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Shot Of The Day

Not Just Another Brick in the Wall

I was standing at the podium before a somber silent audience slinging snot [my sister’s oh so colorful expression for that sloppy sob that tissues cannot contain] speaking about the impact he had made on the way I tell a story and on the way I view animated movies and close my eyes sometimes when I hear music. He had an impact on the way I communicate with others and how I think about myself and things the world tells me I shouldn’t be able to do. He taught me to love the Jungle Book and the Little Prince and Vivaldi and to direct the music because music gives us permission to have a role in its performance if we will simply have the courage to accept the invitation. My words weren’t eloquent because I was having trouble holding it all together. But I was really fighting for a thought that conveyed the essence of what was in my heart about this man, so I was piling up many words the way we tend to do when we haven’t quite found that summary sentence. The one that brings all of the emotions together into one capsule that contains the heartbeat of a thought. And then I said “I guess you could say he was a brick in the wall of my foundation.” As soon as I said it, I knew I could sit down. Nothing was gonna capture it any better. As I found my way back to the seat next to my mom, I was hit with the sad realization that I never told HIM any of the things I had just clumsily vomited onto this eclectic audience that was there to eulogize the life of Grey Whaley. Note to self — funerals are really lousy times to have epiphanies like that! I wanted to run off the steps and bombard my mother with every solid thing she ever contributed to the foundation of my life. Restraint got the best of me but not for long. I managed to hold off until we got to the car but had too few tissues as I slung more snot. Poor woman. We both needed a bath by the time I was done. In the days and weeks and months that have followed, I have had a lot of time to think about the bricks in the wall of my foundation. We all have them, right? People who forever change the way we think or live or value certain things. People who rearrange the cupboards of our minds or hearts because they take time to invest in us. To pause from the pursuit of money, position, education, advancement, the toxic push to get “somewhere” else or “something” else… and to just love us right in the midst of where we are on the battlefield of life. They pause to listen to a question that we need answered in our broken human state. They wait for us and are patient with our flaws as we grow. It’s pretty easy to identify some of our foundational bricks. Surely our birth families fit that category. Moms who loved us before we even registered what love was. Dads who provided for us when we assumed provision was an entitlement without sacrifice. Sisters who fought with us, yet shared the experience of our childhood and could absorb our struggles without much editorial needed — they were there for much of it. Teachers are another treasure trove of bricks. I mean, it’s their job to invest in us. Isn’t that what they get paid for? But few and far between are the teachers who do this with foundational life-altering impact. Friends, co-workers, book writers, and the list goes on. There are many bricks there. But as I’ve scanned the landscape of my life, there is a stash of bricks that looks a bit different in my foundation. They aren’t crisp and square. They have cracks and dents. They look as if they have been broken and pasted together again and again. The sharp edges have been knocked off and they look more like well weathered rocks than bricks. More like cobble stones as my friend Kris would say. When they line up, they don’t form a solid wall but rather they pile up like the granite that locks together and rises to form the base of a mountain. [see shot on the next page for a visual]. They are my faith family. The people who have loved me through my hard questions, my ugliest moments, and my most profound doubts. Unlike my birth family who loves me because I’m kin, or my teachers who were paid to invest in me, or my co-workers who were stuck with me, my faith family chooses to assume the role of mother and father and sister and brother. They are hard on you because they love you. They kick your butt and challenge your actions. They ask hard questions that don’t have easy answers. They forgive easily because they know how much they need forgiveness. They show up when it’s inconvenient but when you need it most. They keep you from hiding when all you want to do is isolate. They listen to your story of woe the 7th time with as much compassion as they did the 1st because they know that certain hurts take enormous amounts of time to heal. And when they sense that you are nursing a wound, they lovingly tell you to stop licking and let it dry out! They wipe your kid’s noses, teach Sunday school, drive them to camp and act in dramas and plays that no adult in their right mind would want published on Youtube. They love extremely well, but they are also broken. That’s why they are in a faith family to begin with. Like me, they sometimes forget to remember to be grateful for the foundation that is being built in their lives. They take the family for granted assuming that every member will always be there. But faith families change and grow and birds leave the nest and take the love they have received and start building in dark places where light is desperately needed. Until they are gone, it’s hard to see what an impact they had on a family. And while it is true that faith families change, the cool thing about them is that family is family. There is an eternal bond that will not be broken. I don’t know who is in your faith family, or if you are even a part of one, but I do know this. You’ll have regret if you find yourself one day standing on a podium slinging snot talking for the first time about the brick that a person was in the foundation of your wall of faith. Don’t wait. Wrap up a brick this Christmas. Wrap it in a letter of gratitude. It may be the weirdest present they ever got. But it will be a gift that prevents erosion and inspires more building up. Merry Christmas. With gratitude to all the bricks in my life of faith. Kat — click the link below to see the broad view of the bricked building in this post and to take the “toss a brick” challenge. Now that’s a solid foundation!

Posted: 16 December 2011