“Life was teaching me that progress and change happen slowly. Not in two years, four years, or even a lifetime. We were planting seeds of change, the fruit of which we might never see. We had to be patient.”
Faith takes time
I claim a strong Christian faith, but I’m not one to beat you over the head with it. I’ll probe here and there, make a comment, give you a look, write one or two sentences, engage in a respectful conversation if you’d like, and let it go at that.
My faith is a lifestyle, not just a list of rules and regulations to follow or not follow. So, it (hopefully) permeates most of what I write and how I talk and act, even if I’m not explicitly mentioning God by name.
Planting seeds, Christians like to say. Or, maybe watering seeds that someone else has planted.
God gives the growth. God changes hearts. I do not.
I will not change your mind about anything. I know this.
If I want to plant seeds of change, I must learn how to listen first. Because that’s all I can do: Plant seeds.
The fruit belongs to the living God.
The fruit of mentoring is …
When I connect with a young person through school or church, I’m giving my time, and not much more. In formal mentoring programs, I’ve eaten lunch with a youth for up to a year, perhaps played a game or two that he enjoys. We talk about his life.
I’m not allowed to discuss my faith, unless he brings it up first. That’s OK. I’ll listen to his story, because his story matters – whether I can relate to it or not.
Is that planting seeds of change? I’ll never know, actually. One year with the student, then he’s gone. Or, I’m gone. Or, the program is gone.
I’ve experienced all three scenarios.
One student moved to Arizona after the school year ended to be with his dad. Another time, I accepted a job out of state and had to leave a wonderful situation where I was reading one-on-one with students during class. Twice, the mentoring program itself ended – one with no notice at all, the other with a formal letter.
Did any of those young men gain anything through the time we spent together? Only God knows.
If no one else watered the seeds, or if I didn’t plant deep enough or water enough, perhaps not. But that is in the living God’s hands, not mine.
I donate blood regularly. I never learn who receives my blood; it’s done anonymously. They tell me the process saves lives; I take their word for it. That’s in God’s hands too.
That’s enough for me.
What seeds are you planting?
During this time of COVID-19, we are seeing many changes. The virus is a silent killer, pervasive and unseen. It attacks certain people more readily than others, but not uniformly – so it’s impossible to predict who will get sick (and potentially die) and who will escape its effects.
Changes happened literally overnight because of the coronavirus. Schools closed. Businesses were shut down. Nursing homes became de-facto prisons – no one in, no one out. Social distancing became the norm. We wear masks and, in certain situations, gloves.
These changes did not happen slowly. Perhaps that’s why we’ve fought them so much.
Proportionally, the vast majority of us will not die from COVID-19. Or even get sick. But because it’s very contagious, we might be carriers without knowing it.
This is all old news.
We are gradually opening up our country again. It’s not fast enough for some, but we don’t want the virus to spike. Mass gatherings still won’t happen anytime soon.
The next town over just announced their very popular pool won’t open at all this summer. There’s no way to enforce social distancing and keep the pool and surrounding areas clean and sanitized, city leaders said.
The return to normal will take time. We must be patient. Americans have trouble with this. We are a fast-paced, immediate gratification society. We drive fast. We work long hours. We’re all about production and measurable results. We eat on the run, and pay for it with obesity and other health issues. We love our concerts and ballgames.
COVID-19 feeds on all of that.
We are forced to slow down. To be patient. To cook at home. To think of the health of others before ourselves.
I hope we don’t lose these lessons as we ramp up this summer and beyond.
We are seeing the best of our society during these days, and the worst of society too.
We deliver groceries for neighbors. Make and deliver masks. Call, text and/or Zoom with people we can’t visit right now, some of whom we haven’t contacted in quite awhile.
Since this also is a presidential election year, we’ve retreated to our social media platforms and dug in. I have friends on both sides of the political aisle, and I’ve had to un-follow several of them because of the vitriol they keep posting.
Progress and change happen slowly. In the political arena, are they happening at all?
I think so, yes.
Extremists run both political parties now. But most Americans live somewhere in the middle. Most of us, I’d say, lean one way or the other, but we’re providing for our families, working and living life in our communities, not basing our day-to-day decisions on the latest U.S. Supreme Court ruling or tweet from the President or bill passed by the state Legislature.
Our governments should serve the people, not the other way around. Government, especially at the federal level, these days seems to be about selectively restricting who it serves – keeping immigrants out and reducing welfare programs, while allowing abortion clinics and gun shops to remain open.
Are there seeds of change we can plant politically? Can we learn to get along with each other, despite our differences?
Well, let’s see. I haven’t told you yet who said the quote I began this blog with. Actually, I read it in a book. I didn’t want to tell you right away, because a certain segment of you would dismiss it and not read this blog just because of who wrote it.
The messenger matters more than the message.
That’s how judgmental we’ve become.
Planting seeds of change means listening even to people we think we don’t like. No one on earth is the Devil personified. Truly. There’s good (and evil) in each one of us. You and I included.
I wish we not only understood this, but lived like we understood it.
That quote about progress, change and patience was written by Michelle Obama in her book, “Becoming.” Page 370. If anyone understands those concepts, it’s the former First Lady. She’s lived them, and continues to live them.
Are we listening?