Sunday, November 22, 2009

Enjoy the Ride

I sat on a bench soaking up the beauty of my friends and my surroundings and counting my blessings when out of nowhere this incredible spirit came over to me. Years of hardship were etched into his face. He smiled and said something about some people believing that life is just like getting in and out of a car, point A to point B. I told him I felt that there was so much more to life than that and that we each must make the most of it. He laughed a deep, rich belly laugh, pointed a crooked finger at me and said, "ain't it the truth". He backed a few feet away and from the depths of his soul and with the voice of a gospel angel, began to sing Amazing Grace with such passion that he made us both tear up. When he was finished I thanked him for the song. He told me he was gonna fly soon and asked if I believed it. I said I understood. He asked me to pray for him and, much to his dismay, I think, I told him to do the same for me. As he walked away I called after him to say, simply, "Enjoy the ride."

Friday, November 6, 2009

Song Bird

Maya Angelou is, perhaps, my most favorite literary giant. Her words are rich and powerful, touching and poignant, yet she is so altogether unassuming.

Exhibit A recently read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, possibly one of the greatest books of all time, by my estimation. She was moved, as most of us are, by Maya's story.

There's a stand alone Angelou essay about Maya's brother who played an integral part in the events that shaped her life and Exhibit A felt compelled to write her own piece about the single most important person in her world. In keeping with the singing theme, she selected a song that reminded her of her subject and she interwove the lyrics throughout her writing.

She chose me.

She stood in front of the room with her selected piece of music playing in the background and she began to read her words with a confidence we all wish to have when the spotlight shines upon us.

I can't possibly express here the depth of her essay or even hit the highlights, for I know I won't do it justice. I am not sure I've ever felt so utterly overwhelmed with pride, love, humility and gratitude all at the same time.

I can tell you that the part that touched me the most was that she said I was a "working woman"... but she didn't mean I have a job. Instead, she stated that I don't approach anything with less than my best and no matter whether it's a volunteer position, my job, a family matter, fighting an incurable illness or sustaining a relationship with another person, I put forth 150%. She also talked about my green eyes, my mad cooking skillz, my willingness to teach other people new things and, perhaps most touching, my ability to face adversity with courage, strength of character, beauty, grace and an unending sense of humor.

All the while she wove into her essay the following lyrics by Kate Voegele which continued to play in the background:

This road is anything but simple
Twisted like a riddle
I've seen high, I've seen low

So loud, the voices of all my doubts
Telling me to give up
To pack up, leave town

Even so, I had to believe
Impossible means nothing to me

So can you lift me up?
Turn the ashes into flames
'Cause I have overcome
More than words can ever say
I've been given hope
That there's a light on up the hall
And that a day will come when the fight is won
And I think that day has just begun

Somewhere, everybody starts there
I'm counting on a small prayer
Lost in a nightmare
But I'm here, and suddenly it's so clear
The struggle through the long years
It's taught me to outrun my fears

Everything that's worth having
Comes with trials worth withstanding

So can you lift me up?
Turn the ashes into flames
'Cause I have overcome
More than words can ever say
And I've been given hope
That there's a light on up the hall
And a day will come when the fight is one
And I think that day has just begun

Oh lift me up... oh lift me up... oh lift me up
Lift me up, lift me up
Oh, lift me up

Down and out is overrated
And I need to be elevated
Looking up is not enough
No, I would rather rise above

So can you lift me up,
Turn the ashes into flames
'Cause I have overcome
More than words will ever say
And I've been given hope
That there's a light on up the hall
And that a day will come
When the fight is won
And I think that day has just begun

How is it that one so young is so incredibly wise beyond her years and that she understands so much more than so many people who have lived longer and fuller lives? Once again, I am humbled... yet also just incredibly thankful that that my words and actions have reached her, that I am one step closer to where I need to be in order to know with great certainty that my work here is, indeed, done.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Girl Talk

My house backs up to thick woods which right now glow with the fire of fall colors. The beauty of living in the dirty south is that on a crisp fall day it's just cool enough to whisper autumn but fair enough to soak the outside world in sunlit warmth.

Exhibit A and I sat on the deck this afternoon sipping hot, spiced cider and talking about everything and nothing all at once.

As her words started to flow she opened up to me more and more and for the first time ever, there was talk of... a boy.

She likes a boy but she doesn't know his name. He is tall and has strawberry blonde hair. I asked her if she'd just seen him from afar and thought he was cute and she looked at me like I have three heads then went on to explain...

She was in the hallway trying to get from one class to the next and a few things dropped from her locker. The boy was passing by and stopped to help her. He picked up what dropped and handed it to her with a smile.

The measure of a man is not so much in his looks or even in his words, but in his actions. I've tried to model a life of action for my children and explain to them what matters most. How happy I am that my daughter has already started to figure out what took me years and years to understand.