4.26.2011

Off and Away

I was talking with a friend the other day about life and purpose and where we're headed. There was a general sense of frustration - we both felt like we would have had things (that is, our lives) figured out by now.  I still feel pretty young, but I turn 25 this year, which sounds like an awfully big, old, and grown-up number.  Does something magical happen when you turn 25?  Like all of a sudden you know what you want to do with your life, who you want to do it with, and how you can get there?  I'm guessing not, because that hasn't been the case for the past 24 years of my life.  And I guess I would have missed out on a lot of the adventure and awe that I've experienced up to now if I had it all sorted.  

After mulling over some of life's biggest questions, I was babysitting that night and the little 2 year old, bless her heart, picked out Dr. Seuss' "Oh the Places You'll Go" for a bedtime story.


It's quite remarkable, really, just how right on Dr. Seuss was.  In many ways, my life has paralleled Dr. Seuss' book of places - though perhaps with a little less color and rhyming.  I think my favourite "place" is "The Waiting Place...for people just waiting":

"Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for their hair to grow.  Everyone is just waiting.

"Waiting for the fish to bite or the wind to fly a kite or waiting around for Friday night, or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better Break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.  Everyone is just waiting."
 

Ah yes, The Waiting Place.  I know it well.  I don't so much mind the waiting for a train to go or the mail to come, but I really hate the waiting around for a Yes or No, for Friday night, a Better Break, or Another Chance.  Those waiting places seem to be the very worst.  I think that is when we hear those Hakken-Kraks howl and when we forget all the places we've gone before and have yet to go.  

And then you forget there are millions of other people in the world - many of them waiting, and many of them hungry or cold or thirsty or sick.  You even forget there is a neighbor next door and a mom back at home because the waiting can get so lonely.

"I'm afraid that sometimes you'll play lonely games too.  Games you can't win 'cause you'll play against you.


I've known that too.  It's true, alone will be something you'll be quite a lot.  People never tell you that when you are 5 and dream of becoming a  zookeeper or a ballerina  People don't really talk about loneliness much at all, even though we all experience it - some everyday.  The most startling experience of loneliness I've had was when I lived in Cape Town for a year, where alone was something I was quite a lot.  Because of that experience, I have never felt such gratitude for community and for my people.  I also gained a deep sense of empathy for the widower down the street, the orphaned babe across the sea, and the weary travelers so far from home.

"You'll get mixed up, of course, as you already know.  You'll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go."

Sometimes the mix ups are where you start to find your way.  And those strange birds?  They are some of my most favourite birds, the very best kind for a venture to Great Places.  And I suppose after all that waiting and loneliness and mix ups, you're ready for just about anything.  Sometimes the Great Places are rather large.  Sometimes they are quite simple and small.  Sometimes Great Places are way over there.  Sometimes they are right here, right now. 

So with that, I bid you great traveling - whether your name be Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O'Shea, you're off to great places.
Go on.  Get on your way.


4.07.2011

We are the future now

Now and again I have the pleasure of spending time with a truly remarkable group of high school girls.  You may call me a "leader", "mentor", or simply a friend - but I often learn just as much from their lives as they do from mine, I imagine.  I continue to be amazed at their maturity, joy, and spirit.  We get together regularly to share stories and discuss life, love, Jesus, and the latest happenings around the world - which I love.  But I think my favourite aspect of our little community is when we take an evening to tutor a group of kids on the west side of Chicago.

Allow me to paint the picture for you:
These girls are smart, beautiful, talented, blonde/brunette, off to college in the fall, middle class, white, suburban, and witty.
These kids we tutor are smart, but many still struggle in the classroom, beautiful, talented in some very unique ways, with an unknown future, middle to lower class, African American, urban, and hilarious.

Isn't that beautiful?

I once read that Chicago is America's most segregated big city.
These kids couldn't be more different from each other.  Sitting in a very weary old church building in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago, teaching math and reading to a hodgepodge of students from the 'hood, our group of high school girls from the 'burbs couldn't be more out of their element.

Or could they?  Why does this picture have to seem so strange?  Why do you suppose it makes their parents a little uneasy?  And how will this unique interaction affect the lives of both groups of students?

We were there today, actually, shlepping our way through a math comprehension test. They taught us some slang, and we attempted to spell their unusually beautiful names.  I think we all left with a little more joy, a greater understanding of people and the world, and a broader vocabulary.  It is such a small thing.  Just a couple hours out of the day. But I think it's also pretty grand.  This diverse group of students are living out the dream of people like Jane Addams, Martin Luther King Jr., Frederick Douglass, and Rev. Clarence L. Hilliard.  

Hey world, this is your future.  And I'm not just talking about one of these groups of kids, I'm talking about all of them together.  This.  This picture.  This medley of talented, determined, extraordinary students are the future.

I am grateful for this opportunity we have to be a part of something so much bigger than what we know.  I am grateful for the willing and joyful spirits of these high school girls. And I am thankful for the kids tonight, who take us as we are, laugh at our "white-ness," accept a bit of guidance, and teach us how to be a better version of ourselves.

4.04.2011

Lifecycle of a radish

I think the radish is a perfectly under-appreciated vegetable.  With a breathtaking magenta-like hue and an earthy, crisp crunch - what more could you ask for in a little root vegetable that is ready for harvest in 45 days?  Artist, farmer, and radish activist Matthew Moore made this lovely little timelapse film of the lifecycle of a radish.  Seems like the perfect welcome for the month of April.


lifecycles - radish from Matthew Moore on Vimeo.