I wasn’t planning on writing today, but this prompt popped up in my inbox: “For today’s post, tell us three things you believe in your heart to be true. Tell us three things you believe in your heart to be false.” My first thought was, “I like it.” My second thought was, “Uh…what do I believe?” I like this post, because it feels meaningful to me and on many levels, I do know what I believe about all sorts of things, but it’s also been a hard one for me to get going, because how do you pick just six things you believe to be true or false? I mean, I believe lots of things to be true: God is real. I will always work with kids. I am a horrible person without coffee. Richard Simmons is dying to be my bestie. (Ahem…the post said things I believe to be true not things that necessarily are true.) I also am confident in many things I believe to be false: Broccoli is tasty. (How about…no). A woman’s place is in the kitchen. (Eat one made from scratch meal by me, and you too, will change your mind about this). Cleanliness is next to godliness. (Jesus and I talked about it, and he told me St. Peter won’t be looking under my bed before he calls me into heaven.) But which of my beliefs matter most to me? Let’s check it out together.
Things which I believe in my heart to be true:
1. The people nearest to our hearts, even after they have departed this world, never completely leave us. I actually talked about this with friends while running yesterday, and it was the first thing that popped in my head when I read this prompt. When I say I believe our loved ones never really leave us, even in death, I am not saying I believe in boogedy-boogedy Scooby Doo style ghosts. Instead, I believe the people we love the most are always with us in some way, shape, or form, and most of the time, we never know they are there, but sometimes, in a rare moment, we feel their presence so strongly that nothing can explain the feeling other than acknowledging that loved one was there. Does that mean I believe white robed, golden haloed, ethereal angels pop up in our bedrooms when we are sad? No…I believe God uses our loved ones in profoundly simple ways to reach out to us in the most random of moments to let us know they are there, He is there, and all is well.
A few months after my Papaw died, my Mamaw and I sat at her kitchen table quietly talking. She was in her usual seat at the table, I was in mine, and Papaw’s was painfully empty. I missed him terribly as did she, but neither of us spoke of it. It hurt too much. Then, in the middle of our conversation, her voice faded away, and at the same moment, she and I both turned and stared at Papaw’s chair. Not glanced- stared- like something had pulled us both in that direction and wouldn’t let us turn our eyes away. Just as randomly as we both looked to his chair at the same moment, our gaze broke at the same time, and as we looked back at each other, she gave me the most peaceful smile, and said, “Hmmmmm…” and got up from the table and walked away. In that moment, my mind was reeling wondering what had just happened, but I look back, and I know in my heart it was just Papaw checking on his girls. After his death, Mamaw spent a great deal of time living her life as if Papaw was still alive…ironing his church clothes, turning down his bed, setting his place at the table. Do I think she suffered from clinical dementia? Absolutely. I also think, however, in some moments, she did those things not because her mental state was deteriorating with age, but because to her, he was there. I know she could feel it, because I have felt it, too. I believe in my heart that we are never, ever alone.
2. Kids are the best source of goodness on this earth. I believe this with my whole heart. I know, I know. We hear and say it all the time, “Kids these days…” Kids these days are hard. They are different from kids when we were kids. They are more and more challenging to teach and raise every day. Newsflash! Kids have always been hard. Kids have always been challenging to teach and raise. The behaviors and tendencies of children change with the world, and so do the ways we teach and raise them. It’s kind of like the chicken and the egg…do their behaviors change, because of the way we are raising them, or are we changing the way are raising them, because children have changed? Has the world changed our youth, or have our youth changed the world? It’s all very complicated, but I believe in my heart this truth: At the core of their being, children are good…SO good. In my 3rd graders, I see the pure hearts of kids who I don’t have to tell to go play with the new student who is alone- they just do it instinctively. I read serious, heartfelt handwritten letters to a soldier they have never met telling him all the things they love and how they are thankful he protects them. That mouthy kid you just put in timeout for talking back one more time? They still love you, Mom and Dad. I know, because they cry for you on you early dismissal days when they are afraid you have forgotten to come pick them up. That rowdy kid whose recess I just took away, because he can’t ever just do what I have asked the first time? He still loves me. I know, because he sneak attack hugs me on the way in from recess…even on a day when I took it away. Kids are so good, ya’ll. Believe it.
3. All dogs go to heaven. I just know they do. I have to believe that. I just can’t imagine that our God could create something as pure of heart and loyal as a dog without intending to reunite us again someday. I don’t buy into any of the theories that dogs don’t have feelings or memories or any human-like cognitive or emotional qualities. I live with a dog who doesn’t know he’s a dog , and I believe he has a spirit and a heart that God loves just like mine. My two preceding passages were lengthy, but I have to keep this one short, because I am having to face, a little more everyday, that my little buddy is getting old. It hurts my heart to think about, so I will dwell on this belief: All dogs go to heaven, and I hope, when the time comes for my Riley, it will be filled with squeaky toys that never bust.
Things I believe in my heart to be false:
1. “Just date! You’ll feel better when you’re dating again.” Before I elaborate, let me just say I believe this to be false for me not necessarily everyone. Now back, to this “just date” stuff. This was the advice I was given a lot after a terrible break-up, and I still get it now. For some people, the whole just date around thing works, but it’s not for me. After the afore mentioned break-up, I went on my first date about a month into being single again. I was excited. My friends were excited. I picked out a cute new outfit. I got to choose where we were going to eat. I got my dinner paid for. I got doors opened for me. I got walked to my car. I got a hug goodnight. And that was it. No more calls. No more texts. No more dates. I was so disappointed, and the irony of it was I wasn’t really even attracted to him. He was nice. We had a good time. Neither of us felt a spark (hence the hug goodnight). But yet…I was bummed. Hello? Was it not clear to this guy that I was a newly single goddess waiting to be worshipped? That’s what my friends told me I was! Was he deaf, blind, or just stupid? Something was wrong with this picture! Nevermind that I wasn’t really interested. I needed to feel pretty and sought after. Instead, I felt like his sister, and with him, I didn’t want to be more than a sister type which made it all the more confusing. Fast forward over the span of about eight months, and the “just date” life continued. I went on date after date after date. Some were good. Some were awful. In the end, they were all united by the common factor of “not gonna work.” In the end, all I felt was tired of trying. I needed a break…a break I should have given myself at the end of the relationship that led to “just date.” I needed time to breathe and figure out who I was without him. I needed to start fresh on my own. I needed to do anything but “just date.” Do I regret it? No, because I learned a lot from it, but I have only been on one date since August, and that’s ok. Now, when I need to feel special, I just go to the local full service car wash where the guys working always treat me like a lady and make me laugh in a no-pressure way. You have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince? Maybe…maybe not. Maybe you just need room to breathe before you try again.
2.”The whole world is going to hell.” Listen, I know there is a lot of bad in the world. I am a news junkie. I can singlehandedly put a damper on good pizza and beer by discussing all the horrible things that can go wrong on an airplane flight. I can Debbie Downer with the best of them, my friends, but the good news is I choose not to. Why? Because all I have to do is look around me and see that the world is not all NPR style doom and gloom. Rainy days hold peace and rest. Disasters and tragedies often bring out the best in people…strangers and neighbors alike sharing the common bond of humanity. Disappointments reveal lessons learned. Even the harshest winter will always come to an end. (Slowly but surely, my Southern friends!) Spring always comes. The storms don’t last forever. There are always people looking to help others. Does the bad ever completely go away? No. Utopian life does not exist. Does goodness always shine somewhere in the world? Always. Does it take some effort to find the goodness sometimes? Of course. But it’s always there. No, the whole world is not going to hell. There is too much good- people sharing, children loving, volunteers working- for me to believe that.
3. “One person can’t make a difference.” When I graduated college, I bought myself an expensive leather bracelet embossed with the words, “I will make a difference.” I wore it often my first year of teaching. I believed those words so much. Then, someone made fun of it hinting that I only believed it, because I was an innocent (aka totally clueless) first year teacher. It broke my heart, and it embarassed me. Nearly 10 years later, I could kick myself for believing I was wrong. I can make a difference. I am a teacher, for crying out loud. I have the chance every day to make a difference, but what’s even more powerful than that is we all have the chance every day to make a difference in the world. Really, we all do. Making a difference doesn’t have to be curing cancer. Making a difference can be as simple as a kind word or gesture to someone you know needs it, or even more special, a kind word or gesture just because- whether you know someone needs it or not. The old saying tells us “no man is an island,” and it’s true. You are not Tom Hanks trapped on a deserted island. You are a person with a beating heart who possesses the power to make a difference no matter how small. My favorite quote from Dr. Suess’s The Lorax says, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” I believe the whole world is not going to hell, because I believe in the difference makers. I can be one. You can be one. And we should. One person can make a difference. Put a whole lot of “one person” making a difference together, and you’ll end up with a whole lot of something special. That’s one more thing in my heart I believe to be true.
Hayley and Riley (the dog who will barrel through the gates of heaven someday ready to get the party started)