Tuesday, July 2, 2013

but what i have i've offered.


a long day of sad appointments yesterday.

feeling so privileged to be a witness to these families' strength,
wishing so hard to be able to fix their situations,

...and then making goal charts to get a library card and practice deep breathing.

i wrote this when i worked for Head Start...
i go back over and over to the truth in sara groves' song:
there are other glories besides winning battles.
there is beauty and goodness in joining in long defeats.

*******

from October 2010

My sweet friend sits on my couch and cries, for the kids she loves so deeply and works so hard to help. For the lives they return to every night after they leave the after-school program she runs: lives of absent parents, of poverty, of drugs and violence. She cries, and there is no solution to tell her. I hold her hand and she tells me their stories and I hear in her voice and her tears the same realization I am coming to.

So often after a visit full of laughter and finger-painting, when an 18-month-old runs to hug my legs when I walk in the door or a two-year-old knows all his colors, when I make a run to the dentist to act as translator or we successfully get a mom her insurance card, I get that rush of exultation. "YES! This is why I do this job, this is what it's all about."

Except that last week I sat at a kitchen table, while a strong and capable mom wept. They left Mexico because it is so violent, she tells me, they could not let their children grow up there, scared to leave the house. But here they are, without papers, without rights, without money. Without language, without their families- it is too dangerous to go back to visit even a relative dying of cancer, even for a beloved sister's wedding. She weeps with me, finally, this mom whose adorable and thriving kids come home every day to a clean house and her warm hug and help with their homework, because she does everything to protect them. I hold her hand, too... I grasp and pray for something helpful. I tell her she's a good mom... and then I finally just tell her that I'm sorry. And then we just sit together. I have no words for her, either.

Later, in my car, I am silent, even to myself and to God. Because she did not say, "And then, you came and started doing educational activities with my toddler and now our lives are SO MUCH BETTER!!!!".

Yes, it is a good thing, it is an addition. Tamara's after-school program is a good thing, it is an addition. But my "This is what it's all about, this is why we do these jobs!" mindset is changing. It has to be. Because then what do we have, when the strong mom is finally weeping with me about how she doesn't think she can take it anymore- and I have no power to get them the immigration papers they need to make a real better life? What do we have when Tamara helps the kids with their homework- and then they go home to filth and alcohol? If it's "all about" when we win, is it worthless when we can't?


If our hope is based on success, it will fail. Mine did, after Bolivia. I had thought that I was a hopeful person; no. I was optimistic. They are not the same thing. I'm still figuring out what hope is. But it can't be optimism. Sometimes you have love and prayer and hard work- and young parents still weep and children are still not safe. Thank God that sometimes things are made better on earth. But Lord, change my heart, that I fight Your battles because they are Yours, not because I will win. Show us Your heart, here.

Give me gratitude for the privilege of participating.

Give us strength to continue, and to find joy in the long defeat.


"i have joined the long defeat
that falling set in motion
and all my strength and energy
are raindrops in the ocean
so conditioned for the win
to share in victory's story
but in the place of ambition's din
i have heard of other glories."
-sara groves, "the long defeat"

1 comment:

Jennifre said...

You have no idea how much I needed to read this today. Thank you for sharing.

Human Needs Global Resources Covenant, 2009

As fellow travelers on this journey, we commit to this covenant before God. Lord, in Your mercy, hear these our prayers:

When confronted with scarcity, need, and inadequacy, may we be nourished by the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation. Abundance overflows from Your table, sustaining all who come in faith. Father, help us.

When monotony blurs our vision and dulls our senses, may we encounter others as Christ did, through intentional presence in daily life, submitting as clay to be formed into vessels filled with the Spirit. Christ, guide us.

When wounded by the fractured condition of Your people, may we be united by Your Lordship in faith, hope, and love; seeing, as through the facets of a diamond, the beautiful spectrum of Your light reflected onto Your holy Church joined in praise. Spirit, empower us.

When all Creation groans, afflicted by injustice and driven to despair, may the promise of redemption root us in the hope of Your Kingdom: "Behold, I am making all things new!"

Holy Trinity, send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve You with gladness and singleness of heart.

Amen.