Monthly Archives: August 2016

Off-the-rack

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hand-644145_1280Artists of all media must continually hone their craft and learn from others. Whether attending workshops or galleries, following accomplished artists, or taking classes, we need each other to grow.

The writers I admire and follow enrich and teach me something every time I read their work. Andi Cumbo-Floyd is one of my people. She writes of many things, like telling the stories of enslaved people and how to be the writer you really are. She walks her talk. She is selfless. And she writes from the heart.

I’m currently working through a free course she developed, Discover your Writing Self. It happens through email and posts on a closed-group Facebook page. She asks good questions. Hard questions. She encourages us to contemplate, reflect, and nourish our souls.

She is one of my people.

And, because the course is about writing, and because she is a good teacher, she is transparent. She shares all shades of her writing experiences, including this one, from one of the people (formerly) in the group:

I find your posts to be way too “sugary” and emotive.

He asked to be unsubscribed.

Good golly, Miss Molly…Was it necessary to be so critical? so condescending?

You see that, right there, that mean-spirited and deflating comment about something personal and important. That, my beloveds, is a snapshot of what is just wrong.

It is just wrong that we believe our first job is to make it all about us. We look at life selfishly. One eye looks at the world. The other looks in a mirror. We expect them to match up and make us content.

We spend an inordinate amount of time trying to convince people – in bold and subtle ways – that we are smarter or more insightful or right-er than anyone else. Whether it’s the words we say or write, the tone of voice, or the look on our faces, we demand that society be ours alone, custom fit.

But we live in an off-the-rack world.

We hold tightly to the freedom of speech. As we should. As people in a world that shouts down those who don’t agree or do Believe. As people who must speak truth into a lost and broken world.

But should we not hold just as tightly to the Golden Rule? And the encouragement to build each other up with words like apples of gold in a setting of silver? Shouldn’t we?

I’m sure that Andi did not pitch an attitude toward this man. She is far too classy for that. She unsubscribed him without sass and took the stab about sugar and emotion for what it should be worth, and hopefully no more.

But if I had the chance, I’d ask him, “What were you expecting in the course? Couldn’t you have explained that instead of mocking the sweetness so many of us have enjoyed? Did you gain something from harsh words and insults?”

Why did you have to hurt my friend?

This is bigger than unfollowing a Facebook page. It’s bigger than my frustration or how those words stung my friend, Andi.

This is about every single one of us. We need to look in the mirror, not to admire or check the custom fit we expect, but to look into the mirror of our souls.

We are all made of the same stuff. We walk the same earth. We breathe and eat, go to the bathroom and put our pants on one leg at a time. The same way.

Let’s remember that being smarter or more insightful or right-er than anyone else doesn’t make us better. Different? Yes. Better? No.

Let’s remember…

We are all the same.

 

We live in an off-the-rack world. Click to Tweet.

 

The minimalist and the angel

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It was a movie about the Civil War, I believe.IMG_20160820_133924165

A woman stood alone while marauders trashed her one-room cabin. I’m sure they were looking for an AWOL soldier, some food, or ammunition.  They had no business being there, and they moved recklessly through the home as if they were in a barn or playing basketball.

One of them was skinny and disheveled. He looked like the creepy kid who stands next to and slightly behind the biggest kid on the block, taunting the little guy down the street.

This skinny little bully, who could never say “Boo!” if he wasn’t with a gang, casually walked over to the fireplace and picked up a small china angel from the mantel.

The lady of the house took a hesitant step forward, groaned slightly, and uttered a meek “Noooo…”

Her voice trailed off as she saw his face.

With a fiendish grin, he stared at her, opened his hand and the small treasure smashed into a thousand pieces. He turned his back and walked out the door, crushing the already shattered pieces under his grimy boots.

The lady crumpled into a heap of tears.

I did too.

I remember nothing else about that movie.

Each time I replay that scene in my mind, I am once again overwhelmed by anger and dismay.

I think of her angel. Maybe her grandmother brought it from England. Or maybe she got it from her husband on their wedding day. She had most likely wrapped it in an embroidered handkerchief and a handmade quilt and placed it lovingly in a trunk. She might have good-naturedly threatened her husband with bodily harm if anything happened to it on the journey West.

From a house full of memories, she had to carefully choose those few items she just could not bear to leave behind.

Whatever its history, the look on her face as it was dropped – callously and without cause – told the whole story.

She lead a minimalist life, not by choice but by necessity. She held one or two items that brought her joy and retold their stories to herself and her children and whoever else would listen. She lived with little and loved every bit of it.

I, on the other hand, live in excess with the soul of a minimalist. For all the world I would just love to pare down, make it sleek, and lose the extra.

But good golly, Miss Molly. I should have started a long, L*O*N*G time ago, when I had a lot less.

For I live with not only a sense of joy about all I have, but also a sense of loyalty to those who have gifted me so generously and a sense of miserliness, as in If I get rid of this now and need it later, I’ll have to buy one and it will be more expensive, so...etc., etc., etc. You get the idea.

So each time I fly anywhere, in the moments just before takeoff, I say this prayer: “Oh, dear sweet Jesus, please let me come home so Ana doesn’t have to go through all that stuff.” And when we land safely, I breath deep and swear I’ll go home and purge.

Alas, I do not.

But when I think of that dear soul – fictionalized or not – who probably lost half of everything she cherished as one small china angel fell to the floor, I feel the weight of my excess.

God has told us more than once to be generous and help those in need. Surely, some of the baubles, trinkets and gewgaws that adorn my shelves and gather my dust would be more highly valued in someone else’s home. The clothes and books,  dishes and baskets.

There are plenty of honorable businesses that accept the used and support the needy.

And I hope that, before Ana really does have to go through all of this, I will have “opened wide my hands to my brother, to the needy and to the poor.”

And maybe, in that, I will find even more joy.

 

“Open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor…” Click to Tweet.