Today as I was gathering up the historical and non-fiction to bring to the graduate class that I teach, I look at the words in these books that I treasure. I enjoy the historical, the most, The Orphan Train begs me to open the pages. White Socks Only and Freedom Summer, oh no, I can’t seem to find it.. I look hard at Ruby Bridges and wonder what she is doing now. I feel drawn to story, the story of people’s lives, the story
of your life,
I treasure Tuesday, the crafting of story, the play of writing, the joy of pressing that button to publish and then to hear from other authors, you, who also push the button to publish. Lately, it has felt like a writing hole for me, I’m anxious to climb out of it.
You are helping me climb out, because I read your words, your stories and I am renewed and energized and reminded that the discipline of writing our lives is sometimes joyous, but often it is painful, bruising as we push. You mentor me.
I spy another treasure on my shelf. It will help me this Thursday night as we talk about writing mentors. Katherine Paterson was the two-time winner of the National Book Award and Newbery Medal. Of course we know her; we love her words. We imagined Terabithia and in another personal favorite. I ached for Gilly to realize that she had arrived in the best home possible with Mamie Trotter, just as I ached for Kelly, my daughter to realize that we were the family that loved her, that wanted her. I flipped the first few pages hoping for some nuggets to share with my students. This is a book about the writerly life, how her life informed her books. One day Katherine was speaking with a graduate professor and said to the professor that she didn’t want to add another mediocre author to the world. Her teacher, Sara Little, replied saying that if she didn’t dare mediocrity she would never write anything at all (The Invisible Child, 2001).
I will dare mediocrity. I will continue to push the button on my laptop.
And I know you will too. We all take the risk.
My friend Leslie, sometimes sat beside me at church told me once that Mother’s Day was so hard every year. She was a wonderful mom to four children and I asked why it was so hard. There was a sad story of loss, a hole left by a mom who had died early in her life.
Yesterday, I sat at church. I looked around and saw a mom in front of me sitting with her mom that was probably in her 80’s. I saw others with their children in their 20’s and I felt alone and saddened by my aloneness. Kelly was on a long weekend in Florida with her boyfriend’s family. Em was probably giggling, chasing Sammie around a park in Ecuador. Jeff was…hmmm, I was always wondering about where that boy was, who he was hanging with and what was he up to next. Well, I thought, I hope he was in Denver. We don’t hear from him when he gets crazy busy. In fact, when he was crazy busy as a young citizen of our neighborhood, it was always hard getting the youngster back within 8 hours to replenish for the next day of fun.
My thoughts moved back to the message…I agreed with Nancy Ortberg, our guest teacher, when she was talking about her son who chronologically was 24 years old and then the aside …really the maturity age being 13. I laughed thinking of my pooch loving, tenderhearted buddy boy. Can I just say that he could always manipulate me into anything! Here he is pictured many years later with our first dog Allie. He cut out adds in the paper, carefully laying them on our dresser daily for months after his 4th grade teacher had read Shiloh. He had wanted a dog, a beagle.
Then it was cars….then it was concerts….then it was travel. Sigh, those were the days, and now I sit here feeling alone and pretty miserable. I wondered if he would even call, I wonder if he would send a card. Ahhh, he was probably still out playing I thought.
The phone does ring. He says, “I miss you mom.” I think you will really be happy with my gift this year. ”
“Oh, I say…I hope it is just a card, because you know how I feel…”
Jeff interrupts, “It was a had week out here at work. Many of the kids in the program have a hard time with Mother’s Day.”
“Well you know, they pretty much have mother’s that kind of abandoned them.” Jeff works with kids 18 to twenty somethings just out of the ‘system’. He continues, “The girls that have their own children now and those who are expecting aren’t expecting much for Mother’s Day, so I thought that I will give your card to a girl and buy a plant with a flower and put it in front of her apartment on Sunday…in your honor.”
“Yep, it would be such an honor.” I say back.
They say the frontal lobe is only fully formed at 25 years. Jeff is 26 chronologically and his heart age really measures up. Jeff will forever be my buddy and forever will be my friend. And he understand what his mother does want most of all…giving gifts of hope to people we encounter along the way.
Have you ever been the beneficiary of a kind act? Last weekend I had ordered my usual at Starbucks, a grande coffee with cream and a sumptuous breakfast sandwich. I pulled to the window and the smiling young man at the window said, “The person ahead of you just paid for your order !” He was incredulous, and so was I. Then I said, “Well do you know the person so I can thank them?” He smiled and said, “I have no idea.” The look on his face told me that he wasn’t at all used to people doing this kind of charitable act in the Starbucks drive through.
How did I feel? Glad, appreciative and curious. First, I wanted to know if the person knows me. I also wanted to know if something wonderful happened in their life and they just wanted to share their joy. I wanted to know if it was a regular thing that this person does. Obviously , they know a secret that I also know… giving makes our heart happy. Giving makes me want to sing. Helping others is a contagious path.
Paying it forward is a very healthy life choice, I’m just sayin’… and I’m also thinking that, I’m definitely in the mood for a grande coffee with cream!
PS Puff, if that was you in the lane, I want you to tell me right now!!! xo