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Life Force


Loretta had her first day of kindergarten last week. She cried, I cried. Talking to my friend Ricky about my nostalgia and the kids getting bigger, he said, "Wasn't that the plan?" Yes! I'm so happy for every day they are alive, but also so wistful.

I saw the following scene at the gas station later in the morning. A young father, dirty jeans and scruffy beard, carrying a large back and pulling a suitcase. And his elementary-age son, wearily following him and chugging a soda. Why wasn't he in school? Probably because that family is homeless, and school is complicated. Clean clothes, being somewhere on time, lunch money. And which school do you enroll your children in if you don't have a home?

I felt so many things in that moment. For starters, despite her tears and trembling lips on kindergarten's first day, Loretta will be just fine! Her every move and milestone has been celebrated in this family and in our community. But EVERY CHILD should have that. Every child should have their picture taken, standing proudly with their little backpack on and lunch to look forward to. 

I think of MLK: "I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be." There's something missing for me in Loretta's sweet first week of school because there are so many children who don't have enough love, celebration, kindness, food, or clean water. I think of how much I love her--sitting in her classroom in rapt attention, trying to keep her new shoes clean and figure out where the bathrooms are. Despite my mistakes, I know she's growing into who she ought to be. But, again in MLK's words, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'" We're not okay until everyone's okay. There's a lot of work to do.

I'm amazed lately at the sheer force of life. We keep having children, making plans, sending people into outer space, curing cancer. Sometimes I think, "For what? We're all going to die anyway!" Wyatt's been scared of death lately, and I can't tell him it's an irrational fear. Quite the opposite--he's in touch with something most of us manage to block out. What I'm coming to is that the point, more than posterity or legacy, is the sheer joy of the present moment. The moment when Wyatt plays with my hair as he's falling asleep, or the moment  on the trail when I'm overcome by the goodness and mystery of God. We are all, every one of us, going to die. And some more unfairly or untimely than others. I can't tell my children otherwise. But I can teach them to pay attention, be kind, and be brave. 

This milestone business--indeed, this life business!--is not for the faint of heart. But one of my favorite quotes (don't ask me who said it) is that rest is not the antidote for being overhwhelmed. Wholeheartedness is. I'm in.

P.S. Thanks to my friend Jackie (one of my biggest and most enduring fans) who asked when I'd be posting again. Thanks for liking me and believing in me.

Reader Comments (11)

amen. amen. I just read Mary Oliver's poem "Lonely, White Fields" & will use it for a wedding card today.
Thank you ofr thinking with your pen in hand. Iam glad to know where you are. Carry on!
September 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEsther Sandberg
Loved reading this Sarah. Thanks for being so eloquent and for sharing your heart with me and many others who are lucky enough to know you. When we become mommas we sign up to wear our hearts on the outside of our bodies. I am proud to be a serving momma with you on the force!
September 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiz C.
You don't know me at all, and I can't even remember how I found your blog (Tastespotting, maybe) but I LOVE it and wish you wrote more often...about food, life, God...and I wish I lived in Bellingham sometimes; maybe we would be friends :)
September 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoanna
as always you inspire me to action. your words straight and to the heart of the matter. please keep this space going for the rest of us to benefit from your clarity about what truly matters and, of course, more yummy food ideas. :) in my opinion food matters are often at the very heart of things. lots of love to you this morning.
September 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJenn Gallucci
So glad to see this new post! Thank you, as always, for your beautiful insight and words. As much as I love your recipes, I love the way you put the human experience into "just so right" words more.
September 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCaroline
Oh, Sarah, THANK YOU! You have such a way with words and communicating! Gary and I were lucky enough to get to hear Tavis Smiley and Cornel West not long ago, and you're speaking to their theme!
Roasted vegetable pizza last night; thanks from a while back! Lots of love!
September 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLynn M
Sarah, this was a truly beautiful post. I feel so helpless when I see children in dire circumstances. There is a homeless woman with an infant son that begs near my office ... it's all i can do not to break down and cry when I see her. I want to take her, tell her she can sleep in my building, do something for her ... anything. Instead I buy her and her baby food ... I get this wrenching feeling of hopelessness when i see her. If I can't help one person then what good am I? Food only lasts a day or two. I try to raise my children the best way I can but it sometimes feels like we're swimming against the tide. Wow, I didn't mean for that to feel so hopeless. Thank you for this post, it's good to know we're thinking about these things and acting when we can.
September 24, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdervla @ The Curator
I usually skip through bloggers' non-recipe posts, but yours are compelling and inspiring.
September 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda
You don't know me either....but I got hooked on your blog last year (or the year before?) and have made so many of the recipes. I keep checking back in hopes of a new post. Glad to see this one. Loretta looks so confident and happy in that picture!
September 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKay Lynn
I DO like YOU and your beautiful blog. I checked in to make your yummy granola and found your new post. Loretta Kindergarten-Cassidy College.....it was nice to be able to share our transitions together last week. You are absolutely right, parenting is not for the faint of heart.

Now....send me the article we discussed and let's get you published. No article=No Beer
September 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJackie
Your latest about pot luck reminds me of my cousin who had a ranch in Valley Springs, California. They used to have Ravioli parties. She and her husband made up the pastry and the guests brought their own filling. After they (the ravioli) had been cooked, they (the guests and hosts) had a tasting party - sounded like great fun to me. Enjoy your blog very much and hope you will keep them coming. Fran
November 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterfrances howey

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