Monday, July 18, 2016

A Red Prius and Other Hot Thoughts

Folks it has been a hot summer.  And just when I think it can't get any hotter, I get another breaking news alert on my phone.  More awful news.  Another outburst.  More violence.  More daughters and sons taken away from their families. 

I sort of hate looking at my phone lately.  Because I'm afraid of what breaking news alert is coming next.

The heat of this summer has brought some things to the surface for me.  Most notably, I've had to face the reality that I have biases.  Here's an example.

The other day I was sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the highway when a red Prius pulled onto the shoulder and moved past all the other cars.  I thought to myself, "They must be having some sort of emergency.  Maybe they're rushing to the hospital.  There must be a good reason."

Why was I giving this car the benefit of the doubt?  Usually when a car usurps the shoulder like that I curse them under my breath.  I assume they're selfish, self-centered, an all-around jerk.  So why in this case did I assume there was an emergency of some sort?

Because it was a Prius.  I have a positive bias towards Prius drivers.  I believe that they are environmentally aware, selfless, kind and humble people.  Because they chose a car that's more energy efficient than stylish.  No offense, Prius drivers.  Because the whole point here is that you made that trade-off.  You chose a car that looks like a lunch box because saving the planet is more important to you.

And thus, if you pull onto the shoulder in a traffic jam, I assume you had a good reason.

So there you go.  I have a positive bias for Prius drivers.

As biases go, that one isn't so bad.  It's a positive bias.  And it's more humorous than harmful.  Naturally, I have a lot more biases where that one came from.  And they're not all positive.  It's not hard to write about my Prius bias.  It would be a lot harder to write about some of my other biases.  But I think it's important, as the asphalt melts in the heat of this summer, to admit that I have biases.

I'm not sure what to do next.  I wish someone could tell me how to get rid of my biases.  But clearly as a society we have not figured that one out yet.  And I'm not sure it's even possible to get rid of our biases.  Maybe the best we can do it acknowledge that we have them.

My name is Melanie and I am biased.

I'm telling you this summer just keeps getting hotter and hotter.

Many of the scary and awful events of this summer have happened in crowded places.  Shopping centers, festivals, restaurants, airports, public protests, parks, celebrations.  I wonder if you are like me.  I wonder if, for a brief moment, you considered not going to public gatherings this summer.  You might feel like you are vulnerable when you are in a crowd.

You might feel like you are at risk when you are gathered together with others in community.

In reality, the opposite is true.

We are at risk if we allow ourselves to withdraw.

We might feel safer if we isolate ourselves but the truth is, as the mercury rises this summer of 2016, we need each more than ever before.

The only way I'm going to survive these sweltering weeks is huddled together with my community.  I need to gather with my people at the altar, at the table, at the bar, in the classroom, on the jogging trail, in the waiting room, in the conference room, on the porch, at the gate.  As as the water and the wine and the coffee flow, I need to sink deeper and deeper into relationship with my family and my friends.

And even here, on the pages of my blog, I need to gather together with you, the beautiful people who come here to read.  Whether we have met personally or not, when you take the time to read my thoughts, we are in community.

And I need you.  We need each other.

This summer of 2016, as the tempers flare and the bullets fly, we need each other more than ever.  Let's please not allow the fear and the horror of this sweltering season to tear us apart from each other.  Let's remember that the only thing that's going to save us all is if we can come together in community.

And I don't just mean easy community.  Easy community comes with people who see things the way you do.  People who grew up in an environment similar to yours.  People who are going to vote for the same person as you in November.  That kind of community is easy.

But folks we also need hard community.  We need to sit with people we don't agree with.  People we don't understand.  And we need to look deep into each other and listen and in the end we may not agree but we need to be able to hear each other.

That is the only way we will get through the fire of this summer together.  Together.  In community. 

We need each other.

I am not going to let go of you.

Please don't let go of me.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

It All Started With This Pot of Soup

"Do you need help?"  

I could hear a voice but there was so much smoke in the house I couldn't tell who was talking.  I waved my arm through the air and saw a murky figure.  It was a man standing in my living room at midnight.  A man I had never seen before.

"I was studying and I heard your smoke alarm, and I looked over at your house and saw the smoke coming out the back door so I thought I'd come over and ... are you okay?"

"No, I guess I'm not okay," I coughed.  "Have we met yet?  I'm Melanie."  I waved more smoke away and shook his hand.

"I'm Adam," he said.

"Well this is a weird way to meet but it's nice to meet you.  I left a pot of soup on the stove when I went to bed and I've turned that off now and put the pot out in the backyard, but now I can't get the smoke alarm to turn off.  I'm trying to get the battery out but I can't.  Do you think you can do this?"  I offered him my screwdriver.

He climbed up on the kitchen chair underneath the smoke detector and pried the battery out it.  He placed the the battery gently on the kitchen counter, then he picked it back up and pointed at the now defunct smoke alarm.  

"You should probably ... put this back in.  Soon.  Like, as soon as the smoke clears."  He placed the battery into my palm and closed my fingers around it.

I coughed and smiled.  Clearly I was a woman who needed to have a functioning smoke detector at all times.  

"I will," I promised.  And I did.

"Well, it was nice meeting you, even under such odd circumstances," my neighbor said.  

"It was, thanks so much for your help," I said.  "Here, let me give you my cell phone number just in case I can ever help you with anything.  I'd love to return the favor to you some time."  

Although he was my next door neighbor, I didn't see Adam or hear from him again for the next year.  Then he moved out of his duplex, I moved out of mine, and I thought the night I nearly torched my house would be the first and last time I ever heard from him.  

But then my phone rang the other day and I finally got to return that favor.  

It was the county fire chief.  

Adam had applied to be a volunteer fire fighter.  

And he listed me as a reference. 

I gave him my highest recommendation.