Tonia Writes: A Wind Egg

(Note: a Wing Egg is an egg with a soft shell; from the belief that such eggs were conceived by the wind. It is a fragile, ineffable thing.)

A Wind Egg

I was born blessed with the world’s best father, a man so original, brilliant, kind and decent that I grew up sure of God, and sure of good. This everyday saint with whom I share a love of Puccini, writing and wonder, still graces this planet. We talk philosophy, love and travel.

As much as I learned to love the world and all its quiet wonders from dad, my mom taught a very different lesson.  She, with every gift a woman could desire and despite the support of her family to attend Stanford, took the advice of the nuns from her small Catholic college and became a frustrated and unhappy housewife. Ignoring my father’s efforts to foster her dreams and despite her proud beauty and quick wit, she would not take the world on its terms, staying instead at home to torment the next generation, and I was her favorite target.

I sometimes wonder what was it about me that made her hate me so, though I already know the answer. Her attempts to exert a rigid control on our lives and prove that life was hard, that God was hate failed utterly with me. I rejected the lie, the control and acted out in various ways not knowing the impact of my actions. I skewered holes in her paper cups so the milk piddled on the dinner table and dropped water on lit lamp bulbs just to watch them explode. Between the storms of her anger and the quiet of her neglect, I bucked her attempts to shackle me with her views and paid a heavy price still through direct confrontation.

Often our duels were small affairs that sparked and burned out just as quickly. Others, such as the time she almost drowned me by forcing my head repeatedly under the water of the bathtub in the name of teaching me to swim were terrifying events that left me emotionally annihilated.  Growing up, I wanted to be just like dad for dad was kind and she was crazy. I became a tomboy and blazed a trail away from the enforced insanity of home life. I became expert at reading her moods. I didn’t trust her.

Taking stock as a young adult of the shrapnel she left in my space, I approached the world like a bandit risking neither head nor heart and in that wake, left a heady damage for others to suffer. I am sad to this day that I can’t take back the words and wounds I scattered, all in defense of my own mother wound.

In my twenties, having passed from Catholicism to Agnosticism and from there to nihilism, I discovered this quote from the Dalai Lama, and it became the guiding force of my life. This venerable yoda-like man has done more to advance the cause and understanding of his people through love, humor and mutual interest then could ever have occurred had he gone forth in anger. He said, “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”

My love of his idea and nascent understanding of this advice heaved me in a different direction and opened my eyes to Buddhism. Looking at the bombed out remains of my spirit, this one quote led from the busy marketplace of ideas good and bad into a curiosity about what might be if I stopped projecting my hurt onto the world. Through Buddhism, I considered the idea I had chosen this incarnation and faced the question “Why would I have chosen this mother?” Why this hateful, destructive wretch who so often had told me “I wish you had never been born.”

While I spent months fighting the idea that I might be responsible for my own early suffering, I gradually saw that I was certainly responsible for all the suffering I was then creating in my life. Eventually, I arrived at the place where I understood what I had learned from this mother of mine. I had learned hate, selfishness and fear.

As the years progressed, my father had finally had enough of forty years of verbal abuse and left the marriage. He simply couldn’t take anymore. No one blamed him.

As I watched my mother’s angry tantrums and experienced her vitriol over the demise of her marriage, I watched her drive everyone away. I stood there as she buffeted me with rage, wondering why I wasn’t running too. Despite all the years of her abuse, I still fought her. This was NOT it. It was not enough for me. I was broken not destroyed. She owed us something more.

“I love you,” I said though at first it didn’t register as she grumbled on. I said it again, louder and with defiance “I love you.” That quelled her fervor for the moment. She didn’t ask what I meant though saw her absorb it slightly.  And for the next eight years I told her over and over again “I love you” even when I didn’t, with a “Fake it till you make it attitude,” sure my new strange direction was the right one. Having handled her rejection from the cradle, I held a unique position to ask for change. Over and over again I said it, smiling when ignored or rebuffed. I know I am one stubborn-ass kind of person, but I just couldn’t stop. In this game of “uncle” I was going to win.

One day, she said it back. It came unobtrusively with the tiny force of meaning we reserve for statements such as “I love pretzels” but it was there nonetheless and sat timidly in the space between us gnarled and weather-beaten. I tried not to get too excited or scare it away, a frail wind egg of bare beginning.

We became over the course of the next several years, the best of friends. I loved her wicked sense of humor when not applied to me. As domineering as she was in the lives of her young children, she strongly respected their adult lives and never imposed her views always stating “She’s a grown woman, I can’t tell her how to live.” Her funny observations invariably hit spot on where they burst with truth provoking my raucous laughter. She’d laugh all over again and tell me stories of my “lecherous lumberjack laugh” which entertained her so when I was a child. I began to see the abuse as a smaller part of a greater whole and in that whole, she had loved me, though not always well.

When she unexpectedly developed ovarian cancer in 2009, that laughter became our frontline coping strategy. I chose her nurse based on her competence and humor. Hana Zilker, a tall and imposing Georgian Jewish woman who’d come from Israel, helped me fill mom’s days with meaning and laughter and spoiled her like a baby while bossing her with the command “Jojo, EAT.”

When we entered the cancer experience together, I hoped that love would conquer all and aggressively set about with the help of my husband to find the best medical care to save mom’s life. Mom was a bad patient, a bad guest in our home. Taking no pride in her appearance, she’d allow her colostomy bag to burst so the whole house smelled like effluent and would then wallow in her own wastes for someone to come fix the problem and I learned new ways to use paper towels and horse bandages. My husband and son took it like champs and learned to carry air freshener wherever they went. Sadly, I attribute my son’s early interest in men’s cologne to a desire to escape this affront of death, as he longed for the future promised in a can of Axe.

When mom came home one day and announced that her “lungs were full of snowflakes,” I knew metastatic cancer resided there. Sometimes at night as we sat watching Agatha Christie I would ask her what was wrong, though she would never say. One day, she said “You know,” At that point I knew my efforts to keep up the bright talk should come to an end, that I should stop my parlance of hope and accept that she was dying and love her aggressively, completely and certainly, right up to that end. That end, its journey of fearful consequence, broke heartstrings each by each. When the bedside commode entered the picture, I braced knowing my antipathy for strong smells. 

My sisters asked, “How can you stand this?” I couldn’t explain but to say, “Where else could I be?” With Hana not there one day, I forced my older sister to face her resistance and help me so I didn’t drop mom on the ground and Boo said, “You’re so good at this stuff.” I looked at her strangely as I gagged. She was missing the point: “I’m not good at this. I suck at this. I’m a rotten nurse. I just show up and do it badly.”

Three days before mom died, just after Hana had changed the sheets. The sun streamed in the window casting little globes of light on the ceiling reflected off the marina’s water. Mom said, “Hold me” and I lay on the bed with her holding her in my arms. I wanted to hold her forever even while ambivalence ran through me.  I lay self-consciously on the bed, as the Hana walked in and out. It felt a spoiled intimacy to lay captive there for the anyone to see.

The last thing mom ever said to me was a joke. Our final communion moment was laughter. Thank you God.

When she died on June 20th, I was out of the room debriefing my husband and she lay attended by two of my sisters. She had a sudden heart attack, and my sisters screamed my name. I ran to her room to see her, confronting a wild storm of magenta butterflies, seen by my eye alone. They flew from her liberated, mad with joy, and raced around the room before migrating en masse from my minds eye. She lay dead and glorious. I sat there with a grin wondering if I’d snapped. Later, would come the stumbling uncertain grief that ran headstrong and voracious through my life. For now, I was just happy that she was free.

So, what is the point of this?

Love.

You want to see a better world, LOVE IT. Step away from the pitfalls of hate and judgment whether you are liberal or not and know that love is the fastest way to change the weary world. Go into your mental warehouse and find the big dusty box that says “Love” dust it off and open it. Don’t be surprised when it grins back at you. Love everything, starting with you and roll forward, a vast ineluctable wave. Knock people over with that love. Hate is easy. Judgment is simple. Love is the big Kahuna, the not so easy challenge that rends our souls and spits out the bitter pips.

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Tonia Writes: Impact

Impact

Years ago, I made a mistake and spoke the wrong words to the wrong person. What happened next was memorable.

At the time, I was seven years old and had just moved to the small coastal town of Dalkey near Dublin, Ireland. This gorgeous and ancient town is really a loose group of seven separate kingdoms, and sits nestled on the eastern coast facing the sparkling waters of Dublin Bay. It was the perfect setting for a fairytale childhood, in a land so arrestingly beautiful, safe and filled with adventure that I turned off my TV and never really went back again.

Being American in the late sixties in Ireland was wonderful. John Fitzgerald Kennedy was Ireland’s favorite son and Americans were a glittering novelty known for eccentricity, generosity and directness, and it’s on this last trait that I’ll linger.

For some of you, you may have acquired the sense that I can be very direct, and at seven, I was much worse. Today, when truth doesn’t fit the situation, I hold my tongue, though in this story I’ll focus on how I discovered that often greater kindness.

It was fall and just before Halloween. My sisters and I were now the focus of a large gang of friendly Irish kids who’d gather at night to play after all the homework was done. Our garden, large and rather overgrown had shrubs suitable for cave forts and an excellent view down to Coliemore harbor a short walk away.  We’d run to this Norman foothold, scramble the piers or jump from dingy to dingy until some fist-shaking, eloquent Irishman chased us away between his smoke and his pint of Guinness. It was above all, a childhood worthy of Roald Dahl at the time when he books first arrived on the scene, liberating children everywhere.

 One boy in our neighborhood would never come and join us in our play though his sister Niamh was at the center of our group. A nice looking boy of about eleven, he walked around the neighborhood sullen and unhappy followed by a dark cloud of misery he’d settled on his thoughts. For some reason, his misery bugged me and at seven, I had few good ideas of how to help. I tried talking to him from time to time, generally when I was there with my beautiful older sister Boo, but he would rarely say anything and couldn’t even look at us. As a victim of much childhood bullying, I saw the signs that he was vulnerable and made him my mark.

I started to follow him, dogging him a little, just enough to increase his misery. I tried different topics all designed to provoke him. I couldn’t figure out what made him tick and like a kid with a stick faced with a stalwart pill bug, I just had to keep poking at him to push him along at my direction and chivvied him whenever I grew bored.

One day, rounding the corner, I saw him talking to Boo and in his face was such a light and a hope, that I knew his affliction immediately: LOVE. He was in love with my sister. Barely able to string together two words, this small town Romeo had found sufficient courage to confess to her his undying passion, sealing the deal with a Bartlett’s Sherbet, a tuppeny Cadbury bar and an offer to ride her down Vico Road on his bike. My arrival came just after his declaration and was just the break Boo needed to escape as she snatched the gifts and bolted through our garden gate, leaving me in the cobblestone streets with this rejected would be lover.

What I did next was foolish on every count. I moved in close. I looked him in the eye. I saw the pain as he held back his tears at the spoiled moment. I saw his vision of her on his Raleigh Chopper bike, chestnut hair flowing as they rode off into the sunset; I saw it dying there in his eyes, and, I did what only an eejit (Irish for idiot) would ever do. I opened my mouth because I was too young and dumb to care and said, “You love my sister,” in a taunting voice, an inopportune grin on my face.

What happened next was definitive and memorable. He slapped me across the mouth and knocked me down. He kicked me repeatedly in the ribs and hammered me with his fists. He broke on me a storm, dumping all his disappointed rage, as I lay there growing bloody in the street. The charwoman next door heard the noise and chased him away. She did not pick me up or offer comfort, caring only that our noise not disturb the missus at tea.

I dragged home with a black eye and a tear in my favorite plaid Toughskins jeans. The blood dribbled steadily from my nose. I told my parents I had fallen on the hill, and by morning, had the biggest shiner of a black eye my dad claimed he had ever seen. I wouldn’t trade that lesson for anything in the world, and learned at seven to let sleeping dogs like and never repeated that mistake, such was the impact of my own ill advised words. If I remembered that boy’s name today, I would hug him and thank him, for under the tutelage of his swift fists a wiser child was born in me.

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Tonia Writes: Taking the Habit

Taking the Habit

When I was sixteen, my mom declared that one of her daughters should become a nun. I was terrified. Boo, the oldest, was already showing signs of being a little too free-spirited. Cinda was impossible to manipulate. The babies–as we called the little ones–were too young to inculcate effectively and that meant the entire force of my mom’s ample persuasion fell on me.

For weeks, I did what any sensible Catholic schoolgirl would do…and I turned to fortune telling using my Magic 8 Ball from Mattel. Whenever I wasn’t at school, I carried it with me, asking it over and over again, “Will mom make me become a nun?” in escalating cycles of OCD, only to receive its vague replies which intensified my worry. Being a nun, “taking the habit,” was the last thing I ever wanted to do. Even the word “habit” reminded me of that repression, I who hated rules, who wouldn’t wear slippers, who never had a raincoat, who was always late with homework and compelled to work my ass off to the stun the teacher into leniency. As most of you know, rather than creating more good Catholics, repression, dourness and unattended Skin Hunger[1] create wildness in the young. I wanted to rage on through years of nights, punk music blaring, and crash on Jim Morrison’s grave, poetry book in hand, such was the fervor of my youth.

Throughout my life, the making and breaking of habits has been a special area of interest, and I’ve read widely on this subject, often while snapping a rubber band on my wrist. My favorite approach is Intermittent Reinforcement, i.e., an unpredictable cycle by which you don’t hit yourself with the stick everyday, just some days. It’s very efficient in the creation of a bad habit and takes less time to maintain than a daily cycle of deliberate abuse and allows you to use the random number generator in an Excel spreadsheet through which you can create unique reinforcement schedules. Its time economy is also marvelous. Intermittent Reinforcement is just as effective in creating good habits, can provide untold hours of family fun, and is best applied when the family does NOT know that it is the experimental subject. Welcome to my lab. 

Some habits, though, such as the writing habit, are best formed through other means. I’d tried intermittent reinforcement and received intermittent results when I wrote intermittently. Being too busy languishing on my chaise emoting all over the place, I lacked the structure to sit down to the steady business of chair time and fingers on the keyboard. I have learned from this approach that writing has much more to do with, um, writing, than being a miserable person of high sensitivities and hipster clothing. Now, I don’t go the right places, drink the right coffee or wear the right things and have been told my look is decidedly “semi-almost-granola (but not quite) California tomboy–confident, but not always.” Bottom line: I am free to move about the cabin.

 To take this habit, this writing habit, I had to follow a different path, and it all started when I received an invitation.

A friend[2] suggested I could enrich my writing experience by attending an event. I asked what I needed and was told nothing. I said, “What should I wear” and she said, “It doesn’t matter.”[3] I planned to go, but it took me two full weeks to arrive. When I walked in, the party was in full swing, my friend was nowhere in sight and there were hundreds of people. I was TERRIFIED.  I did what any self-respecting introvert would do and promptly located the nearest wall where I clung by my prehensile tail high up in a shadowy corner where the mildew grows. From there, I proceeded to open my eyes just a little from that safe hiding place.

What I saw as I watched you slowly swim by was all types of people, good people, creative, smart, engaged, spiritual and loving and for the first time ever, I felt at ease at a party and made tracks to talk to you. I came here looking for a little inspiration and found a vibrant community of creatives[4].  Your fellowship, your willingness to read my stuff, has been so amazingly touching to me, and my care of you has grown as rapidly as I’ve grown the writing habit. My willingness to accept this 500 Word surrender discipline, as rendered by a kinder hand, has allowed me to love my chair time and cherish your blogs and comments and our deepening relationship to words and world.  I come to my computer several times a day excited to see what you plan to share with me. So, while I never intended to “take the habit” with all its connotations of drudgery, repression and misery, I am claiming “this” habit, mashing it up with my joy, imbuing it with magical realism and serving it as a casserole I hope you will enjoy.


[1] See Kat Campbell-Davies’s excellent piece titled “Skin Hunger” for more on this important subject.

[2] Thanks, Roslynn Pryor

[3] Christine Royse Niles, please take note. A Bathrobe at 5:15 p.m. is fine as long as your word count is elevated.

[4] Thanks Sandi Ackerman

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Carolyn writes: On Scars

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WE’VE GOT TO LOVE

“That love is all there is,
Is all we know of love.”

Emily Dickinson

I resist writing about scars because there are so many, and I am tired of writing about scars.

There are scars in the earth from fracking and drilling.

There are the scars of wars, which involve not only the murder of soldiers but the loss of the lives of innocent children, and the devastation left behind.

I was struck by a picture I saw today – I don’t remember if it was in truthdig or truthout – but it was a photograph with a quote on it about the Vietnam War –  or “America’s War,” as the Vietnamese called it.

Yes, that’s it. America’s War.

Buddhist monks during that war set themselves on fire to protest, leaving no scars.

They didn’t take sides. They protested only the violence.

No one would listen, no one was paying attention, so they set themselves on fire.

There are the scars from the deep wounds of slavery:

the children who were ripped from their mothers on the auction block;

the infants who were stolen by slave masters in the middle of the night and taken to the river where they were used for alligator bait. Screaming children in cages in the water who were eaten by the alligators who were then hit on the head, killed, and used for various things – bags, purses, shoes?

What is the matter with us?

Where did we go wrong?

And the scar from the murder of the 24 year old man, Willie Edwards, a husband and father and civil rights worker, who was kidnapped by the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama and taken to a bridge and forced to jump off.

Slaves and the descendants of slaves tortured, raped, and beaten.

The psychological scars, one would imagine, would be enormous.

How could someone function emotionally, psychologically, after such brutality?

Chris Hedges says in his Truthout article, “The Sublime Madness,” quoting James Baldwin, that the black people replaced freedom, which they didn’t have, with art – with the imagination – the blues – calls and responses – and this kept them going.

Imagination allowed them to transcend their situation.

Imagination allowed them to resist:

“It is only those who can retreat into the imagination, and through their imagination can minister to the suffering of those around them, who uncover the physical and psychological strength to resist,” he writes.

Hedges says that’s what we need today – imagination – as we are hurtling toward disaster like Ahab in Moby Dick.

I have personal scars, we all do, but I have life, so I’ll take them. I could have died in a motorcycle accident I was in when I was in my 30s, but I lived, and that’s when I learned that physical limits, disabilities, a limp, something horrendous, a huge pain like that, can be overcome. I learned, as the poet Diane Wakowski wrote in her poem about scars, that “scars make your body more interesting.”

We can use our scars. Our scars are our stories.

I have no psychological scars when I have love. Love is the answer. I felt it today when I was writing, rewriting, adding quotes, and reading what Martin Luther King said about agape, “the love of God in the heart of man,” the love that allows us to hate the deed without hating the person who is committing the deed.

Love is the foundation.

Love is the ground.

“We’ve got to love,” he said.

And learn the power of compassion, which makes all scars disappear like Buddhist monks on fire.

We can do it.

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Tonia Writes: All That

 (I wrote this piece for My 500 Words in response to the instruction to write without using the words “that” or “very”)

All That 

As much as our world has grown in knowledge and compassion, there are some topics that just aren’t discussed in polite company. Regardless of your religious, political or romantic outlook, some concepts are best left off the table in the interests of our common discourse. By their very nature, they divide.

You may ponder, “Is it a good idea to mince and pick around such subjects to avoid getting straight to the point.” You may ask, “Are we as a society still so backward, so bereft and fundamental that we can’t handle the truth?” I would vouch on some truths, yes. Yes, we are not ready to talk with love and heartfelt compassion to a problem so overwhelming and present it hides in our weary hearts.

Now that we have come this far, I fear you’ll judge me when I disclose my truth. I’ve never discussed this with anyone, though I draw courage from this fine company and hope we’ll remain friends, that this won’t change what we share together, that you’ll accept my ponderous secret.

For beyond my roles as mother, wife, friend, stepmother, grandmother, daughter and sister, I have a secret job, a private passion: I love the word “that.” I am its defender.

This slack word, a hallmark of imprecision, astounds me. Along with its cousin “very,” they’ve formed a junta, pushing superior words to a precarious edge. Profligate and fecund, they’ve stormed the castle, eaten the royal family and made their squat presence known, a Honey Boo Boo Child thrust on society, something new and maybe not even wholesome. Stolid and slow thinking, complacent in their worth, they’ve Kardashianed our world with tweets insignificant.

It’s hard to say the best course of action in the face of this ever-increasing barrage. These rodents of incomplete thought that haunt the cellars and attics of our days, should we lure them off? Leash them? Poison them? Can we Pied Piper them away?

Ah, but what to my wondering mind should appear but an alternate solution. What if we just love them in situ, innocent and feasting, bless their grubby hands as they grease-smear our creations, see these humble harbingers as the first step in a path to Grace, and welcome with gladness a deeper conversation with self or other.

When you write “that,” my mind explodes with possibilities.  I don’t grab a hunting rifle, a net and a search party, but rather, put the kettle on for tea, stoke the fire and grab my figurative pipe. For in “that” is a raw conversation unfolding. In “very” is a beginning to an extreme. With either, I may share with you or you with me.  In quiet or robust conversation, we will hunt together, find these hobgoblins of common parlance, catch them with kindness and bring them home. Together, we’ll unearth a whole new tomorrow, original and glistening, fresh from the box.

No words were harmed in the writing of this piece.

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Carolyn writes: On Imperfection

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“FORGET THE PERFECT OFFERING”

The subject of perfection vs. imperfection keeps coming up. I’ve been hearing about the dangers of perfectionism from prominent writers like Brene Brown, the author of “The Gift of Imperfection,” and Anne Lamott, who writes in her book, “Bird by Bird” (her book about writing), that “perfection is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people.”

In a recent article in Creativity Post, the mythologist Allison Stieger explores the myth of Hephaestus, a god who was wounded by an act of violence committed against him by a family member – he was made lame – and yet, in spite of his imperfection and his wound, he contributed artistically as a god on Mt. Olympus and used his skills in service to the world.

His brokenness was the catalyst for his art.

“We are tempted to excuse ourselves from creativity by blaming our brokenness, our imperfection, our scars,” Stieger writes, “but our strongest and best work can grow out of that very imperfection…our very brokenness is one of the strongest tools available to us. Out of that brokenness the most beautiful art can grow.”

Leonard Cohen tells us in his song, “Anthem,” to

“Ring the bell that you can ring
forget your perfect offering
there is a crack in everything
that’s how the light gets in”

None of us will ever be perfect – “there is a crack in everything” – but we can learn to find what Henri Nouwen calls the “blessing in the brokenness,” the gift in the struggle, and that way we are vulnerable and living wholeheartedly and telling the truth – which is what people want from us – from artists.

Rather than have a goal of perfection, why not do what Neil Gaiman suggests and vow to make a lot of mistakes this year?

“Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough,” Gaiman writes, “or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life. Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”

That way, we are always growing, always learning, and will always have something positive and original to share with the world.

Forget the perfect offering!

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Amanda Speaks: Blinded by Apathy

*based off a true story*

Saturday 5:45pm

The rain patters against the flat-roof of the two-story apartment complex.  One of the great advantages of living on the second floor was being able to listen to the steady rhythm as the droplets met the surface above my head.  It was one of those cold and dreary days that somehow dampens people’s moods as they scowl at the grey sky through their foggy windows.  The bitter cold wind howls as it blows vigorously to and fro, leaving several of the many green trash cans that line the street fallen in its wake.

Steam clouds the inside of the glass pane as I lift the mug of steaming tea to my lips, allowing the hot liquid to warm me from the inside out.  As the wall heater rumbles to life, I retreat from my watchful position overlooking the street and cross the living room to station myself in fron of the warmth.  With a content sigh, I close my eyes, wrapping both hands around my cup and relaxing in the warm haven of my home.  Little did I know that the events happening right outside my house at that same moment would affect me so deeply – both by breaking my heart, and opening my eyes – when my neighbor informed me the next day.

Meanwhile…

On the same street, outside that same apartment building, under the very same window, two people sat huddled together in one of the green dumpster trash cans that had been knocked over.  Their faces were wind-blown and filthy, covered in dirt and grime.  Their hair may have been greasy a few days earlier, but since then, the oily texture had attracted the dirt and dust that floated in the air, resulting in the particles latching on to the tangled clumps.  Their too-small shirts and too-big pants were coated in mud as the wet fabric hung around them.  At the ages of four and six, some people’s immediate assumption at first glance might be that the siblings were playing “house” together.  But with further observation of their appearance and the surrounding weather, it becomes evident that “house” was not the case.  Their teeth chattered as they tried to stay warm, hoping that the reeking green plastic surrounding them would shelter them from the cold.

At the same time…

My downstairs neighbor, who is almost a year older than me, was walked down the street with her friend as she came home from work.  Upon seeing the small boy and even younger girl shivering in a trash can, her heart was moved with compassion as she looked at them.  As she began to understand the situation, she made a few inquiries and then invited them into her home while she made them some hot chocolate.

Sunday morning…

As I heard this story, my heart ached as I began to cry.  The story was such a stunning realization of the hurt, pain, and desperation that was everywhere…even on my own street.  It shocked me to see both how much they just needed to be loved (something I believe I take for granted), and how apathetic I had become to the pain that was constantly surrounding me.

Since then, one simple realization has etched itself in my mind:
“Making a difference” doesn’t necessarily mean making huge changes in the world; it doesn’t necessarily mean starting organizations or building orphanages, though it can mean that…making a difference can stem from a simple act of love, like making hot cocoa, because sometimes it’s the littlest things that make the biggest difference.

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