collecting hope

My parental heart swells with pride. But more than that, my hope for this world is revived in this moment.

My son is not getting an award. He’s not starring in any big performance. He didn’t just graduate. This is a small act, really. Unnoticed and uncelebrated by anyone who might happen to see. Including my son.

He’s not pointing out his actions with the common, “Mom! Watch me!” that accompanies most acts children think are spectacular. Or the, “Did you see what I just did?” when they want to receive credit for what they have done.

And maybe that’s what made this all the more amazing to me. The fact that it was no big deal was a really big deal.

Because I, like most people, want this world to be a better place. But I am completely overwhelmed by the thought of making the whole world better.

And not just better on the outside, the tangible things we see, our behaviors. I want the world to be better from the inside out. Better because people care more. About the environment. About one another. About themselves.

Because change from the inside out – transformation – is a lasting change. This kind of change usually indicates a healing and making whole of damaged people.

So of course sometimes I feel a little hopeless. Because while I often see the incredible beauty in humanity, I also see the terrible brokenness of it. And sometimes I am crushed with despair.

Because I can’t put the world back together from it’s brokenness. So sometimes I doubt that it happens at all.

But when I see my nine-year-old son walk over to pick up a piece of trash on the ground that was not left by him and put it into a trash can, I celebrate. I do the happy dance.

I know. This is a small thing. But to me, it represents so much more. Because transformation is often revealed in small, changed habits.

As his parent, I am glad to see my son keep track of his own trash. To make sure what waste he creates he also takes responsibility for. That on it’s own is a win.

But the fact that he went outside of himself and picked up trash left by someone else and it was no big deal was ENORMOUS.

Not just as his parent, but as a fellow human being. Because he cares enough to do the little things that make this world better.

He wants the world to be a better place, too.

And he knows that starts with him.

And that gives me hope.

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hope in the middle

I don’t know him, but he gives me hope. Everyday.

Middle school is not an easy time, to put things lightly. Even now as an adult when I drop my son off or pick him up, I see it. The invisible yet obvious undercurrent of the caste system there.

The power of some. The shame of others. The pain and insecurity of all. Kids. Going through an excruciating stage of life.

But when I see him, I am always inspired. He is tall with a strong build and an awkward looking run. His blonde hair with gentle waves seems to suit the sweet spirit I see in him. My sense is that he comes from a family where he is loved and valued. He holds his head high and smiles from the inside out, even though I never see him with friends.

He is my reminder that right now is not all there is.

Because let’s face it, when we’re in it, middle school might as well be an eternity. The pressure to be perceived well is crushing and ever-present, making us all acutely aware of everything we say or do and how it might look to the eyes of others.

But as I have told my son, this is the worst of it. After middle school, people get better and better and better at accepting others – and themselves – and not being as mean and cruel as they are in middle school.

Except for those who don’t, because there are a few who remain forever in middle school. And there is a tiny bit of middle school that remains forever in everyone. But for the most part, we grow out of it.

And this boy reminds me of that because every time I see him, I see who he is now. Probably not the highest one on the social totem pole. But of all the kids who walk by while I wait in my car for the bell to ring, in him I can also see who he is going to be.

His future self seems to leap out of him right before my eyes. Handsome, yes, but also compassionate. The guy all the girls will swoon over because he will not only have looks but also heart and soul.

He is and will be smart, hard working, and going somewhere. Where I don’t know, but somewhere far away from middle school. And not only going somewhere but also being someone, as he already is. Someone wonderful. Someone people want to be around.

Those middle school kids can’t see this now. But I can. And it makes me smile.

reminders

Why do I always need reminders? Don’t get me wrong, I know one gigantic reason is that ½ my brain cells were lost with each baby I gave birth to (and let’s remember I have three children). But I need reminders about more than just, “Where are my keys?” and, “What time does karate start?” and, “Which night is open house again?”

I need reminders about the important things in life. That is why I love reading Francesca Zelnick’s blog so much. She reminds me that there is beauty and love in this world. Because for some reason I am prone to forgetting.

My reminders often come in unexpected, seemingly random ways. Except they seem to be timed just perfectly for what I need when I need it. Funny.

Like a few days ago when I dropped my middle son off at school. I took my youngest to give his daily hello and fist bump to one of our favorite teachers and she had eggs hatching in her room.

I know. So cute, right?

Those new little chicks were a desperately needed reminder to me that new life is just around the corner. I never know when that egg will crack and something beautiful, in an ugly sort of way, will come out and warm my heart.

Once the chicks get fluffy, they are irresistibly adorable. But before that, when they first emerge from their shell, their feathers are wet, their heads are floppy, their feet are well too big for them, and they can’t seem to stand up straight.

And they are so very sleepy. Breaking out of the shell that once was protective and nurturing but now is cramped and restrictive is difficult work. The poor things just look exhausted.

But they are born.

And I am like those chicks, struggling to get my true self out of the shell. There is always something new birthing inside of me. And sometimes there is so much struggle involved in that process. It can feel endless.

So I soaked in those chicks this week because they reminded me. Hope.

Because sometimes, I simply forget.

My new life is around the corner, too.

discovering hope in the cold

What is your favorite season? I am always curious to hear what people have to say in response to that question. To me it is so obvious that spring is the best season of all. The sun is warm but not hot, the land is waking up out of the slumber of winter, leaves are turning green again, the hours of light are increasing, and the air holds the aroma of hope and potential and that is why I love it so.

But some people love winter. Perhaps you are one of them. It seems a little bizarre to me, but then again, I choose to live in San Diego where it can be argued there is no winter.

Even in San Diego, my winters are a constant attempt to get warm. I have a bag of rice that I heat in the microwave at night to snuggle my toes against. I shake my fist at the sky when it pours rain during school drop off or pick up. I have even begun to dress as strategically as possible with my under shirts and scarves and socks and boots and jackets and it seems like such a bother. I hate to be cold.

So of course I wonder why anyone would like winter. But lately I have been thinking metaphorically about seasons, and I am beginning to have a new respect for the winters of my life.

I am hoping against all hope that the snow is melting and light is over taking dark at the end of what seems like a much too long season of winter for me and my family. A few years ago I incurred a trauma that lead me to deal with some nice items of baggage I had collected in my journey through life. That took its toll on our little family of five.

We made it through that just in time to have the economy and some investments catch up to us, thus giving my husband his turn with the bags he has collected along his way through life. Add to that my oldest son starting middle school, throwing our family dynamic on its ear and leaving us groping around in search of a new normal.

And it has felt very dark. But just in the last few days I have seen some glimmers of hope that spring will in fact come and bring life to my weary soul once again. And I just want to stand in front of that rising ball of light and weep with exhaustion from enduring such a lengthy time in the cold.

Winter Snow - Landscape

I realize with this dawning hope that we are making it through this difficult season. And our family will be stronger for it. We will be deeper. More bonded for having weathered the storms of a bad winter together.

Things happen under that mysterious layer of cold. Often I can’t see what it is until the snow melts, but I am beginning to realize that the season of winter has depth, beauty, and value all its own. Even if it means months of cold feet.

What beauty do you find in winter?