Thursday, May 31, 2012

With Compassion

If I could wear a sling today, to carry my heavy heart, I would. There have been so many tragic things happening so close to us, I had to physically restrain myself from blocking the door to keep everyone home. Seattle has had a horrible run of violence, and it feels like we've been in the middle of it.

No, we have been in the middle of it.

It's nothing compared to people who have really lost loved ones, of course. But it's still real.

A 17-year-old young woman, killed by her boyfriend just blocks from our high school. She had classes with our son.

A young man, killed when he fell 11 stories from his residence hall on the UW campus, our son's residence hall.

A horrible shooting, killing 4 in the U district, 12 blocks from our son's dorm. The man killed again while stealing a car to get away. The car was found in the community where I work.

And a tragic end when the shooter ended his life as the police closed in 1 mile from our church, where I'd walked a block to my car an hour earlier. Cast a small radius from his location, and you'd touch dozens of loved ones.

What can you do? How do we move forward with compassion? Nothing makes sense.

Today was an early morning in my home. Everyone was up and half were gone by 6:30. Right then, when my son was about ready to leave for the day, I turned around and screamed and screamed, running from the room, because an uninvited visitor was in my kitchen.

A juvenile sparrow.

He'd hopped through the open slider, and I think he was standing behind me calling loudly for some time. I'd turned to close the door--so he didn't come in. Too late! I screamed more and grabbed the dog. My poor son, a trained black belt, who is always ready to defend the helpless, came running.

The poor little fellow fled from the insane screaming monster, and was hiding in the bathroom. My dear, wilderness-loving son gently covered him with his sweatshirt, carried him outside and held him up high--opening his hands, releasing. The bird flew away into the rain.

What do I do? How do I move forward?

I think this is the answer, we take care of what's in front of us. We care for the helpless and vulnerable. We make granola. We slow down a little and we just...well we just go on.

The little bird is perched in our yard, now, calling and calling. Like he's asking for food.

"Are you my mother? Oh, you are not my mother, you are a snort!"


Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Children of the Noisy Church--Kari's last Story for All Ages

You might have heard the story of The Noisy Church, but there's a story that comes even before that. Once, many years ago, there was a lovely little church on a lovely little hill filled with lovely people. But it was a quiet little church. The church looked a little like a bowling alley because it had no windows and it was long and narrow,  and there was no light and not even any real classrooms. In fact it was so quiet that the few children that came to the church were almost worried about making a little noise, because everyone would hear just exactly what they did and turn and peer at them.

Well, the lovely people found that it was time to find a new person to be in charge of the quiet children. So they looked and looked and finally they hired the one person who applied for the job. And this person, well, she didn’t know any better--she was convinced that they could fill the whole bowling alley building with children who would laugh and sing and squeal and dance and cause all kinds of happy noise.

So, the lovely people in charge of the children got ready for the first day of church in the fall. They prepared arts and crafts and music and fun for all the children of all ages. And do you know what happened on that first Sunday of the fall?

Not one preschooler came to class! The lovely teacher and the lovely church lady looked at each other and shrugged and carefully packed away all the arts and crafts and fun until the next week, hoping that at least one child would come to class!

Well, the next week some lovely little children did come to class. And they made a little noise. Let’s see if we can make just a little noise. Maybe if we all laugh and wiggle a little.....

The church lady still didn’t know any better, and believed if they just kept trying, soon lots of children would come and fill the bowling alley building with lots of happy noise.

And you know what? Pretty soon more children started to come! Friends named Zane and Wilder came to church, and Mia and Talulla came to church. Kids started to bring friends and neighbors and pretty soon there was a little more noise. Can we make a little more noise lets all laugh little laughs and wiggle a little more.....

By the end of the year there were more than twice as many kids!

Well, the years went by, and more children came to church and more children came to church. And the bowling alley building was filled with singing and laughing and games and joy and love and lots and lots of happy noise! And  sometimes the adults would say “my gosh, what were you doing today! It sounded like you were a herd of elephants!” What do you think that would sound like? Big belly laughing? Maybe clapping? Can we make a big noise?

Eventually the church got crowded. It got really crowded. It got so crowded that every single little space in the church was filled with classes--there was a class in the lounge outside the women’s bathroom--in fact sometimes there were two! There was a class in a tent! It was tooo much!

And the children knew it was time to make a useful noise. What do you think they did? You know, I think we might still have an old video of that day. Should we see what the children did that day? Yes? Cliff? Hey Cliff, in the sound booth? Do you think we still have that old video from a couple of years ago? Do you think we could watch it? Yes? OK, kids. It’s old so it might be hard to see. But let’s take a look.

Wow. Look at that! The children said “HOME OF OUR OWN!” and what happened? Here we are, in our beautiful church home! We left the bowling alley building and we finally got a home of our own! In fact the children of this church have often made a useful noise.

Five years ago a 15-year-old started our monthly homeless teen feed at Orion Center. The children raised $500 to buy a cow for our Unitarian brothers and sisters in Romania. Our children raised $1,000 for earthquake relief in Haiti. Our children were overnight helpers, and meal makers and meal helpers when we hosted families facing homelessness with Family Promise. In fact, our 4th and 5th grade class just two weeks ago staffed a lemonade stand during our whole rummage sale, donating the money to the West Seattle Food bank. Children from our church have grown up to be public defenders and work at the United Nations and to do groundbreaking research at MIT.

This is a pretty lovely place to grow up, this lovely little church on the hill; where being noisy is celebrated, and making a useful noise is just exactly what the adults here want you to do!

So one more time, lets make a lovely noise: clap and stomp and whoop and laugh and let out the lovely, bright you inside! Be noisy!

And that’s the story of the Children of the Noisy Church.