to show up

Today was my sons’ second day of (online) school this Fall.

Anxieties have run high among the adults in my home the last week or so: “What?! We just got the hang of COVID summer. How are we supposed to adapt to school now, when Summer just started … it did just start, didn’t it? Wait, is it still 2020?”

The first two days went pretty well, actually. I was able to collapse the chaos of virtual school-plus-work into a spreadsheet, and then … reality actually conformed itself, more or less, to that spreadsheet!

(That seldom happens, so I take time to savor it when it does.)

The best part of day two involved a summer assignment my older son finished a little late: “As a family, talk about an event in the news and how it relates to your faith.”

I’d seen the perfect article in the L.A. Times about a week ago: “In the middle of a pandemic, a miracle came to Father Greg Boyle and Homeboy Industries.” I’d then sent a link to my son and husband, both of whom ignored it.

I’d read Boyle’s Tattoos on the Heart a few years back. While I didn’t remember a lot of its specifics, I remembered the book’s enormous compassion for everyone. Everyone. Period.

I’d get this tender feeling of possibility just thinking of it. Even if I couldn’t remember a single word.

When I then saw Homeboy Industries had just won a $2.5 million humanitarian award, I was filled with gratitude. Even without myself, yet, reading the article.

Today, I read the article out loud to help begin one last Summer assignment. I got choked up a couple of times, most especially when I read how

Just as the staff was lamenting the forced closure of the Homegirl café, Homeboy was able to line up city and county contacts and began producing 10,000 a meals a week for shut-ins and homeless people.

My family talked about what that paragraph meant, for both the meal-makers and the meal-partakers: a chance to live. While we all talked through these beautiful interconnections, my husband and I tried to encourage our son to make the connections suited to him for himself.

As he puzzled over how to connect the news article with his own faith, I pulled out my copy of Tattoos on the Heart. I read aloud each of the passages I’d highlighted.

On page 177, I was stunned to read one very particular passage:

To embrace the strategy of Jesus is to be engaged in what Dean Brackley calls “downward mobility.” Our locating ourselves with those who have been endlessly excluded becomes an act of visible protest. For no amount of our screaming at the people in charge to change things can change them. The margins don’t get erased by simply insisting that the powers-that-be erase them. The powers bent on waging war against the poor and the young and the “other” will only be moved to kinship when they observe it.

Just hours before, here, I’d shouted written about a non-fiscal version of trickle-down about which I often have extremely unfond, non-compassionate feelings based on its harms to billions who already suffer greatly, daily.

So these words jumped out at me: “no amount of screaming.”

I’ve been reading a lot of Paul Farmer recently. Somehow, as I’ve read his amazing works on improving global health via a preferential option for the poor, I’ve forgotten that some of his non-medical ideas are ones to which Father Boyle had already introduced me.

Shouting-at isn’t how things get done. Showing-up is how they do.

So if my voice cracked as I read those passages? That was also the sound of my heart cracking open, again, to let in the light;

the light that reminds, beyond words, that

we must “trust in the slow work of God.”

Ours is a God who waits. Who are we not to? It takes what it takes for the great turnaround. Wait for it.

I can wait. But I won’t just wait.

As often as I can remember, I’ll look for opportunities to practice kinship, for:

Serving others is good. It’s a start. But it’s just the hallway that leads to the Grand Ballroom.

Kinship—not serving the other, but being one with the other. Jesus was not “a man for others”; he was one with them. There is a world of difference in that.

Outside the heat of any moment, external or internal, I am not interested in charity or serving or shouting or anything, really, but that:

kinship, the state in which “there exists no daylight between us.”

And: maybe, just maybe,
not all Summer homework is odious.

One thought on “to show up

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