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“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” —Frederick Douglass

I’ve just come from a doctor’s appointment. It was so cold in the office that I was shivering when I left. The good news is, the doctor was warm. Now I am sitting in a sunny spot thawing my body with a cup of soup and the sun is streaming in on me. I played musical chairs for a few minutes when I arrived here in a cafe, moving from table to table ending up back where I started—drawn to the sunny rays. There is an hard-working woman on her cell phone a few tables away from me arranging wedding receptions and two older women are seated in front of me getting to know one another over sandwiches and iced tea. One of the older ladies—the one with her back to me—has a silvery braid swept over to one side, draping over her shoulder. I haven’t written in a while. It isn’t for a lack of yearning. I sat down a few weeks ago to share my thoughts and found myself imitating something I had written in the past. It didn’t feel honest. Another afternoon, just as the words began to flow I had an impulse to check my phone messages. I began to admonish myself for my distraction, but upon looking I saw that I had a message from the school. Off I went to pick up my bigger boy, my under-the-weather boy. I am quite often inspired to write as I am driving—truth rising up in me like a fountain erupting as I take in the vast and magnificent Maine sky, fields filling up with hay passing me by. Words and images flood my senses—exquisite and lifelike. These stories are fleeting, though, and I would need to turn the car around and rush home if I wanted to capture them to the page. So here I am again, giving this another go.

I limit my (bad) news intake. I only need to take in a tiny sliver of a story to experience the impact of the suffering. Thirty minutes of NPR on my car radio. A scan of the cover of the Wall Street Journal. A few minutes of CNN. I am in awe of this world. I am in awe of the enormous scope of ways in which we humans may live and how amazingly good and horrendously bad we may be. I’ve been wondering how much choice we have in it all. I’ve been wondering why it all seems so inequitable. I want to be of service. I’ve possessed a servant’s heart before in my life but as a mother—observing so intimately the evolution of my own two children—I’ve come to understand what is at stake. I’ve come to better understand the place from which we all came. We were all once innocent. One might have come into this world surrounded by luxury, another by squaller, but our essence—if only briefly—was good and pure and divine. What happened, then? Connection. Separation. Praise. Shame. Attention. Neglect. Regard. Disregard. Activity. Idleness. Love. Hate. For every human alive today there has been a unique combination of actions and reactions making up each of our very own personal lives and here we are. Here we are, friends. I want to be of service. My servant’s heart is calling.

It’s later in the day now and I’ve come home for a few rare hours of “one-on-one” time with my littler boy Adrian. He’s an “older-four” as he likes to say and remains in the realm where time is fuzzy—though he is trying to calculate it—and magic hovers like a settling fog. We’ve pieced together a puzzle and now we are in-between books on the couch. He is standing and I am sitting. He is leaning backward against the back of the couch and he is sort of looking down on me and the light from the sky-light above us is shining down on him. I am looking up toward him and he is coming in and out of my focus as he rocks back and forth with the bright streams of light showering over him. He is singing a little song to me and laughing because it is funny the way he is singing and our eyes are connected and our hearts and I am just observing him and just holding onto this moment and witnessing him as all of his innocence remains.

 

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“The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness.” —Dalai Lama


I’m sitting and I’m listening. I’m sitting and I’m listening while the inside right bridge of my nose is burning and the right side of my head is throbbing. I have finally succumbed to the cold that my boys endured a few weeks ago. Now, I understand the headache they were describing. Now, I see that they were quite brave. I am sitting in a cafe having chosen writing over yoga and the sun is streaming in on the rustic wooden table where I’ve planted myself. The ground is covered with a thin layer of glistening snow. Last night—with a full moon shining—white crystals came swirling down in Southern Maine, coating our yard again and Sister Spring remains aloof. It mirrors well the waiting in my own life—the call to linger in-between the planting of seeds and the arrival of dreams. Rushing and outcome orientation leave me wanting. It is within the process that I discover myself, my value, the value of my children. The things that I thought would matter in child rearing—the lessons, the discipline, the future successes hold less weight for me now. Instead I relish the pauses between these necessities and achievements. I linger in connecting eyes with Jonah in the rear view mirror of my car, holding on just a little longer, noticing his smile widen. I listen intently to Adrian as he interrupts the story I am telling, over and over again, allowing him to express his vision of the squirrel’s journey. I correct and I redirect and I help to make things right when things go wrong but I am holding on less and less to the seemingly poor actions inherent in early childhood and more and more to the moments to be treasured. 

We had a busy time away this past weekend. It was fun and full and we were completely diverted from our normal rhythms. I heard yelling from the bedroom where my husband was trying to finish stories with Jonah before a 10:00pm bedtime—nearly 3 hours later than usual. I could see that things were not going well. I did not blame my husband at all—he was exhausted too! We all were. I came in and was able to smooth things over by giving my son, Jonah, the benefit of the doubt. I saw him with compassion. I saw him with love. And within a few moments we were lying quietly together in the dark. I was rubbing his back and he said, “Mommy, I can feel the love pouring out of your heart into mine.” I am not always capable of making these choices but I knew in that moment that choosing to see my son as good made all the difference. We do not always hold the same standards for our children as we do for ourselves. They are expected to have perfect actions and behaviors but we—we can erupt, we can become emotional, we can hold grudges or lash out. I am trying to remember this and as I listen today, this is the message that I hear.