When Love Walks Among Us

I am walking tonight- solo, as the Two Youngest have a friend over and Husband is on duty back on the home front. I miss my walking partner on nights like this. Nights when it feels I am the Lonesome Isolated- walking when the rest of the world is doing more important things, living out more exciting plans than I.  When the rest of the world is organizing and doing things and gathering in places and spaces- making plans that I have not been privy to. Having fun being connected and together.  All but me: I walk alone.  And so tonight, feet slap pavement sounding loudly while hearts are feeling a tad bit blue and rather lonely.

It must be awful to feel lonely day in and day out.

I called my friend later and checked in about an activity our children are both involved in tomorrow. And after I tell her how happy I am that her daughter Zoe* has taken my own daughter under her wing, now that she has arrived a full-fledged member of intermediate school, my friend happens to mention something to me off the cuff. Something I find interesting in light of my feelings tonight.  Here’s how the conversation went down.

She asks me first if I have heard the name Charissa* come up in conversation when talking with Daughter. No, I say. Oh?  Well Charissa has been hanging out with the girls too, she says (proceeding to tell me that Charissa is new to the school this year and that the girls had noticed her alone over lunch time). She continues to tell me that her daughter Zoe*- the same one that has taken care of my own dear one- took the initiative to go over to this young adult sitting by herself in the cafeteria and invite her to sit with her and her friends, one of which is Daughter. My friend mentions the fact that Charissa has a shaved head on one side and a couple different colors of neon framing her head on the other- not someone easy to mix in a group of unfamiliar faces. Maybe some of the other kids didn’t see her as potential. But Zoe* did.  And because she did, Charissa isn’t lonely anymore.

All it takes is one rock to start an avalanche.

That’s all it takes. And in like manner, all it takes is one person to begin a cascade of love. That love and care and compassion and concern- it’s a free fall after that one encounter. Because other people notice and become caught up in the action. It’s hard not to when you realize the possibilities. In choosing to love, we lose fear. In choosing care and concern, we lose disinterest. In choosing compassion, we eliminate indifference. By choosing grace we say no to cruelty. What’s not to choose?

We all feel alone sometimes. But it makes my heart sing to know that there are human beings like Zoe out there in the world noticing the faces of people who need love. We all need love, but some of us need an infusion of love in the in-between moments of life even more than others. For me, knowing that there are Zoes in this world makes me want to join the effort, get in on the love cascade. So that love can fall like rain and the lonely can feel they are with their people.

We all are their people.

And in thinking about Zoe and Charissa and all the other lonely, isolated solitary people in this world- myself included by times: it helps to know. We are not alone. We never are.  Not when Love walks among us.  And because we know this, we can then reach out in love to others- turning their isolation into connectedness.  Turning their feelings of separation into togetherness.

Creating a love cascade from a single act of kindness.

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Dear Life,…

I am scraping out the innards of a huge spaghetti squash with a spoon. Yellow fibers and white seeds accumulate in a soft pile on my cutting board. I work purposefully- around and around. The more I scrape, the easier I can see the pale yellowish sides of this fleshy melon-shaped gourd. It is cathartic, this scraping. I scrape the squash raw. Bare to the bone, so to speak.

Sometimes that is what it feels like, Life. Like you are scraping us all raw. All the pressures, demands of our days. Family, work, faith, extra-curricular, friends, personal. And the list goes on. And on and on and on. The proverbial spoon eating away at us until we feel there is nothing left. Until we feel empty.

Hollow. Bare. Worn.

I plunk the squash in a white corning-ware dish and squirt on generous portions of olive oil for flavor, then hoist it up into the microwave. I’m beat. It will be supper, clean-up and then a walk. And then? Well, I can’t think about anything past this right now. Because that is the time of the night that I can do without- bedtime witching hours and other forms of entertainment meant to drive poor parents into the crazy house.

But first things first: the walk. Always the walk. Tonight’s will most certainly be in the rain. At least I have the peace and quiet to look forward to.

And yet. I find that even with the small pleasures one is afforded- gentle mist at dusk, leaves spread out in colorful pattern on a cobble-stone walkway, kittens scrambling for a warm dish of scraps- even in all this: one can feel worn.

Is it meant to be this exhausting, Life?

There was that moment today.

I met the Boy in the hallway, crying. His jacket had been torn and it was ‘his best one’ he sobbed. He showed me the rip- the zipper pulled out from the lining leaving a gaping hole. He was worried. Would his mother growl him? Would he have to make do? Sometimes a coat can be cause enough to make a boy worry when there isn’t much else in his possession.

I didn’t really have time or answers- I myself was on the run. It was a split-minute decision: ‘stay and talk’ or ‘smile and pass’. I couldn’t bring myself to do the latter. I just couldn’t.

I lean in close enough to see his eyes, to notice the tears. To notice the worry. And my heart just goes out to him. Sometimes you find yourself face to the ground without any other solutions but to wearily lift your head up. And even that is a hard enough task for which to muster the strength. This I know is true- I’ve been there before myself.

I don’t have much to offer him- but I had just unpacked a book order containing a new title meant as a surprise for my own daughter. That is what I had been doing prior to opening the door and then finding him there, standing by the lockers. What could I do? What could a teacher do? What does a mother do?

She follows her heart.

“Do you like to read?” I ask. “Can you read books with lots of words?”

He nods the affirmative.

“You wait here,” I tell him. “I have something for you.”

I scoot back into the classroom and retrieve the book which I then thrust into his arms. “There you go- hope you like it!”

And he walks off, leaving me standing in the doorway of my room for another second longer.

And I don’t have much time to think in that moment about emptiness and hollowing out and worn. I don’t have time to think about me. Because all I feel is joy. For him. I saw him smile! And joy when it is caught fills you up so much so that you cannot sense the wear and tear of everyday life- all you can feel is the peace. The contentment and the sweet, sweet filling grace.

Giving has that kind of way with me. It just makes my cup overflow.

And later I will take that walk in the rain and I will feel those sweet October breezes then the evening damp from the drizzle and dew, and I will smell the sweet earth and hear the potato trucks driving yet another brimming load into the warehouse one community over: I will sense it again. Full. That feeling of being full. Full of good things, so much and so varied. And although there will come again those moments still, of knowing empty. Of knowing hollow. Of knowing that worn-out, exhausted tired that we who are human are so susceptible to befriend. It will return. But then, I can know too with surety and anticipation that when that moment of ‘knowing empty’ passes, it will be replaced with knowing peace- with knowing grace. Replaced with knowing that life is good.

It is so incredibly good. And we have so very much with which to fill us up.