Over 20 years ago, I came to Washington D.C. for a week-long “mission” trip.
It was spring, just like it is now.
After working at a homeless shelter, I lay under cherry blossom trees.
The petals swirled like snow, and I knew I would be back here. I didn’t know how, when, or why, but felt a deep calling.
A few years later, I lived in Denver, Colorado, working on a Masters of Divinity degree. I was blessed with a teacher/mentor/guru, the late Vincent Harding, a social activist, speech writer, and friend of MLK.
He taught Religion and Human Transformation, and Visions of a New Society. He spoke with pauses between each word.
I hung on every pause and word.
Classes began with a “Sweet Honey in the Rock” song, played on a cassette tape. He would close his eyes and hum along, “We who believe in freedom cannot rest.”
In 2003, before the Iraq War, Vincent Harding encouraged his students to respond.
I asked myself what gifts I had to offer the world. I went through a Rolodex of impactful actions.
I chose “being with people.”
I would “be with people” this war would affect the most. The most vulnerable populations.
I moved to Washington. I lived and worked at an AIDS hospice for homeless men and women. I sat down on the bus. I stayed for the long haul.
I did not have directions or a map. I listened to my gut. I paid attention to signposts, only visible if I paused to look up.
“Follow that river. You can cry, yell and be afraid. Let it all out, until your eyes are puffy. Then, wash your face and get up. Keep moving forward with heart and courage. Everything will be okay.”
The choices I made down the “road less traveled” left me with large student loans, debt, angst, heartbreak, questions, and doubts.
It also made me who I am today—resilient, kind, adaptable, and relentless.
Like half our population, I am a full-time teacher and out of work.
Last night, I let myself feel the full weight of what is happening. I cried on the couch, called a friend and my mom. Said several f*cks, meditated, watched some boxing fights, and went to bed.
This morning, I woke up ready. Ready to accept this new world, and to ask myself the question once again:
How can I respond? What special gifts do I have to offer?
I don’t know the answers, so for today, I can bike an hour to Silver Spring, Maryland. I can play outside with my niece and nephew while my sister and her wife work from home.
I can stop and thank the cherry blossoms for being so goddamn beautiful.
I can look people in the eye and send kindness. (Myself included.)
I can feel and flow with change until we one day live into the answers.
“We who believe in freedom cannot rest. We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.”
“Be patient towards all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will find them gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke