Such Is Life
Some months, I sit down to write my blog with absolutely no idea of what I will say. Then the Spirit whispers in my ear (or, sometimes, hits me up side my head), and the words start to come.
Today…not so much.
I was telling a friend that I just didn’t know what to write about. And she started listing off all of the things that have happened in my life, just in the past week.
Contemplative prayer group.
A planning session for Advent services (for which I’m writing some liturgy).
Maisie Monday, when we have our sweet 15-month-old for the day, all to ourselves! Nursery school trick-or-treat.
Halloween, which is also our granddaughter Piper’s birthday (celebrated with a party of 20 people at our house, including two overnight guests).
Our 44th wedding anniversary, which just kind of blew by in the middle of all that!
And the furnace and fireplace starters that stopped working on the coldest night so far this fall.
Okay, I thought. There must be something in all of that to write about.
Then I thought some more.
As I write, I’m sitting in a hotel in downtown Indianapolis, with a friend who needed to come down for some pre-op tests. After her appointment, we went looking for a couple of favorite restaurants for lunch; and found one after another boarded up. Dark. Signs saying “Permanently Closed.” Very few people on the streets. Not even many cars.
The last time I was here, Indy had lots going on. The downtown was vibrant, with plenty of places to eat and shop and gather. Today, it felt like a ghost town. I won’t lie…it felt a little creepy. Like a scene from The Walking Dead, without the zombies.
COVID hit this city—and probably most American cities—hard. No in-person sporting events for a year meant no fans crowding the streets. No live meetings and conferences meant no attendees looking for places to sleep and eat. Add to that many people’s reluctance to go back to work when they’re living on stimulus money, and it’s a perfect storm. We talked to one of only two men working in a restaurant that was open for business. He said they can’t find enough people to hire.
We finally found a place to eat and enjoyed a nice lunch. As we walked back to the hotel, a man approached us, and said, “Good afternoon, ladies!” We smiled and kept walking, of course. He was dressed in clean, warm clothes and decent shoes. He wasn’t holding a cup and hadn’t asked for money, so we didn’t offer any. We weren’t inclined to stop and listen. Didn’t know him, didn’t want whatever he might be selling, didn’t feel particularly safe on that semi-deserted street, listening to a man who was not wearing a mask.
But he wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass. “Thanks for acknowledging me,” he said sarcastically. He started walking beside us, saying loudly, “I’ve been out here for five hours! Nobody even says hello. Is this how we treat each other now? Where’s the love?”
Sigh. Where is the love, indeed? So we slowed down and tried to find a way to more politely move on. But by this time, he was clearly disgusted with us, and stomped off. In half a block, he’d found some other people to regale about how society was going to hell in a hand basket.
So, friends…these are the things that have happened in my life in the past few days. I’m not sure I know how to pull them all together, except to say that life is messy.
It can be gloriously lovely—the laughter of children, gatherings of believers, celebrations with family and friends. And it can be horribly sad—people struggling to live decently, businesses forced to close their doors, and always…always…the poor, the sick, the homeless, the grieving.
Life is messy. But in the middle of the mess, praise God, we find a way to muddle through, to appreciate the extravagant beauty and joy, while at the same time enduring the ugliness and pain.
So tonight, my prayer for all of us is for resilience to live with the contradictions.
Deep gratitude for the many, many ways we are blessed each day.
Faith to trust in the One who created all life and called it good.
And the firm belief that each one of us can find a way to do the next right thing.
A way to leave things better than the way we found them.
May it be so for you and for me, friends.