The revealing un-conversation

Standard

StockSnap_AB0U289SNWThere are a lot of new people at her church. It isn’t a big place, but when new people show up – especially all in the same season, it’s tricky to keep up with names.

But She tried to at least connect with the new women – especially those who seemed to be coming regularly. Being not all that good with names, a single brief introduction didn’t provide enough contact to let her greet everyone by name.

A smile and brief “hello – nice to see you again” is often just fine. But as a long-time member, She felt compelled to make an extra effort. Going out of the way to meet and get to know people – again, especially the women.

So when She found herself in the ladies’ room with a lovely new-ish attender, it seemed the perfect opportunity to strike up a casual conversation, work in the “oh, good grief, I have forgotten your name” and have a one-on-one, quiet, uninterrupted connection.

The opportunity and setting were perfect. The ladies’ room was pleasant and it was just the two of them.

She started to talk about something trivial … maybe the new artwork on the wall or the way the newly-installed doors didn’t open quite right and isn’t it weird to feel like you’re trapped.

But as She finished washing her hands, chatting away, She realized that Ms. New-ish was quickly headed for the door, using one-word answers, clearly on a mission to be somewhere else.

It didn’t feel very good. She wondered … had She said something insulting? But what could be distasteful about artwork or door locks? She knew the service was no where near starting. She even had a breath mint in her mouth.

What was it? Why the bum’s rush?

It bothered her most of the day. She wondered, asking the same questions over and over, replaying the scene in her mind. Maybe She did do something.

But maybe She didn’t.

Days later, still a little bruised, conversations She had in the past started creeping into her mind. Conversations with people who stopped by her desk or popped into her room. People who She wasn’t all that crazy about. Crazy people for whom She didn’t have a lot of time.

When they stopped in, She might continue to work at the whiteboard, never turning to acknowledge them or engage in the conversation. Maybe She sat at her desk, hands still poised over the keyboard with only a slight turn of the head toward the interloper.

She even remembered how She would get caught in the ladies’ room with the one woman who always had, as her grandmother called it, a sob story. No one ever asked how are you? for fear of inviting 15 minutes of whining. But even without prompting, Ms. Sob-Story would regale the listener – any listener – with details about her latest surgery or the misery over her daughter’s high school high-jinx,  never recognizing clear signals of disinterest and annoyance.

She remembered how She would quickly head for the door, using one-word answers, clearly on a mission to be somewhere else.

And then She wondered. What if I had just stopped – just for a minute or two. Just to listen to this person who longed to tell her story. A person who must have felt alone and isolated, who only made it worse each time she force-fed her malaise to an unfortunate audience who couldn’t escape.

Wait. Is that what had happened in the ladies’ room at church that day when She hoped to meet Ms. New-ish? Was She just being dismissed because She didn’t seem to be worth the time or effort to engage in conversation? Was She being perceived as a Ms. Sob-Story – or Ms. Busybody or Ms. Uninteresting or Ms. Clearly Unimportant?

Good Golly, Miss Molly.

Yes, of course, there could have been a good reason for the speedy departure of Ms. New-ish. Kids, impatient husband, church responsibility, lots of things.

So She could let slide the strange ladies’ room conversation. She could, thankfully and finally, at this point in her life and therapy, let go of those things that seemed prickly and took up way too much of her time.

But what She could not ignore was the nagging memories of how She responded to the crazies or the Ms. Sob Story and probably countless other people She considered less than worthy of time or attention. And, with each tainted memory, She broke her own heart a little more.

And then She heard the poetic words of a sweet 14-year-old She knew and loved.

Sometimes when you are trying to listen to someone
you need to use your eyes and heart, not just your ears.

Use your eyes and heart.

My lovelies, I fear that’s what’s been missing in so many of our conversations of late. Our ears hear, but our eyes don’t see. We don’t see that she is in pain and alone. Or that the tears are right on the edge of falling. We don’t see the longing for somebody to care.

Our ears hear, but our hearts don’t love. We don’t understand how they can believe this or that. Or how they can support that position or how they can shout down someone who disagrees. We don’t love them because we don’t love – or care about – what they are saying.

Yes, we say we listened or we heard. We say we care and understand.

But when we don’t take just a minute to stop and engage, is that really true?  When we quickly head for the door, using one-word answers, clearly on a mission to be somewhere else, aren’t we just wordlessly saying you’re not worth the time or effort to engage in conversation?

So here’s my plan. When they stop by, my hands will fold in my lap,  and my shoulders will square with theirs. We’ll chat and listen, even if only for a minute or two. Even if only until we know we’ve been heard.

And I won’t head for the door. I’ll use all the words it takes. And my only mission will be to listen.

Listen … ears, eyes, heart.

 

Who is worth YOUR time and effort to engage in conversation? ClickToTweet

Is this the best we can do?

Standard

river-1611926_1920Just a bit at the end of my rope here. Not because of anything happening to Tim or me. But people I know and know of are just getting more than their fair share. And I’m not talkin’ about the good stuff, either.

I swing back and forth between frustration and trust. Between stamping my feet and dropping to my knees.

This pendulum started swinging even before I judged the 5th grade “What does it mean to be a hero?” speech contest. But it was there I was tipped over the brink.

The final speaker, a young man, stood tall and strong at the microphone, describing a lovely woman, his aunt, his hero. How she gave selflessly to her family and took him in when his family couldn’t provide. And then he knocked me down…

My aunt is always there for me when I go to visit my mom.
She helps me feel better when my mom doesn’t show up.

…doesn’t show up.

Doesn’t show up?

Good golly, Miss Molly. What is happening?

And then all the rest came crashing down…

Like hearing about the guardian ad litem appointed by the court to find solutions “in the best interest of the children”. A person who clearly has not one bit of concern for delicate hearts – only what an absent but disgruntled parent – and accompanying lawyer – claim is “unfair”.

Like the Facebook post by my fiercely generous friend, Chrissie…

“you’re 6 years old.
for some reason (not your fault) you are removed from your home/parent/siblings.
a stranger takes you to a cold fluorescent lit office.
then that stranger drives you to another stranger’s house and leaves you there.
my god.
life is not fair.
be good to your kids. this sucks for them.”

Or another from Love What Matters (thank you, Jennifer) …

“Court today. I had to keep my hand on something because it was shaking. They all spoke like it was a legal procedure and nothing more. No compassion. ‘Does anyone want the child? Are you sure? Nobody? Ok, we will be back in a few weeks and finish paperwork.’

Meanwhile said “child” is a boy I care very much about. A boy sitting next to me hearing every word. A boy who is trying to wipe away the hot tear rolling down his cheek. We ask them to act like respectful members of society. But we drop them off at strangers homes with everything they own in trash bags and then have them sit through a court hearing that would shake any adult. They have to hear nobody wants them or the few people that might are not fit. Then we drop them off at school to handle these emotions. And shake our heads when they are expelled again. We tell them to stay out of trouble and label them as bad kids for outbursts of anger and frustration. Why are our juvenile jails full? Because our custody court rooms are empty.”

Whether I know them or not, whether they are naughty as the dickens or sweet as honey, children in “the system” are not numbers or case files.

Every. Single. One. is a precious child of the most High God.

And nothing else matters. Not one hoot or holler or dollar. The best interest of the child is completely unique and unencumbered. It stands alone. The best interest of the child must be our only concern.

The best interest of the child is not what may or may not affect parents. It’s not about well, now I’m ready and I promise to be there for her.

Or Oh, sorry … I won’t be ready for a while, but keep him “on hold”.

Or We need to consider the needs of the transient father who comes back with empty hands, claiming his rights. 

No, no, NO. It is ONLY about the best interest of the little soul who had absolutely nothing – not a ding-dang thing to do with the current mess created by adults. Perhaps adults who are broken and empty. Perhaps adults who are in WAY over their heads – but still adults. Supposed grown-ups who made choices over which the children had no control.

I never know which way I’m tipping at any given moment.

But I know that I know that I know: Jesus is the answer. And my job at any given moment is to trust Him, lean on Him, call on Him. And when I am at my best, I can and do. I know that she and he and they are all in His hands. The loving hands of a Father whose love is inconceivable to the puny human mind.

And then, at times, I’ll stamp my feet or sob in frustration. I’ll in the shower at people who will never hear me – at people who are absolutely, positively, completely NOT thinking of her or him or them.

I’m no expert. I don’t have all the answers. But I know, and you know – and they know – that children are not commodities to be brokered or parcels to be passed about with garbage bags. They are not the whim of fickle and selfish parents who come and go with the wind.

They are not fixtures or temporary or optional. They are not disposable.

Every one is a precious child of the most High God.

So, my lovelies, I’m trying desperately to tip toward hope and trust. I’m clinging to the promise: He is with us – and with our littles.

But since I have been doing probably more than my share of stomping and sobbing lately, I think I need to do more, don’t you? So stay tuned for an event that I’m hoping we can put together to make one of the heartbreaking elements of foster care a little less so.

I may have to tie a knot at the end of my rope – and then help carry the burden of some who got way more than their share. Maybe it’s not the best I can do – but I gotta start somewhere.

 

Children aren’t commodities to broker or parcels to pass about w/garbage bags. Click to Tweet