It has been a crazy, crazy few weeks. We’ve driven thousands of miles and visited too many cities to count. A new city every day. I am tired. This lifestyle is very easy to idealize. People often say to us, “You’re living the dream.” And we are. Most of the time it does feel like we are living the dream. But the past month has been incredibly hectic and lately when someone tells me I’m living the dream I think, Yeah right! Such a dream to drive to a new city every day and arrive at the Holiday Inn at 10 p.m. and wake up early the following morning and drive six hours through insane traffic to spend two hours setting up a presentation that only a handful of people show up to and then do the whole thing over again the next day. WHAT A DREAM.
Perhaps I’ve lost perspective?
My all-time favorite podcast interview is called The Dignity of Difference with Krista Tippett and Lord Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain. You can download the podcast here. I have listened to it many times and each time it blows me away. But there is one piece of the interview that stands out to me more than any other. It’s when Lord Jonathan Sacks says that the Jewish imperative is “— to be true to your faith and a blessing to others regardless of their faith.”
A blessing to others.
The simple perfection of those few words brought me to tears the first time I heard them. A blessing to others. Is there anything more important than that?
I try to remember to be a blessing to others but I often fail. I am considering, in fact, getting, “Be a blessing” tattooed on my wrist as a permanent reminder. Be a blessing. It pops into my head sometimes even when I am in the midst of being an asshole. Especially when I am being an asshole.
Brian and I meet so many nice people while traveling for this job. Individually, the people we meet are just fantastic. But through the smiles and the politeness I sense a level of desperation. Not everyone, of course, but enough that I am not surprised by it anymore. For example, the exhausted retail clerk who said, through tired eyes, “No wonder you’re so happy. You’re out there and I’m stuck here.” Or the man (a wonderful man!) in his 60’s who told me that the absolute best parts of his life were volleyball camp as a boy and the 3-month road trip he took with his ex-wife. “The rest,” he said, “has just been filler.”
I met a man who passionately told me how he and his buddies jumped into a car with their backpacking gear and no destination in mind. They drove for miles and miles and ended up in a tiny town on the banks of Lake Erie. He said they finally just parked the car and threw their backpacks on and went out into the woods. “It was such an adventure,” he said, “But that was before real life began.”
I wanted to scream, IT IS ALL REAL LIFE.
So maybe this gives you a tiny insight to why I wrote my last post. I just keep wondering why we put up with it. Like, why, if so many of us are so tired and overworked and fed up, do we just accept that state of being as the way? Anyway, I don’t need to rehash what I already said because I already said it.
Brian and I left New Jersey and got in the car to drive to our campsite for the weekend. I was kind of stewing on it all. We were stuck on the George Washington Bridge and people were yelling and honking at each other. I was at the end of my rope. In fact, I’d been at the end of my rope for a few days. And once you get there you can either take the time and space you need to crawl back up the rope to a middle place, where there is balance, or swing from the end of it in misery, spraying everyone with your negativity as you go like a skunk, like a sprinkler filled with putrid water.
We drove and drove. The traffic thinned. The trees grew dense and billowing, so green and alive in the sunshine. Hours passed. We got hungry and pulled off at the first exit we came to. It was the exit for Sandy Hook, the home of the 2012 school shootings where 26 people, mostly first grade children, were gunned down in their classrooms during the morning announcements.
Sandy Hook is your quintessential New England town. American flags wave from the street lamps. Old, regal homes stand along the tree-lined streets. Pots filled with flowers dot the porches of the local shops. A babbling river runs right through the downtown business district.
I said, “Oh my God, we’re in Sandy Hook.”
I thought, what a beautiful, idyllic place. What a gorgeous place to live. What a perfect place to raise children. Except, I knew what had happened here. Everyone does and everyone always will know what happened here. Because Sandy Hook will never just be Sandy Hook again.
It was such a beautiful day out that we decided to take a seat on the back porch of a little grill and pub that overlooks the river. It was 80 degrees with no humidity and the sky was a delicious blue. We were in Sandy Hook. And I just couldn’t help but think that maybe it wasn’t a coincidence that we had ended up here.
Ok, God, I thought, what are you trying to teach me?
We had a wonderful lunch. After we’d paid the tab, Brian and I walked across the street for some provisions to take back to our campsite. I hadn’t shaken the eerie feeling that behind the beautiful exterior of this little New England town there was grief lurking everywhere. So much pain and tragedy had happened here. It seemed almost impossible that the town could look so perfect, that people could keep going, that life could carry on.
We bought what we needed to buy and stepped out into the blissful afternoon sun. And then I saw, like it was the only thing to see, a green and white sign taped to the door of the store we’d just exited. It said, “We are Sandy Hook. We choose love.”
Photo taken by Maletphoto.com
I swear it almost knocked me to my knees in grief, in humbleness.
And then I knew why we’d been lead to Sandy Hook for lunch.
Be a blessing. Be a blessing. Be a blessing.
Choose Love. Choose Love. Choose Love.