Spared by Courage

Kathleen

When my mom was teaching high school in Nashville in the 1970s a kid in one of her classes brought a gun to school. He was planning to shoot another student.

A girl in class told her what was going on and my mom, in her fierceness, walked right up to the boy and demanded the gun. He yielded and handed it to her.

Later she said that was the craziest thing she had ever done as teacher. She realized she could have been shot, but in that moment she did not hesitate or doubt what needed to happen.

I wonder where the girl who told, and those two boys are today. What became of them? What of their families?

How fortunate they were to be spared that day some forty years ago.

Ready to Turn Around?

CountrysideTrue story. A couple living in Georgia drives to Utah to visit family. While in Colorado they see a sign that says ‘Shortest route to Salt Lake City’ and they decide to follow the sign and take the road. The highway changes from four lanes to two, and eventually becomes a dirt road. They know they’ve gone down the wrong road but they keep driving for a while before turning around and finding a highway that takes them to their intended destination.

What is the point of this story? Often we know we’ve gone down the wrong path long before we’re ready to turn around. Sometimes we’re hoping to find another way out. Other times it may simply be the stubbornness of the commitment.

Whatever the reason, it’s helpful to remember that recognition of error doesn’t always equal instant correction. Not in ourselves or in others.

It takes courage to accept a mistake when an individual, couple, or group is committed to a process. Especially when most others will never know how far things have veered off course. They may never know, and what they do know doesn’t matter.

What matters is that individuals make the choice to accept where they are, turn around, and make the journey back even if it requires covering some of the same ground.

Hearsay: A Public Service Announcement

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Hearsay

In every town, in every street,
In nearly every house, you meet
A little imp, who wriggles in
With half a sneer and half a grin,
And climbs upon your rocking chair,
Or creeps upon you anywhere;
And when he gets you very near,
Just whispers something in your ear-
Some rumor of another’s shame-
And “Little Hearsay” is his name.
He never really claims to know-
He’s only heard that it is so;
And then he whispers it to you,
So you will go and whisper too.
For if enough is passed along
The rumor, even though it’s wrong-
If John tells Henry, Henry-Joe,
And Joe tells Mary, Mary-Flo,
And Flo tells Mildred, Mildred-Ruth-
It very soon may pass for truth.
You understand, this little elf
He doesn’t say he knows himself,
He doesn’t claim it’s really true-
He only whispers it to you,
Because he knows you’ll go and tell
Some other whisperer as well.
And so before the setting sun
He gets the devil’s mischief done,
And there is less of joy and good
Around your little neighborhood.
Look out for “Hearsay!” when he sneaks
Inside the house-when slander speaks
Just ask the proof in every case;
Just ask the name and date and place;
And if he says he’s only heard,
Declare you don’t believe a word,
And tell him you will not repeat
The silly chatter of the street.
However gossips smile and smirk,
Refuse to do their devil’s work.

Author unknown, circa 1929.

Brené Brown: The Power of Vulnerability

 

The need to be both vulnerable and authentic has been on my mind for months. Choosing to experience vulnerability, or having “the courage to be imperfect” as Brené Brown describes, is empowering. It’s a necessity not a flaw.

Resisting vulnerability weakens rather than strengthens. It takes honesty and self-awareness not to recoil in uncomfortable moments.

Brené wisely states that we cannot numb emotion selectively.

It’s not easy but it appears to be essential for personal growth and lasting relationships. We can never truly connect with others without a willingness to be vulnerable. There is more to it than I’ve explained. It takes repeated  experience to ‘get it.’

Brené gets it. Do we get it? More importantly, do I get it? 

 

“Love’s Austere and Lonely Offices”

This evening, I’ve been reflecting on the last two lines of the poem “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden. The character in the poem is an adult looking back at the cold winter mornings of youth, recognizing the lack of gratitude shown towards the family patriarch in what the author calls a house of “chronic angers.” The poem concludes with the lines:

“What did I know, what did I know of Love’s austere and lonely offices?”

The line “Love’s austere and lonely offices” is so pathetically true. Love is simple in nature yet there is a tendency to make it something glamorous, something beyond its scope. Something it cannot and should not be. At times, love is austere; it is stern and unadorned. It is silent, hidden behind the scenes.

A friend edits the ending of every fairy tales she reads to her children, adding; “and they worked really hard on their marriage, and lived happily ever after.” She is opening their imaginations to the story between the pages. The real life story of the silent heroes we call mom and dad.

For a child, love’s lonely office includes not understanding why “no” and “not now” mean “I love you.”

For a married couple love’s “lonely offices” are they places they stand without regard to personal pleasure. Because of love, friends and extended family never come first. Because of love, time and resources are sacrificed for things that hold little interest. Because of love, both will fret over whether or not they have done the right thing.

It is love that allows them to disagree passionately without fear that an opinion held too strongly will break them apart. It is love that allows conflict and love that keeps all other opportunities for romantic interest out of sight and out of mind.

Love’s eye is not blind. It is selective. It weighs truth in the balance and understands that no collection of flaws and quirks are superior to the man, woman, or child they have chosen.

Certainly “love’s austere and lonely offices” are not the only offices held in marriage, but they are the sacrificial offices required to keep the flame of love’s temple alive.

Recreational Criticism and the Shelter of Anonymity

We live in an era of recreational criticism. For many, being critical of nearly everything and everyone has become an acceptable form of entertainment. This is nothing new for government officials and others in the public eye. They have long been targets of criticism. Rightly so, in many cases, yet the rush to find and magnify less developed or unrefined areas within organizations and individuals typically serves no purpose.

What is troubling is the tendency among critics to continue to criticize long after the events of their angst have passed without looking back, evaluating the current situation, and determining if their criticism is still valid. As if the critic reserves the right to dictate who can change and progress and who cannot.

Nowhere is this more prevalent than among those who post comments online anonymously. The temptation to throw rocks from behind the shelter of anonymity is intoxicating. The thrill and vanity of being a faceless voice in the public square keeps the critic from recognizing that the gift anonymity has become a cloak of hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy never looks back at its own shadow. It has no rearview mirrors. It expects but never offers apology. What power is there in an anonymous apology? The shelter of anonymity eliminates the need for the critic to account for anything.

In a day of increasing transparency, perhaps it’s time for the critic to reevaluate the point of aimless words and find a more constructive hobby.

There is no shame in admitting the present is not the past. Everyone has the right to change. Even the critic.

“As long as I’m with you I’m not lost”

Lonesome Road by Cory Voglesonger

Years ago as my grandparents were driving through the mountains of North Georgia, my grandfather at the wheel and my grandmother at his side, my grandfather made a series of wrong turns before he realized he was lost. After trying several different routes he was not only unable to determine where they were headed, but he was eventually unable to get back to where they had been.

After all attempts had been exhausted he turned and said, “We’re lost.” My grandmother replied, “I’m not lost.” “What do you mean you’re not lost?” he asked. She said, “As long as I’m with you I’m not lost.”

The recognition that being together means never being lost is a profound truth. It was a characteristic of their marriage of over sixty years.  Location didn’t matter. Time didn’t matter. Being together, side by side, patient with each other, and knowing that those we travel with are far more important than when or how we reach our destination was what mattered.

After making a few course corrections they eventually found their way back to familiar roads. Throughout the rest of their lives together they continued to travel across the back roads of Georgia with their children, grandchildren, and other family members, occasionally getting turned around but never lost.  Their travels are a metaphor for their life together.

Are we truly lost when those who matter to us most are close by? My grandmother didn’t think so. Her nine little words, “As long as I’m with you I’m not lost”, speak volumes. They are also a reminder that kind words, spoken well, can last forever.