This weekend, I was at a church gathering for middle schoolers and the theme was about heroes. "What is a hero, and who are your hero's" the kids were asked. They responded in usual and unusual ways. Some kids hero's were God and Jesus, some were super-hero's and some were unlikely folks. They all had ideas of who or what is a hero. Like any good Lutheran gathering, there are speakers and they try engage the kids...but this year, the speakers were very different. They were you and I, struggling with life and how to get up every day and live what you have...
One speaker was a kid with Asperger's. He talked about who he is and being diagnosed and learning to live with what he has been dealt. He was 14 and wanted to be a cop someday. He sat on a stage in front of 1000 folks talking about what his day looks like and how sometimes people are mean and how he has to deal with that. He talked about what he does to deal with his differences and how really it isn't so bad. I thought to myself...is he a hero?
Another was a man that was a firefighter who turned pastor. He said he was sick of going to calls to houses that really just needed help and some medical care but didn't have the means. One day, he decided he needed to do something...to help these folks. He talked and walked and when he was done, he was a pastor of a group of folks and he opened a place where doctors and nurses volunteer to give free medical care as well as the medicine they need to get well. I thought to myself...is he a hero?
The last invited speaker was a guy with a big wool hat on with his dreds tucked under. It was the size of a basketball on his head. He sat there and talked about his journey in life. He had struggles as a kid, got into drugs, and became a street person. He lived on the streets for 8 years. He talked of the drugs he did and the bad stuff he did to survive. I listened and felt bad for him and the kids were shocked. It wasn't rated G and was a little PG if you want to know the truth. He talked about how this one man would visit daily and looked him in the eye and asked him, "How are you?" He talked of how he was one of the people in the world that when you saw him, you looked away and crossed to walk on the other side of the street. But not this guy...every day...same question...then, when he let him in a little bit, the guy would touch him. This guy would touch a man who was untouchable. He would grab his hand to shake it, eventually a hug, even a kiss on the cheek. He used the word "relationship" and what that meant to his recovery. I sat and thought...who is the hero here, the clean guy with dreds or the guy who took the time to say hello every day?
Then, the speaker talked about getting clean and how he did it. He talked about "altruism". That is a big word for some of younger set and I really didn't know the definition either. He said it was "helping others while expecting nothing in return" and that is what helped him become clean and sober. Wow, what a concept...what powerful thinking....and for middle schoolers...what about us adults...can we be altruistic?
I can just speak about myself...I am no hero. I try to be someone who is helpful and I really feel bad for folks...for the dude on the corner when I pass him with his sign, for the person on the side of the road with the flat tire, for all the garbage on the side of the road...but, what do I do? Sometimes, I will help and sometimes I won't. It is just that simple. And...sometimes, I will get home, pour my cocktail and tell my husband about the poor guy I saw today...but not feel too bad about any of it.
I understand what it feels like to be altruistic...kind of. I go to Nicaragua yearly to run a medical clinic in a poor town that folks that have nothing. They live in card board boxes and garbage bags and eat whatever they can get their hands on. I go, pay for my plane ticket and whatever else I need. Sometimes I take my family. I decide to devote myself to these people for 10 days. I touch the untouchable, I listen to the crazy ones, I comfort the old ones and I just love...just love. The first year was terrifying, the second year was better and the third, I found I had created relationships. I love them and they love me. It's kind of like the guy who went every day to the homeless guy and ask him how he was. And when I leave, I cry. I cry for the people, for the poverty, the sickness, for the world. But...I also cry for me...I feel God there, the love and feeling of caring for folks and getting nothing in return.
Do I change the world? No...not really. Do I really need to roll down my window in Denver and look the guy in the eye with the sign...after listening to that speaker...yes I do. Basic human love, connection and relationship...what if that is what it takes to heal the hurts in the world? What if that is what it takes to make everyone kinder and love one another. What if?
These middle schoolers taught me a big lesson...when they went to the place where everyone is in wheelchairs and drooling and conquered their fears and held hands, fed them and laughed. Looked them in the eye. They have huge hearts and kind hearts and need to know how to channel that love...to love themselves as they are, to just be who they are...to love the unlovable and touch the untouchable..It's not easy or cool, really. But this weekend I saw a revolution of sorts...of loving and kindness that I haven't seen in the past gatherings. I saw a group of kids that want peace and love and kindness...a world without war and with acceptance. I think the time will come and they will change the world. They are the change we are all waiting for and they are young...green...lovers, not fighters...and want everyone to feel loved regardless of gender, faith, looks, differences...they will teach us about what the world needs to be and we will sit back and be thankful!
We'll tawk tommorrow,
I Love you all so much,