It’s no secret that I kinda like people…a lot. Short ones, tall ones. Big ones, small ones. Young ones, old ones. And especially the weird ones.
I can only think of a couple types of people that I really suck at liking, and, well, I’m working on it.
Don’t get me wrong. I definitely have moments of complete and utter disgrace for humanity. Like, let’s throw in the towel and eat non gluten free whoopie pies made by satan himself until we explode because there’s just no meaning to anything and everybody is just one bat away from being sh*t crazy, IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN!!!!!!
And let me tell you, if your faith in humanity is waining, if it is at all wobbly or weakly balanced on the fence line, do not…I repeat DO NOT have a garage sale. Having a garage sale will take your cute little hope in humans and violently smash it like a coke can on Hulk Hogan’s forehead. While playing Nickelback songs on repeat in the background. And you will swear to never do it again, until the next time you need money, and then you do it again…
Obviously this world is broken. Incredibly, infuriatingly broken. Humans who act inhumane. Christians who act unlike Christ. Children who act like adults. Bad ones, at that.
Then, every once in a while, humanity shines. People, GEMS, pop up from the dirt and hand you a shiny piece of hope.
Recently I made the trek to Baltimore and back with my entire family. Two kids. Grandparents. The works. On the plane ride home I got seated next to an elderly couple who talked. my. ears. off. the whole way. WHICH I LOVED. They were precious. They encouraged me in my motherhood journey and spoke kindly with my kids. As we exited the plane, Hazel darted ahead of me while I was behind my dad (who was recovering from a knee replacement and carefully making his way to a wheelchair). I heard the old man yell “I got her!”. That sweet wrinkly man stood there with my baby while we all got dad situated in his chair, bags and babies and snacks and….he kindly waited with my crazy child.
If that wasn’t enough, while enjoying a lovely layover Hazel and I stood in line for some lunch. Suddenly, she had to go to the bathroom so I reluctantly gave up our spot in line to run to the potty with her. When I got back I found the old lady standing in our spot.
“I saw that you had to run, so I saved your spot in line for you.”
Hope. There ya go, mama. Have a scoop. Take some faith. You are loved. Even if its by a stranger…
I mean, this is just my most recent encounter. My life has been rich with experiences of one human stretching arms to another to serve up a little hope. To whisper, “there’s some good around here, you know.” Be it random acts of kindness, shared homes, extended dinner tables, gifted vehicles, paid mortgages. Heck, when I’m eighteen months pregnant all it takes is a stranger picking up a piece of paper I dropped to the ground and I want to kiss them and sing kumbaya.
If only that were appropriate.
And everyone has this. This hope to offer. This capacity to love. This glimmer to gift. There is none too dark, none too lost. None too broken, or pained, or cursed. Anyone can stretch their arm and give it, but not all do. You know why?
Because it starts with being loved.
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Who began the process, the lover or the lovee?
How do you give what you’ve never been given? How do you extend what has never been extended to you?
I’ve started this thing, recently. I cook dinner. I mean, extra dinner. And I put feelers out for whoever needs it, and a couple hours later I show up at their doorstep to hand them what I hope is an edible dinner. Cooking isn’t always my strong point, I’m just saying.
I’ve noticed each time I post, I get praised for such a “wonderful act”. Some are, sadly, shocked at that kind of love (it’s just food, peeps. I’m not building water wells or rescuing orphans from slavery.) I’m grateful for the encouragement, but also feel totally awkward if I’m being honest. I feel this need to….explain.
Because it has nothing to do with me. For real.
When you’ve been loved well, you love well. It’s that simple. When you’ve been given much, you give much. When people have brought YOU food when you are packing your bags for the looney bin, you get out of the looney bin and cook some dang food. Depending on what day it is, I mean. Because this gal has an all inclusive pass to the place with the padded walls.
I’m not kidding.
Anyway. If you know my parents, you have been loved by my parents. They. Love. Well. They open their home, their wallets, their hearts, their business…you need it, they got it. Or they’ll try to get it. Or they’ll give you a ride to people who do got it.
My church family? Same thing. My pastors, my leaders, my teachers, my peers. They take care of their own, and the not-their-owns.
When I was in 8th grade, my mom unexpectedly needed surgery. A quadruple bypass open heart surgery, to be exact. The next thing I knew, my teachers had formed a sign up list for other families in the school to provide my lunch for a few weeks during her recovery. My heart was changed by that simple, easy act of love.
When I lost my first baby to a miscarriage, the church I had barely been a part of had flowers delivered to my home. My heart was changed by that simple, easy act of love.
During that same season woman I barely knew sent me a necklace in memory of my babe. My heart was changed.
On the birthday I had completely forgotten about amongst the diapers and the mess and the padded walls, my best friends showed up on my doorstep with donuts and letters of encouragement from my tribe. Simple. Easy. Changed.
My baseboards have been scrubbed, my walls painted, my children kept, my family fed, my coffee spiked…all in the name of Love.
Sometimes love is hard. Sometimes its messy. Sometimes it requires a lot of sacrifice. Sometimes it means traveling across the world to give your time to an orphan, or sometimes it requires bringing that orphan across the world to give them your vow. Some times it looks glamorous, like heading up charities or building schoolhouses or digging wells. Sometimes it looks like folding underwear and uncorking a bottle of wine.
So, when I decide to throw a few extra chicken breasts in the oven, it really has nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with the person who dropped dinner off at MY door when I was too busy being a dairy farm to the tiny human to cook myself. Or shower, or clean, or anything necessary for social acceptance, for that matter.
I’ve had some dark days. Days spent feeling lonely, useless, trapped, and smothered. There have been seasons, and there will be seasons again when I have nothing to offer anyone outside of my four walls. Not an ounce. My capacity to love is celebrated by not killing anyone in my house. For that day. Because I’m not so sure about the next one. Those are the seasons I receive. Those are the seasons someone could poke me on Facebook and I could cry tears of joy and appreciation. Which is weird, I know. Virtual poking, who does that?
During these seasons though, the ones where I get to come up for air, take a shower every day, and remember what it feels like to be human, I will love. I will give. In the simplest, smallest, in capacity way, because its what I know. It’s what I was taught. It’s the culture I was raised in. It’s how I’ve been pastored. It’s how I was saved. It’s the gospel I cling to, the Story of a lifetime.
I can be the hands and feet of Jesus only because I have touched the hands and feet of Jesus. I have traced the sacred scars in his palms and had my flow of tears wiped by his fingers.
I have been loved. I have been pushed to Jesus. I have been reached out to. I have been offered hope.
I love, because I’ve been loved. There might be a scripture or two about that. You might find it on tshirts or bumper stickers.
But when its personified, when it takes on faces and names and voices and tones, when it becomes colorful and flavorful and visible..
the heart just can’t help but change.