Sophie and Matilda

When I was growing up, she was my hero. I looked up to her, I wanted to be her, I thought about moving through the world like her. She was awesome. She was a character in a book who could move things in her mind. She was telepathic. I learned that word a good two to eleven years before I learned how to pronounce it correctly.

It was either her or the half-size giant that collected dreams and blew them into children’s bedrooms so they could have the most amazing vision as they slept. The friendly giant who combined nightmares like mixed drinks to tell messages and destroy his foes. He made a friend with a little girl who surprised him at his trade one night. Then he carried her in his ear. HIS EAR. He swiveled it up to sit like a bowl and carried her there back to his home, where he taught her about his different world.

I liked Sophie and her big giant of a friend; I read The BFG so often that my mother had to rebind the book. But my favorite girl in all of literature when I was growing up was Matilda.

Her life was so different than my own. She went to school when I was homeschooled. Her parents were dolts of the n-th degree while mine are some of the most intelligent folks I know. She had an idiot big brother and I have a brilliant little sister.

But I identified with her so well. She loved to read, as I do. She had a few shining examples of amazing teachers, as I do. She was creative, inventive, and a little devious. She didn’t let the bad things in her life affect her way of moving through the world. Even with a horrid household growing up and a cruel bully for an authority figure at school she still remained a thoughtful and considerate individual.

She was my hero. I loved all of Roald Dahl’s books as a child, but Matilda was my favorite.

Ode to the C1

Every morning, when I was just a little later than I wanted to be, I had to take the bus to school. Getting on the C1 took skill and a little luck at five after eight o’clock in the morning. I had to leave my house three to four minutes before the bus was supposed to go by, and I had to get it just right. Though I habitually like to be early to everything, I was rarely early for this… Those precious minutes of sleep at seven in the morning are far too dear. I got to the point that I could almost guarantee that I would get on the bus, but it would be close.

So Stuffed it's Smokin'

See, the C1 begins its route in the morning at the undergraduate freshmen campus, and fills up with practical teeny-boppers who have class beginning at the same time as I did. So in order to catch a ride halfway through the route, you have to time it just right. It also didn’t help that I was at one of the most popular midway points, and so we would have a crowd of ten to twenty people hanging around waiting for a ride. And a bus driver will be hesitant to stop, when the bus is already practically full, even though there is probably room for a handful of folks.

I cannot tell you the number of times that I got on the bus, cramming into the space between two tall guys, hoping my backpack didn’t run into someone’s face. At some times, it was almost as if it was not the hand grips that were keeping me upright, but the general press of the crowd.

One time, I had to carry a box to school. It was very lightweight, but bulky, nonetheless. And I was late getting to the stop. Not terribly late, but sorta late. And so I got on the bus, and was cramming in, and realized that I would not be able to sit down. I had to hold onto the handgrips above my head. I still had this box in my hands. I was facing a girl, practically standing in her lap. I looked around and realized my predicament.

I told her, “I’m just gonna let you hold this so I don’t drop it on you.”

She was surprised more than anything. She looked at her friend sitting next to her and they both began to laugh, “No, it’s ok, I was about to ask if I could hold it for you.”

She thought I was odd. I know that I was a bit abrupt in telling her that she would hold it for me, but she seemed to be ok after the initial shock of a complete stranger talking to her.

Happy ending: the box survived, and I got to class on time.

That is one thing about the C1 that I found so interesting. Complete strangers stand or sit next to each other, and we are so involved in our own lives that we don’t expect the person practically sitting on us to make any real contact. It is as if we enter with our own shields and don’t let anyone in. It is almost sad. How do we spend so much time involved in ourselves that we don’t even see the person next to us?

It doesn’t just happen on the C1. It happens a lot of places. It happens more often than you might think.

Who is asking to be seen around you?

Come Together

Today, in my writing for spiritual formation group, we didn’t write. Usually, we check in as a group, then get a prompt from our director, then we sit in silence for twenty minutes as we write, and then if we want we share what we have written, and talk about it a little. Today, we never got out of checking in. Today, we acted like a group. A group that had a need and had space to fulfill that need. And today, I was blessed by the ability of the group as a whole to be open to doing something different than what we normally do. Different even than our stated purpose for gathering. And that made it amazing.

It’s not something I would usually ask for. I am quite content to do things the way they usually are. I have been in this specific practice for nearly 16 months, nearly a complete two years of school, and this is the first time that I have been in the space when we did something other than write in silence as part of it.

But this time, because of a question that was raised in the group, we were able to put aside our usual routine, and commit to the true reason for the group. Because we might gather to write, but we also gather to be together. If it was just to write, we could go sit alone and write by ourselves. We have committed to being a community that joins together once a week, and yes, we committed to writing when we signed up, but it is a way for us to spend our time, not the reason we must. We gather to be formed in our spirit. We gather to change the way that we see the world. We gather to come and share our needs and concerns and hurts and sufferings and desires and pains and joys and praises.

It wasn’t just sharing. It also was not as if the problem was presented to the group so that we could “solve” it. We try too often to solve the problems we see. But you can’t solve people. Life doesn’t work that way. Truth doesn’t work that way.

Sometimes, you have to be open to hearing the question and knowing that there is not an answer to it. Not one that is easy, anyway. There is no answer to our deep human needs.

You can’t solve loneliness by talking about it. You can’t solve hurt without reconciliation. You can’t solve life. Life is not a mathematical equation to be balanced.

We try to balance our lives so that we don’t seem too uneven, out of whack. But we quickly learn that the gentlest puff of wind can easily topple us from our precarious perch when we try to do it alone. We need more than just our own selves to get us through it. We need the stabilization of others who are also going through it, to hold us up. And we need God to guide us and sometimes carry us through the piercing jagged road of the journey.

As we balance along the journey, we have others with us, reminding us that we can stop and pause and ask for the help we so desperately need. That is why we come together.


Prompt of Six

Sound the Alarm! It is not an emergency, it is merely an event where we all must walk outside in the cold. And so I trudge. Without my coat, but still with my possibly dirty spoon in my backpack, prepared for the German Chocolate Cheesecake or impossible hot chocolate, but not for the tired, gothic new cathedral towers hiding me from the sun.

Wait, no. It’s just cold. And there is no cheesecake. I have nothing. I am merely cold, my knees and ears facing the biting wind. Thank God it hadn’t started raining yet. I was in no position to be judged for a wet T-Shirt contest, and I had dressed up so that I could sing. Now the ridges on my seemingly soft shoes have cut into my feet, and the bands of my socks have created a lasting impression around my calves, and my hair didn’t have its hat but it is still impressed into a cloche, because it was still wet in the cold.

But I do give thanks that I woke up warm and comfortable. Nestled in my covers and snuggly. Don’t judge me for my snuggleyness, or for the gaping red shirt that dares and surely intends to defy my intentions of modesty.

Twist around my finger, encircle both my wrists, dangle from my ears. Be my creation.

Refuse to listen.

I want my hot chocolate to apparate and come fill me with warmth again. Let me stir it with my slightly dirty spoon that cleans itself as it travels with me wherever I go.

But it is no emergency. It is not a time when we will be judged for what we carry. That is for later. When we end up finding the ends of the world at the roots of the tall gothic towers reaching elegantly into the sky and daring to block the sun.

[this was a writing exercise challenging me to incorporate six random words into my writing. if you want to try to figure out the six words, be my guest.]

Relative times

Time is not a constant. That’s what Einstein said. And I believe him. Especially in class. And in preaching. When I write, I take forever. But when I read what I write, it goes by at such a clip, that I sometimes miss it. Likewise, in conversation, I can let any number of miss-intentioned things slip out of my mouth, and sometimes I don’t even realize they have passed, let alone regret my not having stopped them.

Perhaps that is what was meant by heavy words. Maybe Gravity has something to do with how I experience the time in my classes. Maybe I am receiving such levels of information, philosophy, and theology, that the time must creep by because it is so close to the great mass of words.

Or maybe I just want to go take a nap.