When we built the big yellow house on the hill over 12 years ago, Jarod, the contractor who supervised the process, was a business associate of my brother’s, and a close friend of my dad’s. (He was a pall bearer at Dad’s funeral.)
While building our house, Jarod was also supervising a huge expansion at his home church in the next town over. This left his small crew of guys stretched to their limits. Unluckily for him, we lived in the tiny white house in front of our work site, so if I expected a crew to be working, and they didn’t show up for a day or two, I’d be on the phone to Jarod. (In my defense, I was pregnant with the baby that would be Buster, and we were having the baby at home…in the home that Jarod was building.)
Several times Jarod had to resort to using subcontractors to keep our job moving forward. It probably cost him money, but I’m sure not having me on the phone was well worth it.
One of the subs ended up being the team that trimmed out the house, including the fire place and bookshelves in the living room.
Here’s some of their work in that house:
While visiting with the lead carpenter from the subcontracting group, he shared with me that one of the men on his team had lost his young son in a horrible accident not long before. As a parent, my heart seized with sorrow for this broken man.
And in that same heart, I wanted to ask for him to not work on our house. (I realize now how horrible this thought even was, but this about being honest about life experiences, and that was the thought I had.)
In my pregnancy brain, I had some idea that his sorrow would soak into the very walls of the house. That in some way his pain and misfortune might be catchable.
I’m grateful I didn’t actually voice these horrible thoughts, but I suspect if I could talk to that man now, I’m sure I would not have been the only person who shied away from him. The pain of losing a child is almost too much to be born.
And yet, people do, with grace and eternal pain.
That man showed up. Day after day he shared his skills with us in making our new home beautiful. The home where two of our children would be born. The only thing that soaked into the walls was love.
That man, and another man came to my mind a few weeks ago. Terence Crutcher is the black man who was shot by a white female police officer when his car stalled in the middle of the street in Tulsa. That shooting…it hit me in the gut.
If it had been me with that stalled car, or a white man with that stalled car, we would not have been shot. We would NOT have been shot.
Shortly after, a local organization, NOAH, sent out a notice about Community Organizer training the following Saturday. The group description is:
Nashville Organized for Action and Hope (NOAH) is a faith led coalition that is multi-racial and interdenominational comprised of congregations, community organizations, and labor unions that work to give voice to traditionally marginalized people. NOAH engages ordinary people in the political and economic decisions affecting their lives, acting as a unified voice for the faith and justice community to act on its values in the public arena.
NOAH members and delegates gathered to decide the key focus issues of the organization. They are: affordable housing; economic equity; and criminal justice.
Our church is one of the faith led organizations involved, but our family hadn’t been directly connected to its work.
The training was on a Saturday.
I didn’t want to go. I love our weekends. We get too little time with Buds and losing a whole Saturday with him was a blow.
Then I thought about Terence Crutcher. His family would give anything to have him back for one hour.
I thought about the man who showed up to work on our house.
How could I not be willing to sacrifice a Saturday? (Can I even call it a sacrifice?)
The training was splendid. A great deal of information that I’m still processing, and it deserves its own post eventually, but one of the things we discussed, and something our beloved new minister has pressed home to our congregation, is that showing up matters.
Your presence matters.
Standing up for what is right…matters.
Buddie’s mom stood (possibly still does) on a corner in their downtown with a cohort of peaceful folks, protesting U.S. involvement in our most recent wars. She did this for years and years, every week.
Showing up matters.
When you have time, listen to this Malcolm Gladwell podcast on Generous Orthodoxy. The big question: People want to know what you are willing to sacrifice for what you believe in.
At this time in our world, we are headed toward a moment when we will be defined by what we are willing to sacrifice. I live an incredibly comfortable, easy life. There has been pain and sorrow, but overall, I understand how blessed I am.
I am also a white, well-educated straight, cis-woman who has (mostly) lived a conventional life in the richest country in the world who has always had a roof over my head, food in my belly, and two parents to care for me in childhood.
What will I be willing to sacrifice?
Would I give up my church as Chester Wenger did? My home? My ability to travel wherever I choose? One meal a week? A day?
What about my family? No, I wouldn’t give them up, but would I give up some of the ease of our family’s life?
We have so much. Some have so little. How do we find, or can we find, safety and care for all?