ever is being proposed to at a sporting event and having it captured on video and displayed on the huge screen at the stadium.  I don't find that romantic.  I stress for the girl every time I see something like that happen.  For most, receiving flowers is romantic.  It is.  I received some a couple weeks ago (and chocolate) and every time I glanced at the them throughout the week I smiled like an idiot, face resting on my hands, and I think I even sighed.

Receiving flowers is not the most romantic thing ever, though.  It's sweet.  It's so nice.  It's wonderful.   There's a reason, though, that people go into business selling flowers; because a lot of people find sending and receiving flowers to be romantic. So, while it IS romantic, it's not the most romantic thing EVER.  This became very clear to me earlier this week when I literally experienced the most romantic thing ever.

My day was busy, my day was stressful, and the result of that in me is snark.  He sweetly and jokingly offered to kidnap me from work to which I responded, "Nah.  Don't kidnap me, just bring me food."  It is widely known that I can become so caught up in work that I forget to eat or that I don't realize I'm hungry until about an hour before my work day is over.  So, while the idea of being kidnapped is fun, it would stress me out if it were to actually happen, even on my worst day, because I'm a coughworkaholiccough.  I appreciated the thought though. Knowing he was not in a position to kidnap me, let alone actually bring me food, I got back to work. That was at 10:50 AM.

At 11:02 I received the following text:  "Your food is on it's way."

Pause.

Internal dialogue:  What?   That's kind of mean to joke about food. . . He's not mean, though.  How is it possible that he is bringing me food?  It's not possible.

I continued with the confusing inner dialogue and then came right out and asked, "What?  How?"

And then the most romantic thing ever happened, via text message. (I typed this sentence picturing cartoon birds pooping glittery hearts while chirping the tune of some cheesy love song. . .okay actually they were specifically chirping You Make My Dreams Come True by Hall & Oates.  They may have also been choreographically flying. . .   I realize close friends and family don't recognize me right now!)

Me:  What?  How?

Him:  Smart phone and a debit card, all from the seat of a crane in Idaho.

Me:  What the what?  You're super amazing

Get ready for it . . .

Him:  So are you.  You deserve it.  They said it would be there shortly.  I hope it's ok.  It's a veggie sandwich from down the street.

Boom!  Most romantic thing ever!

Combining his very best creeper skills with a real desire to take care of me, he googled restaurants near my office that serve vegetarian sandwiches, ordered one, and had it delivered to me.  Not only that, but he also followed up to make sure I had utensils because he remembered that I don't like to eat with my bare hands. 

Face resting on hands.  Sigh.  And yes, I took a picture of the sandwich and the receipt because that's apparently how I roll now.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Grace for Geese: Saved by Witnesses

The only reason these geese are still alive is because of the long line of cars in the opposite lane, full of witnesses.  There were too many witnesses to make me comfortable enough to follow through with the overwhelming urge to plow right through this gaggle.

Think what you want about me, but I despise geese for numerous and very legitimate reasons.  In this particular moment, as I inched toward them trying to pressure them to move faster, I was also yelling, "For real?  You have WINGS!  FLY over the road!"  Alas, they chose, as they always do to waddle at the slowest possible pace, across the road.

Next time, geese, you won't be so lucky!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Use Words, Only If You Have To

I remember the first time I heard those words.  They were spoken from the pulpit.  After a very concise and, what I seem to remember dubbing as an awesome sermon, the minister ended with, "Preach Christ. And use words, only if you have to."

There have been times in my life when someone said something sort of profound and I immediately waved them off because what they said or recommended or eloquently stated did not match up with his or her life.  This man, though, lived this simple yet profound quote.  He lived it by simply loving people and making each individual feel special.

Yesterday, the world suddenly and unexpectedly lost this man, Bill, who preached Christ, mainly without words. He was one in a million.  He truly loved others.  He went out of his way to connect with people in the way that would effect them most or make them the most comfortable.  With me, he engaged in conversation one-on-one and quietly.  He did not bring loud attention to me and I loved that about him.  He was also hilarious and would start most conversations with me with some type of ridiculous statement, to break the ice, and then we would both laugh.

My first ever conversation with him was several years ago.  I had shared a testimony with the congregation during a church service.  Afterward, he was at my side in a flash!  He pulled me into the tightest, longest, most wonderful and unexpected hug I've ever experienced and then said, "I will never forget that testimony.  Thank you for sharing it and please continue to share it with others."  Since that time I have had sporadic conversations or quick greetings with him, in my heart knowing that he loved me just because I exist, and feeling the same love for him.

One of the ways he reached my heart the most was through my nephew.  When Baby A was about 2 years old, I had him in church with me.  My outgoing and very busy nephew wandered over to the other side of the pew where Bill was seated.  At first, I was concerned that this persistent and often very loud toddler would distract Bill from the service so I started to lean over to bring Baby A back to me.  Bill quickly caught my eye and shook his head no.  He reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a piece of candy and handed it lovingly to my nephew.  Throughout the rest of the service, Baby A, now a sugar addict, went back over to him repeatedly.  I was torn between thinking this exchange was sweet and wondering if this would hinder Baby A's much anticipated nap!  However, toward the end of the service, Baby A was sitting quietly and contently on Bill's lap, flipping through a children's book.  The love and time Bill gave my nephew that day was how I imagine Jesus would have treated him:  patient, kind, loving, and freely giving.  

Bill continually taught me about Jesus without speaking a word.  Over the course of my life I heard many of Bill's sermons and I remember really liking them, but I can't remember the content of a single one of them now. His actions, his daily dealings of others, told me everything.

It's sad to imagine a world without a man who loved like Bill did.  We are definitely lacking in people like him. My hope is that the impact he left on others, in life and in death, will create more people who love others intentionally and who use words, only if they have to.