Posts Tagged ‘Doing Good’

flooded with love

August 28th, 2017    -    4 Comments

A few weeks ago I went to see the movie Dunkirk. I had heard something about it, how real and human and decent it was. It was real all right—being relentlessly terrifying, conveying the experience of being trapped, desperate and abandoned.

It’s about a 10-day period during the Second World War when Allied forces retreated to the northern coast of France to evacuate from a “colossal military disaster.” Except there wasn’t really an evacuation. Hundreds of thousands of bedraggled troops massed on the beaches awaiting rescue by naval ships that were blasted to bits either before or right after they were loaded with evacuees. After two days, the British weren’t inclined to send more assets, as they say, into that certain fate. The ships stopped coming.

Knowing nothing of the history, I watched this doomsday unfold in a mounting panic as if I, too, were waiting waist deep in water for a rescue that would never come. But it came, after an eternal two hours, the rescue came and left me flooded with relief on a sun-soaked sidewalk outside the multiplex.

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After I’d spent 23 of my best years living in Houston, I came to appreciate what those years were about. They were about work, because you come to Houston to work. Sure the place can be good and plenty fun, but it’s not a cushy life, not carefree. You’ve got the heat, you see, which is not really the heat, but the humidity. And you’ve got the rain, a whole lot of it whether you’re ready or not, with skies that rupture into Biblical floods that swallow half your block and all your car before you can conjure a superior second thought. And in the middle of all that, you work.

But the work you’ll do in Houston is not just what’s visible up top. It always seemed to me that it was underneath. Soul work, you might say. Because hard places make you dig deep and find what matters in your own self. Houston is not really like some other cities in Texas. It’s a working-class town. A wide open town. With people from everywhere doing everything. I used to get asked what made Houston different. Well, I’d say, in Houston nobody asks you who your daddy is.

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So the call went out to everyday folks back home to muster fishing boats, pleasure boats, life boats and any other passable craft to come to the aid of their unlucky and afflicted kinsmen. It was a crazy, reckless, impossible thing to do, but these neighbors didn’t think twice. A hastily assembled fleet of more than 800 little boats rescued 338,226 soldiers from Dunkirk.

And yesterday a man from Texas City, launching his boat into a flooded Houston underpass, made it plain as day: I’m gonna try to save lives.

When the skies are really dark you can see the truth at the very bottom of things. There’s only one side. We are already united. We love one another. And right where you are with whatever you’ve got, you try to save lives, don’t you?

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cake recipe

January 26th, 2017    -    8 Comments

I was 5 or 6 years old when my sister and I would play a certain game. Whenever we got a bowl of ice cream for dessert we would mash and stir it into the consistency of batter before we ate it. We called the game “Making a Cake for President Kennedy.”

This game was not the measure of our innocent imagination. It was a sign of how much we adored our president. Alas, we didn’t get to play for long. Adoration, ice cream, childhood—and noble presidents—disappear too quickly.

After the euphoria of the marches on Saturday, the reality of our national wound dawned fresh and ugly. What can be said about an affliction so huge, an ignorance so insistent, a menace so malevolent? A lot, it turns out; but then again, not much.

A few days ago I heard from a friend and favorite author, Katrina Kenison, who writes with depth and heart about everything. She has been quiet of late. Quiet since the election. What do we say about the unspeakable? What do we do about the undoable? She wondered if she would ever feel moved to share a cake recipe on her blog again.

Yes, she will. We will all share recipes. We will shop, chop, blend and stir. Preheat the oven, oil the pan. We will set the table, pour the wine. Dress the salad, butter the bread, slice the cake and scoop the ice cream. We will invite people into our homes and feed them, you see, because that’s what the resistance does, in so many words: care.

Small things loom large in times of unfathomable crisis. Small things are how we serve.

Here is one of Katrina’s cakes.

And here is a helpful article with self-care tips for those who care. I’m passing it around for seconds.

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The merit of no merit

January 10th, 2010    -    12 Comments

The other day I sewed a half dozen new merit badges on a girl scout sash. Since my daughter graduated in the scouting ranks her new sash has been empty. The flag patch waves on her slim shoulder; the troop numbers march across her collar bone; but the merit was entirely missing. We studied the scouting book and decided that – lookee there! – several of her passionate pastimes already measured up for an award without doing anything more. We skipped the fine print in favor of a quick feather or two.

Honestly, how good does a good kid have to get?

The merit of a badge is equal to the merit of a mother sewing on the badge, which is to say, there is no merit. But I forget. I keep thinking there’s something for me to figure out, something to get, something to show. That there’s something that good mothers do, and some way that good daughters prove it. I’m always wrong about that.

She paraded off to school with six new badges to flash. They don’t mean a thing. But it’s a nice wide sash, this margin of error, this no-badge of honor, where good girls grow up by themselves and mothers simply stop keeping score.

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The world needs a homemaker

August 4th, 2009    -    28 Comments

Forgive the double posting from The Laundry Line, but this is so very important to see everywhere we look:

Last week I attended a retreat and came home infused with quiet calm and well-being. Then I glanced at the headlines in the newspaper and was shocked anew at the unimaginable depth of pain in this world. The scope of suffering is inconceivable. How can we respond in the face of this? Where do we begin to do good? I will tell you the only way I know to begin.

Empty the full hampers, sort and wash the laundry without resentment or commentary.

Sweep the floor of dust, mud and crumbs at your feet.

Don’t ask who made the mess.

At the grocery store, give your place in line to the person behind you.

Ask the checker how her day is going, and mean it.

On the way out, give your pocket money to the solicitor at the card table no matter what the cause.

Buy a cup of lemonade from the kids on the sidewalk stand. Tell them to keep the change.

Roll down your car window when you see the homeless man on the corner with the sign. Give him money. Have no concern over what he will do with it.

Smile at him. It will be the first smile he has seen in a very long time.

Write a thank you letter. Yes, a letter. If you do not have a reason to write one, do it without a reason.

Do not fight with your partner, your roommate, your spouse, or your children. If that seems impossible, just do not engage in the next fight, and don’t worry about the one that comes after. It might not come.

Do not try to convince anyone else of your point of view. That’s why they call it “point” of view. The point is just you.

If you feel yourself tensing in frustration, no matter what the circumstance, say, “I’m sorry.”

Do not indulge in despair over the futility of your impact or question the outcome.

Make yourself at home and take care of it as your own. It’s the only one there is.

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