February 5, 2013 in Uncategorized
“You have to know what exclusion is to know what welcome is.”
Father Randy Goeke
St Mary’s Episcopal Church; Bassett, Nebraska
3 Whenever I am afraid, *
I will put my trust in you.
When a storm-felled tree cut through my complacency, it set in motion a continuously unfurling set of events that led us across the nation. Four months ago today, we entered the Sand Hills of Nebraska to spend the glorious 5th of October with Father Randy Goeke and the congregation of St. Mary’s.
I parked on the outskirts of a sand-blown, sand-colored town. It looked more like Old West movies than anything I had ever seen. I dropped from the truck, slipping into the blustery, sand-strewn cold. Ahead of me, another vehicle had parked. A radiant man turned to me, clutched his scarf and ran. I had found Father Goeke.
I fell instantly into the sea of Father Goeke’s eyes. The air crackled, and we were united. Loneliness fell away. In the arms of Father Goeke, and the people of St. Mary’s, we were home. At the dinner they held for us, there were real people, glowing with the desire for good. They reached out to take care of us. In the humility of their care, our souls rose.
For someone like me, these experiences are precious. All of my life, I have been different. Few hesitated to point it out, and I have been reminded time and again of how little I have in common with the “regular” world. An outsider who could never find the door, I had placed both of my hands on the gateway west; and pushed. A lonely heart hauled herself forward on a thin rope of hope. Maybe acceptance was on the other side.
Here we are. With few resources to explore, it can feel like we just shifted from one side of God’s immeasurable palm to the other. jettisoned, wormhole style, from an east coast pod to our west coast one, my heart sank as I again met the question: Where is the door?
Of course, upon arrival, I reminded myself of what a reject I have always been. I hoped for a nitch as I inched forward, heart-first. I spun on my heel from our new stuck place, meeting this new world with my open-book smile. “Hi! I’m really vulnerable! I am traumatized! I am a reject! Want to be my friend?”
That is a terrible approach, I know; but I don’t know any other way. In my life, where reservation would have protected me, I have stunt-cartwheeled through the paper walls. No matter how I try to hold back, ultimately, I loose my battle cry: Tada! Here is everything I am! Do you like it??
Many have not. I am told that I am a little much for ordinary people. Too intense, too open, to emotional, too opinionated, too weird. Too much. Mostly, I have been a satellite on the edge of others’ lives. I was told a sea of ideas churned in the west. Here, it would be different.
One of the things that brought us west was the search for shared ideas. I wanted to be a part of a community that shared similar views regarding our planet, how we should live with it, and how we should live with one another. That is what I like so much about Jesus; and I wanted more of it in a more intense and immediate way. I wanted to know other parents like me, homeschoolers and unschoolers committed to creating a different kind of world.
Almost four months into this new world, we began discovering play groups and attending story hour at the library. These play groups are terrifying places for me. I am the freak. Single mother by choice, older mother, grieving mother, wild hippie-liberal-episcopalian-tattoo faced mother, I look around and I feel alone. The other mothers are not going to like someone like me. I am always an outsider. Still, I made my cartwheeling entrance and took my place on the floor.
Then, last week, I saw someone from our new church at story hour. We accidentally stumbled into the subject of home schooling. She shared with me about a new group forming, a group of homeschoolers/unschoolers wanting to connect. Was I seriously interested in home schooling, too? Good; then, I was welcome.
I moved forward with trepidation. Through the Facebook group, I reached out to a few of the parents before embarking. I hoped to break the ice. They seemed very nice; still, once they saw me and talked to me, they were going to know. They would see that thing that everyone always sees about me. They would see what others see in my disposition and personality that sets me apart. My invisible stain would let out its colors, marking me the clown.
We put some gas in the car and headed to the meeting place. The rare drive aired out our sails. The kid has been telling me recently that he needs to get back on the road. He wants to see more churches and stay in motels, he says. He wants to see new landscapes. Today, we scratched just a little of that itch as we headed into the hills.
Parents moved around in the parking lot, making their way upstairs. As soon as we neared the building, we could hear the tinkling sound of young joy above. Running across the wooden floor, they leapt through webs of shouts and laughter. The echo in the room came back to me. In all their happiness, my stomach cramped with fear. I was familiar with rooms like these. In rooms like these, I was never chosen. Last one picked for the team. Different different different, my mind told me as I went through the door.
I saw one of the women I had spoken to online. I hurried to her for an embrace. A small bit of fear rolled down my spine as I moved. A wild-haired artist and older mother, like me, I knew I had at least one familiar in the group. I tried to let go of a little more fear.
Soon, another new friend found me. Before I knew it, I was standing in small group sharing ideas and interests, climbing up, up, up through the varied landscape of our common ground. I drank yummy coffee and engaged in one comfortable chat after another. Before I knew it, my shoes were under the bench and I knew at least half of their names. I stood shoulder to shoulder, one of the crowd.
As I stood in the small group of chatting parents, a new couple came through the door. The man was smothered in tattoos, giant rings hanging from his stretched out ears. I reached toward his effervescent wife who immediately seized my hand and pumped it with great sincerity. “You are an amazing writer!” she cried, her eyes alive and connected. I felt my mouth fall open. My hungry heart ate from her generous plate. This was all so new.
She wasn’t the only one who mentioned having read my blog. Another mother told me that her and her husband both were exploring it. He had seen the link while hanging out with friends, she told me. “He was reading it while he was playing cards,” she said. “He started crying right at the table.” I imagined this, wrapped myself in it, and ate of their good food.
I wish I could have seen my own face in those moments. A zero, a nothing, a skittering shape at the edge of real life, people were seeing me. People were talking to me. People were embracing me. My ideas were not weird. My ideas were just like theirs. No one had to reach to find me. We were all right there.
My kid joined the mob of kids, running, crawling, bopping, zooming. Then, he needed to touch base. As I stood in the crowd of our new friends, a blue train tent edged in from below. My son was inside of it.
“Mama! Mama! Look at this!” A balloon exited a soft cloth window. With my toe, I poked it back in. “Mama! Mama! Look!” The balloon popped out, again. This time, I tucked it back in through the door. The cloth train jiggled and bounced, poking the gathered adults as they conversed. I felt myself grow anxious as he pushed forward even more. Just a week before someone had chided me for never leaving him with a sitter, for including him in all that I do.
I felt my face grow warm with apology, “He wants to be near mama. He needs to connect…”
“As he should!” a new friend cried, clapped a hand to my sagging shoulder. I blinked and blinked, unaccustomed to this new, accepting light. A few more offered the same. “Yes, of course!” I heard. After a few minutes, the little blue engine moved on.
One after the other, I made their acquaintance. One after the other, walls of my own making fell away. Soon, and maybe for the first time, I was one in the number. I was not the different one. I was just one. And One.
The group is full of ideas. We have walks to take, museums to visit, clay to mold, caves to explore. For me, this is like a miracle. I feel like a kid rolling down an ice cream mountain into a hot fudge lake. I have also changed my battle cry: