The day after I graduated from high school, I flew all by myself to NYC on my way to South Africa as an Exchange Student. Little did I know when I began that morning that I would be stranded in that big city for more than a week due to visa problems. I was only eighteen, but I was certain I had the world by the tail. What emerged was a span of time in my life where I was awakened to the realities of what this little Texas girl had never imagined before. I had only been on an airplane one time in the eighth grade on a flight from San Antonio to Dallas. I was so prone to motion sickness that I almost lost my cookies and even the jazzy flight attendants could not calm the storm going on in my stomach. Now, here I was fixing to embark on a lifetime of world travels and adventures. The life events and lessons that have unfolded from that day until now have been magnitudinous.
My experiences from those younger years until now have been as starkly different as the hills I had grown up with in San Marcos, TX to Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenya. One cannot really even compare--only contrast. Here is a very small sample of events that unfolded:
While stranded in NYC, I stayed with a family in Queens whom I had never met before but was connected to Rotary. I saw NYC from a working-class point of view and was even shot at in Harlem--the bullet going through the windshield and into the car seat right by my head.
I was then sent to London where my plane was delayed and another layover of two days. I got thoroughly lost on my solo sight-seeing adventures and could hardly understand a word of the cabbie's English. He seemed to be having a little trouble with my Texas accent as well.
Finally in South Africa, a year+ unfolded with far more amazing stories and life lessons than I can’t even begin to put in this space.
Later, once done with college and married, off we went to West Africa where we survived a revolution and many moments of joy and desperation.
Life continued and on from there with family challenges and amazing work opportunities, retirement, etc.
What is the point? It is that life and perspectives shifted mightily over time with those incredible life experiences. Shifts and stories are essential for growth and meaning-making. At 18, I was sure I could save the world. As an idealist, extroverted, go-getter kind of young woman, I thought I was bullet-proof. I was ready to try just about anything and did. Fortunately, I did have a pretty good moral compass so my choices did not lead me down unhealthy, wrong paths. I took many risky and dangerous actions at times but none harmful to myself or others. I needed that kind of courage, idealism, and belief system to even begin to do all I did in those years. Here's the deal. I thought at 18 that I could save the world but quickly realized that I could not do that all by myself. Then, I thought well.... maybe I will just save my country but began to understand again, I could not do that all by myself either. Next, I reasoned that maybe I could save my state. But you know it IS Texas, right? Do you know many Texans who think they need to be saved? Sigh!!! Surely, I could save my neighborhood, but my neighbors didn't really think they needed to be saved either. So, where have I ended up? Perhaps I need to save myself. It would seem that I am the only person that I can REALLY change. Start small and work out instead of starting big and being whittled down to smallness.
Children are precious teachers of life, love, wonder, and possibilities. The prophetic scriptures foretold that a little child shall lead us. Just think of it! Jesus came into the world as a vulnerable child encountering the world in all of its outrageous humanity. It was not an easy world that the Christ child was born into. And yet, it was in that precious act of coming as a child that God's love was shown fully to the world. God incarnate shows us without a doubt that God is a companion God who walks with us in all our weaknesses and strengths; tears and joys; and failures and successes. There is nothing we can feel that God does not feel. There is not a moment or second in our wandering that God does not understand. In all of these moments we are promised God's presence with us. We are deeply and completely loved no matter what.
I look at the picture above with a precious child putting Band-Aids on a long crack. Would I ever put a damper on or place a doubt in the mind of that child with words of realism? Like, "Hey honey, that is never going to fix that crack. Just give up now! You just don't understand how the world works!" NOOOOOO! No way!!!! I would not. I would never utter those words because we all need to be taught by that child to hope like that... to believe like that....to love like that...to create like that....to trust like that.
Want to join me? I promise, I will not try to save you. Together, we will put one Band-Aid at a time on the cracks in our lives and in the world around us. We need each other. We need hopeful, compassionate communities. I don't know about you, but when I feel shaky and on the edge of despair or cynicism, I am going to find a child with whom to share a box of Band-Aids.
Prayer: God, right now, I feel like I need a bigger box of Band-Aids. Thank you for your unconditional love and provision for me and all people everywhere. Help us to be your light in the world and your bandages for the cracked places in the lives around us. Inspire us to do that kind of healing together in compassionate communities who love kindness, and offer justice and mercy one fissure at a time. Amen.