I spent Saturday participating in an all city clean up. Over 300 individuals took time to go around the town and pick up trash as part of an Earth Day event.
While picking up garbage, we had plenty of time to talk. Other than the constant standing and stooping, there were no real distractions. I started walking with a young couple that we know. The husband quickly outdistanced us. As the woman and I made our way through the brush, I heard a heartbreaking tale of infertility. I was so saddened. I hope I was able to convey my compassion and concern as we walked and worked.
A short time later, I walked with a couple in their 50s. As I listened to their story, I stopped for a moment and just tried to take it all in. Their son and daughter-in-law have a three year old son with Autism. Their grandson is nonverbal and the grandma was so thankful he was just starting to verbalize his very first words. And that is not all. The daughter-in-law just lost her job and their son, who has a college degree, has had one job interview in the past two years and is trying to make a living delivering pizzas every night.
I was reminded, at that moment, that picking up trash was secondary to being present for the people I was spending time with that day. I thought of Bebo Norman’s song I’m Not Living In The In-Between:
“Can I come close to you?
Hold your heart and never move
Well, I can’t be anything I’m not
You get what you see
But I’m gonna give you everything I got
I’m not living in the in-between”
Later that morning, all the volunteers came together for food, fun and prizes (free T-shirts of course). At the event, I met up with my best buddy who has two young adult children who have broken all contact with him and yet here he was reaching for another normal day with joy. It is inexplicable that they would not choose to have this wonderful man in their life.
Life is full of great joy but also great sadness. Learning how to forge a path forward, knowing when to hold on to the past and when to let go, is a challenge.
Living and loss leave wrinkles on our hearts. These wrinkles are not visible to the naked eye but are very apparent when we lend an ear to our friends and those who come into our life. Staying connected to one another is essential.