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.