Dear lady in the coffee aisle,
If this little letter ever finds you I hope it finds you well. I wanted to say thank you for what you did for me today.
(For the remainder of the Season of Advent I am going to offer some reflections on David Fitch’s new book, Faithful Presence: Seven Disciplines That Shape the Church for Mission. Christians continue to find great value in the celebration of God-With-Us. What could this mean for the Church-In-the-World as an expression of God-with-Us?)
When you approached me in the coffee aisle you had no idea that I’m one of those mother hens who think it’s inappropriate for strangers to touch my babies. You saw me struggling with my littlest son who was well past his nap time and you came up to me with open arms towards him, ready for him to come to you so you could help me. He quickly put his shy little head on my shoulder. You then did something that typically makes me cringe, your perfectly aged hands delicately reached for my little guys face and you stroked his cheek with a tenderness that only a grandmother could have. Instantly he calmed, his moans of frustration ceased and he started to smile. We stood there for a moment, you stroking my sons cheek and me in awe of how you could so impulsively show love to a stranger and his mom.
In that moment you connected with my little guy and became part of my tribe, you were added to the list of people I need. Just last night my husband and I were talking about how far our culture has strayed from true community and how the recent political climate has done nothing but drive more wedges between people. I have to admit my reaction to things lately has been to remove myself further from my community. It’s not that I don’t love my people, it’s just my sense of independence mixed with not wanting to hurt others or be hurt by others has made my typical reclusiveness more intense resulting in me being dubbed the grinch of the family this year.
Your kindness changed that for me today. The love you showed my little boy gave me hope. For our culture, for my community, for my soul to see more good than bad.
A friend of mine says that God doesn’t speak in a big booming voice, he speaks through people. Today you did that. I don’t know what prompted you, but I’m thankful for whatever it was. I hope somehow you find this and if you don’t I hope that I find you again so I can personally thank you for how you changed me today.
a tired mother hen
How Could You?
Our youngest daughter wrote that piece.
Modern mothers seem to be a bit more concerned about strangers. Maybe it has always been that way. Certainly reports of abducted children and trafficking keeps us ever vigilant. But sometimes parents consider what it is like for their children to grow up in fear and opt for something else.
David Fitch recalls a Today Show story about free-range parenting. (Faithful Presence,p.131-132) A group of parents gauged the risk involved in allowing their children to walk to school and to the park. Believing their children would be fine to make that trek they sent them off unattended. Others witnessed this phenomenon and turned the parents in to Child Protective Services. The upshot is the parents had to prove they were not negligent before they could claim their children back.
We are not sure what to do about space.
The reminder to another person that they are too close for comfort may come in the form of, “You are in my space.” What about that distance between two people? If we are too careful we may miss something Divine going on in that space between we guard so tightly.
Added to the List of People I Need
Space. Just what do we mean by space? Who gets in to what space?
We inhabit different spaces. Joe Myers, in his book The Search to Belong: Rethinking Intimacy, Community, and Small Groups, utilizes research that describes how people connect in different size groups. The aim is to uncover the depth of relationships generally experienced in the different social arenas we inhabit.
The four spaces Myers describes comes with particular features of connection. Public space may describe the shared experience of a sold out college football stadium. There are limits to what one will share with a person cozied next to you on the bleachers where your only bond is cheering for a common team. Contrast that with intimate space where Myers contends human beings are wired for one and no more than two such relationships. Those social moments prompt another question, “What won’t you share with someone that close?”
Myer’s work came to mind while reading Fitch’s new book. Spaces between people, the spatial dimension, creates an opportunity for presence. For instance, the encounter between a patient in the hospital and a friend who comes to visit illustrates “space.” These take on a sacred dimension for Fitch.
Tommie, the young mother who wrote the introductory piece, concluded that the gentle woman who soothed her son immediately became a person she needed. What if Tommie and Fox were people the kind woman needed?
Fitch insists that while the world operates on systems of power, people yearn for mutuality. All the spaces we inhabit offer opportunities to mutually recognize the presence of God. Are you aware?