You probably don’t want to be my Facebook friend, at least, not this week. I keep my Facebook “Author” Page focused on writing and cat memes and breaking news about donuts, but my personal page is just that. It’s personal. I like to keep that personal because these are the people I need to talk real to me when things are tough, and that’s hard to do with only social media as a foundation.
If you’ve read my book, you already know the sort of person I am. I promise you, I am that person, even now, maybe always. I am working on the areas (the many many areas) in which I am lacking. I like to tell people I’m a recovering know-it-all. I’m giving up knowing it all because it’s a terribly injurious lie, to me and to everyone. I can’t know it all. Only God knows it all, and he’s not keen to flaunt it. Since becoming Orthodox, I’m more inclined to say, “I don’t know.” It’s remarkably freeing and at least marginally comforting in the tough times.
But yes, I’m a die-hard political Liberal. This should not come as news to anybody by now. More important than that I think you should know that I also realize I’m a die-hard sinner. That’s where the work takes place. That’s the part I have to examine and resist and confess when I fail– because I fail. A lot. A whole lot.
I want to land in a soft bed of kindness, though. That’s where I want to land. I want to be kind, and I want to be treated kindly, but I only have control over one side of that equation. The worst thing is being confronted with awful words and thoughts and images and having to think hard about how to respond with kindness. And again, I’m telling you now that I fail. A lot. A whole lot.
Which is why you probably don’t want to be my Facebook friend. It’s not a pretty sight when that happens, but I assure you that I’m working on it. I’m aiming for kindness, even now, in the midst of what promises to be not only a difficult election day but difficult days ahead no matter which candidate prevails.
This past Saturday morning I awoke to the sound of sirens. They were so loud that it felt as though they were in my bedroom. It turns out that they were arriving at my neighbor’s house. Three doors down there were great flames bursting through his roof. I could see it happening from my back deck. Five fire trucks and several ambulances made their way into the alley, my street and one street over. The houses on either side of his house also caught fire, the heat from the first house breaking their windows, the transformer sputtered and sparked.
We put on our clothes and went out to watch. The neighbors whose houses were affected were in their pajamas, sitting on the sidewalk, having blood pressure taken, one wearing oxygen, one pounding his head in his hands. Everything was gone. Everything. It was a sunny morning, uncharacteristically warm for Chicago. If not for the fire, one might have thought it was a very depressed block party. We stood out there in silence and just watched as the house burned. The charred wood crackled and hissed as the water finally calmed the flames. The smell lingered in the air for days after.
I think to myself about how little I know about these neighbors. I keep to myself. I come and go through my garage rather than my front gate. I learned more about my neighbors in those few hours than in years of living here next to them.
Now, today, the trucks are coming to tear down the wreckage. The investigation is complete. The fundraisers are making the email rounds to the neighbors. We’re giving clothing and furniture and money and shelter to people who have lost everything, and we’re glad to do it. We want them to survive this. They have their lives, and for that, we’re all grateful. Even though we don’t really know one another, we’re grateful no one was fatally injured.
Our country is on fire this week. That’s what I’m thinking. It’s our house; we live here. An awful lot of ugly has been revealed as a result of the election. The charred structure is hissing and crackling even now as the water pours on the fire-eaten rafters, even today before the ink is dry on the results of this election.
And no matter who wins tomorrow, we’re going to have to figure out how best to heal and cure and love one another again. I’m starting now, today, this moment. I want to land on the side of kindness and care.
I’ll tell you with all honesty that no matter what you choose to do with your ballot, I’m just going to love you. I’m going to work hard to treat you with respect and kindness and care. We’re all hurt here, sitting on the sidewalk in our pajamas with head in hands wondering how it’s all going to turn out. And so, it’s our job to care for one another. That’s our job. Let’s not forget that, okay?