I started collecting greeting cards when I was in high school. I learned the habit from my mom. She had an 8×10 or 9×11 cream colored wooden box with a small brass latch on the front. It sat on the third shelf of the den closet next to sewing supplies, crafting pens and extra printing paper. There were somewhere between twenty and fifty cards on any given day. From birthdays to anniversaries, new baby or sympathy wishes. As a teenage girl, there were plenty of things I’d roll my eyes at when it came to mom (God bless mother-daughter relationships everywhere!), typical with the sass I carried, but I admired her habit of collecting and sending cards. Many of them I’d use when I needed because I had zero money of my own as a pre-teen, and was grateful for the convenience. I think it was in my sophomore year when I began collecting my own. When I was waiting for Rite-Aid to develop my disposable camera prints, I’d spend all of my money in the Hallmark store, just on the other end of this shopping center. There wasn’t a box or bag I’d keep them in. Most had lovey words to my then high school boyfriend and were put in his locker. Some were stashed under my bed or somewhere in a top drawer. Many were saved and traveled to college with me. Some were sent from overseas. They’ve welcomed a baby and a new relationship. They’ve sat next to a friend with cancer. They’ve been the joke on a birthday. I’m so glad my mom started that habit for me to witness.
Bless her now 5 year old heart, but our middle daughter can knock you out in a whining throw down. She’s had toys and time with friends taken away. She’s had early bedtimes, middle of the day sit-in-your-bed-now mandates. I’ve about lost my ever-loving mind when I swear she’s completely forgotten how to speak without the drawn-out, high-pitched tones. It’s a habit that seems to have come out of the womb with her, and we continue to try new and different and lasting ways to break it. For the love.
For the last year, I’ve worked with publishers who send books in exchange for articles and reviews. It gets me writing and thinking, conversing and covering topics I may otherwise leave for the more daring. Kathy Khang’s recent book “Raise Your Voice” was in my mailbox about a month ago. Very rarely do I receive a book and immediately open to review. There’s still a book staring at me from it’s high shelf, wondering when his day is coming. Sorry Frank, maybe next month. This book, though, was coveted. I finished it in two days. Khang, a Korean-American, shares experiences from her life as she continues to learn the ways of her own voice. As her audience, each page seemed to turn quicker than the last, feeling agitated, offended, called out, and partnered with all at once. How does she do it? My literary curtsy to you, Khang. My notepad is a mess with scribbled, scrabbled words and connecting lines to what were coherent thought patterns at some point, I’m sure. The point is, this book exposed me.
I was recently in South Lake Tahoe for a bi-annual long weekend with the adult girls. It was our second morning in this Vintage Hollywood meets Mountain Rustic renovated cabin, and I interrupted my friend to ask what she was reading. About 20 minutes later, we were deep in about what carves our influence and perspective, and eventually the gaps. From how we view Kingdom Come and Heaven now, to sharing glimpses of our upbringing from different Bay Area neighborhoods, wrestling with ideas and associations and praising those interventions that disrupted certain behaviors or thinking patterns. As I said things like, “Reading her book made me feel like I was associated to her being silenced because I’m white”, and “How can you really say you want equality when this current feminist movement seems so blatantly to just take down men and even women opposed to the ways of these protests?”, she’d respond with things like, “Sometimes all we need to do is be open to how they feel instead of insisting that we’re not a part of it”. And then I’d blackout from her rightness. In her subtle ways of telling me yet not exactly saying these words, “Em, you have some serious gaps in how you view these issues”, she was ripping me open. I needed the push back to see the habits that have formed in my own heart and head, and not just about racism or equality, but about everything I don’t quite understand. My habit is this: pushing so hard to disassociate myself with something negative in fear of isolating someone else, when in turn, I’m refusing to engage because I’m scared. It becomes about me. About who and what I am then associated to and with, and how that will be perceived. Dumbie.
I don’t consider enough what Jesus did before He took to the cross. The example He set by the way He lived is my favorite, for His habit was intention. Everything He did and said, I believe, held purpose beyond the moments captured in Scripture. When I think about association, I think about Jesus getting a drink of water from the Woman of Samaria. As He was on His way to Galilee from Judea (think about a 26 hour walk, from Sacramento to Monterey, by way of distance), and he stopped to rest and replenish in a middle of the way town. Alone because His disciples went into the city for food, He sat by the well and asked a woman for a drink. Because of cultural divides, she was amazed that He, a Jew, would even speak to her, a Samaritan (think a split in beliefs that caused a sometimes violent rift between the two cultures, not that that happens today or anything …), and yet, when Jesus spoke to her, it was with truth and intention and knowledge of who she was. He knew of her past husbands and the current affair she was having. He knew that to be seen speaking with her could associate Him to a disenfranchised group of people, but when I read this story, I can’t help but think that He stopped there for us. It was more than making her seen and heard and known. It was a statement for us to see our own division and the One who steps in to counteract and offer rescue. Throughout His life and even after His death, the disciples shared stories of what it was like to watch Him move before and amongst the isolated, the hurting, the wounded, the afflicted, the self-righteous. Each story, told with fervency, shares the habit of Jesus. To go before with the intention of love, teaching us how to live.
I no longer want to mind the gap. I’m too quick to disassociate myself when I don’t agree, moving rapidly away from the opportunity to grow, to be wrong, to offer solace. And for what? My gaps are plenty, this I know to be true. When we engage to listen, the gap begins to close, and it is there, I believe, when we will finally see each other the way Jesus always has. As a unified whole.