Today, was the day that my friend Julie and I cried. Julie can’t take communion yet, but I communed with her and it was with salty tears and too tight hugs. She started it, well, maybe my brother started it, his voice broke just a little when he asked Julie, do you desire to be baptized? And then Julie’s eyes filled, as the sudden realization of just what all this means sort of sunk in, and she said, I do.
And I was so proud of her.
It is so hard, to be honest. Sometimes, when someone is wearing something really nice and they say, does this look ok? Its easy. Usually though real honesty is hard. I do not doubt that it was hard for Julie, looking back over the many years, all those miles walked, and saying that she has chosen to take a different path, chosen a side.
There were comments made today in our class, and its sort of unfair to discuss them here, because then the person who made them would have to truly be brave and say how they feel…. but I will discuss them anyway and hope this person still loves me.
This person said that what this person was learning (do you like how I won’t even tell you the gender of this person? I am very slick.) told this person that what Jesus was talking about when He said to love your neighbor was not to love the whole wide world but those in your parish and in your community. And I wanted to say something, to jump up and shout, but I didn’t because we made a commitment to stay on task and I am all about going home on time.
But what I wanted to say was: Its not that hard to love the people in your community, because probably those people are like you, similar to you. The people in my community are comprised of the people I went to school with and their parents. We are all pretty much the same though we may have different sized paychecks and families. We still have issues that are the same, marital issues, mommy issues, you name it, we have them. They are common among us. Because we were raised the same and taught the same things at the same schools, and so we all believe, pretty much, within a Clinton/Bush margin of error, the same.
What we are called to, I truly believe, is to love ALL the people. Not just our parish. Not just our neighbor, not just our other confirmants slowly plodding down the road in the barren nowhere with us. This means Jews in Paris. This means an Iranian child. This means a woman in a burqa. This means a man in a turban at the airport. This means the very people who identify as Islamist and then murder and kill and burn and rape in the name of Allah. Yeah.
We have to love them too.
So that’s where it gets hard. Its relatively easy to love your neighbor when your neighbor is like you. (Granted, I would not park a stove covered in a blue tarp on my neighbor’s lawn…. but still.)
Kaia and I had an interesting discussion the other night at Great Lakes Chili Dogs, because it’s the one place we go where the food is consistently good and we can all agree and the service is excellent.
Kai is reading the Hunger Games, the first book, and its taken some time. She is slowly digesting the huge message that is these books. I said, do you see how Katniss doesn’t love the Capitol? Do you see how she rebels against them?
She said, I do, but she isn’t really rebelling, she is doing what she knows is right.
I said, but do you see how the Capitol says that Katniss is wrong? How they say that everyone else thinks like they do and believes like they do and goes to work and gets their bread, etc. etc.
She said, I do, but all Katniss did was put flowers on Rue. All she did was sing her a song. (and then her eyes filled, because bless her, she is my child!)
I said, but do you see how the Capitol thought that was wrong? That love that she showed to someone who was supposed to be her enemy?
She said, I see what you mean. But how could Rue be her enemy? Rue was her friend, Rue was only a little girl, they are both just people, why should they be enemies?
She gets it. She sees how we are set against one another and how we have to love each other anyway. And that is one of the over-arcing themes of the books, how we come together and show love in the face of a government or an institution that tells us we can only love who they say we can love.
Katniss loved Rue enough to show it with flowers and with a lullaby. And Kaia says that does not make Katniss a terrorist.
I said, so, if you are doing something your government tells you you must not do, but is the only right thing? Then are you a terrorist?
Kaia said, like a hurting people terrorist, no. Like a loving people terrorist, yes, cuz moms, I love all the people.
And she does, in the way that only a ten year old can love.
So that is what we are called to, and the lady in Holland who wrote that book my friend was referring to? She and I can meet up and I would be happy to tell her that a lot of things in the Bible don’t mean what we think they do, how we interpret them with our own upbringing which becomes a sort of spin. How we eat shellfish and don’t have many wives (thank GOD, I was never the competitive sort).
My dear, dear friend, traveler with me on this journey, we are so different, you and I. The law always wins, and it isn’t always fair, but I don’t believe that of you, you would be unfair. I want you to know though, that you are called to love everyone. The lady who wrote the book is misunderstanding, or perhaps she is repeating, and it is only what Jesus said, that you only have to love your actual neighbor. Do you see, now, how easy that can be? Do you see how the easy answer is not usually the right one? I know you love me, because I am like you, smart, and funny and thoughtful, just like you. But we are called to love the world. We truly are.
And that is a hard thing, even for my ten year old, who hasn’t yet entered the shading and the degrees and the sorts of love the way that we have; she just loves, nothing or all. Usually all, much to her downfall.
I remember my heart cracking open wide, and how much it hurt. And I remember the tears that stood in your eyes today, the experience that you said was nothing you had ever experienced before, as I applied ashes to the forehead of a six year old that I conceived, that I carried, that I bore, that I will raise; as I told her she was dust.
Look for more tears. Look for more things that rend your heart. None of this is easy, it isn’t supposed to be.
Love all the people, all of them. Not just me, not just the people who look like me or act like us. It’s not just our parish, not just our community, it’s everyone.
Its a little girl who is black, and she is from District 11, and it is a white girl named Katniss, and she is from District 12. And they are sent into an arena to fight to the death because they are told to, because they are told that they cannot possibly love each other, they cannot possibly overcome their differences. And yet, they don’t choose that path, the one laid out, all easy and making sense. And yet. They choose to love each other.
And they choose to.