Driving up I notice a couple, he’s on the phone, walking up to my minivan, and she’s following close behind. “Are you going to open this place up?”, he asks. “Yes, so sorry I’m a few minutes late,” I apologetically reply. Our regular volunteer advocate had let me know she couldn’t come because her little guy was suddenly puking, and had spiked a fever. But, the weather report indicated downpours, so history encouraged me that it would likely be a quiet day, and that I could stop by the post office to pick up the mail, which would make me five minutes late. (Normally we like to arrive earlier than that, but today was ‘one of those days’.)
But that’s not the point. Maybe, at least part of the point is that I’m very aware that folks come when we’re not there, and so human pain isn’t met with compassion, and, that bothers me, likely more than it should. And we almost missed this couple – by seconds, because they were on their way to their car.
So, that’s the background for this story. But, again, it’s not the story I want to tell.
I want to tell the part of the story where I had to suck it up and not begin weeping at their response to her positive pregnancy test. At how, in the presence of another sobbing, a young woman who could have been my daughter, or the young guy who could have been my son, I was unnoticeably sorrowing, albeit struggling to maintain composure.
Insight: When it’s not a “happy-positive”, we know they will only catch some of what is said, because they’re mostly numb, and in shock. So, I left them with two things: 1. You will encounter people with their own opinions about what you should do, and that pressure will be hard, so keep focused on your own voice, and what your heart chooses to do. If you decide to parent, you are not alone, there are resources, and, 2. We are here for you 24/7. Call if you want to talk, or need help.
The sheer terror of how fast life changes, recognizing the reality of all the possible decisions as painful chapters, that yes, include hope, but not so much what you might have planned? Crisis. Trauma. Fear. Anxiety. Shame. Embarrassment. Guilt. And on and on.
After twenty-one years of sitting with others in similar circumstances, there are those that just nail you – you know this path. You know it because you’ve witnessed it repeatedly – and, for some of us, you know it because you’ve lived it.
And yet, that’s still not the story I want to tell.
After this now traumatized couple leaves to begin to figure out life forward, I answer a phone call from a woman who comes in now and again to pick up some diapers, wipes, and whatever else she might like to help her mommy-heart be happy: maybe a dress, or a soft blanket, or even a few books from the basket. We usually spend time talking about what’s hard for her these days – and where she’s seeing hope and places to smile.
She has a lunch break soon from work, (where she makes less than enough to sustain life), and she hopes we have time for her. We do. I do. It’s what we do. It’s not always convenient, but it’s always right and good. Human connection trumps whatever else.
She heads over, and we sit. She says to me, “How are you?” Maybe she noticed my misty eyes? I tell her the general nature of the pregnancy test that just happened (there was no identifying info, the couple were several minutes gone), and how I realized their lives were forever changed – that every option represented pain, at least in this season of decision-making.
And then tears suddenly flowed, from me, and then from my sweet friend-who-comes-for-help. We’d both been there before, pregnant in less than ideal circumstances. We knew what was ahead for this young woman.
Using her own language, my friend reminded me that tears on behalf of another are beautiful, and while I was feeling a little embarrassed to be weepy, (I mean, I’m the comforter, right?), she let me off the hook with words of kindness and support.
And still, the most beautiful part of the story remains: the part where I am positively slayed by the beauty of mutual nurturing – that it is not us who hold the keys to the building of Choices that have it all together, or have achieved worthiness to sit with those who (seemingly?) don’t have it together, rather, it would be all of us, with less than stellar decisions that some might render us all without needful contribution to the community. However, it is in the submission of one to another’s broken and bruised places that we all find life, hope and redemption for our wounds and our needs.
When we extend places of responsibility, participation, and inclusion even and especially among those still struggling and suffering, (actually, aren’t we all?), that we begin to see personal transformation toward Life, Hope, and Wholeness – and that is what makes for a meaningful change that matters for life.
And that is the magnificent beauty that stilled my heart yesterday at Choices – and my ever-present (some would say annoying) quest to figure out how it is that we best Love people into places of Life.
And that’s the story I want to tell…the story I want to live more fully, and the story I want to invite others to consider living, in their own small places of habitation. Because: Love. Because: that mandate to love one another is the real deal – and the challenge is to welcome and experience it in unexpected places, away from the conditioning and pre-scripted narrative of who is able/eligible/qualified to communicate that Love. Because: John 13:34-35 and 1John 4:7 liberates us all to love – and it is enough.
Addendum-ish words…apologies for so many thoughts, but hey, we don’t do this very often – so thanks for bearing with us.
If you’re inclined to consider practicing along with us, how to love one another in the midst of both challenging and joyous places of life, we invite you to for a visit that will likely include a few calories to graze upon alongside conversation to explore whether this might be a good fit for this season of your life.
If, in reality, you’d rather click a couple times to help us care well in our local communities through monetary sharing, head here: https://us2e.com/choices/org.html or snail mail to Choices, 215 West Alma St. Mount Shasta, CA 96067, or just drop by, Monday-Thursday noon to 4PM.
And thanks so much. Your participation with us, even if it is just considering fresh ways of thinking, is so helpful.