Thursday, June 21, 2018

You Are my Sunshine

Today in urgent care I watched my little guy try to stay still as they stuck a needle in his wound (near his eye) to numb it. Doesn't that sentence make you cringe?
I wanted to. But I also didn't want him to see me cringe, so I didn't.

Tattooed on the arm of the nurse who was helping hold him was, "You are my sunshine."  Lovely black script running down her forearm. THIS SONG was my mom's top pick lullaby of my childhood, my toddlerhood, and probably my infancy as well.

Missing my mom, it turns out, never goes away. It is imbedded into every moment of my life like a new rhythm of my heartbeat. So when I saw that song title, and thought of my mom, it calmed me in a moment when I was supposed to step up and be the adult. No casting about for support on this one: I've got a kiddo whose wide eyes are seeking mine and he's looking for something sure. Something steady. Somebody who can assure him that he can get through this scary thing. Micah was a super trooper. He always is on the big stuff. As he enjoyed pointing out afterward, "I've had more medical attention than my brother and sister combined."

Afterward, the PA said to me out of the blue, "You're a good mom. We can always tell when the kids can stay calm it's because their parents are calm. That helps a lot."

It wasn't me, I wanted to tell him. My mom could make me feel that I was as welcome as sunshine. As important as sunshine. As cherished as sunshine. A love like that still steadies me long after she's gone away.

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Summer We Joined the Underground Railroad

“So are we helping fund a modern-day Underground Railroad?” my eight-year-old asked.  
“Well, no.  Wait. Maybe.”  and then the implications really hit me and I had to agree, yes.  Yes, in fact, we are helping fund an Underground Railroad and a modern-day Harriet Tubman. And then I started to cry.

This was a conversation we had last summer when my whole family (and extended family) signed up to walk a barefoot mile to raise awareness and funds to fight human trafficking. It was a local event put on by Joy International and its founder, Jeff Brodsky. 
June 10 was a hot and beautiful day for a walk. We joined the crowd who entirely encircled  Clement “Lake”, and we felt part of something big, meaningful, and important. Afterward, as we sat on the grass in the shade, we celebrated coming together for a cause we cared about.  It felt great.

But life has a way of rolling us right on down the road, doesn’t it?  One month later we made the startling (to us) decision to move, and that sent us on a trajectory that was every bit as stressful as anybody has ever even hinted that it could be.  When Fall came around and we had finally landed in a new house, I was spent.  Exhausted. Just needing time to settle down and settle into a new life we were building. The horrors of global slavery faded into the distance.

Let’s fast forward some.
 I remember the day in March I called Bill in the middle of the day to tell him the idea that I HAD to share with him.  (I try to limit midday calls to Bill because he’s a teacher) I was so excited, I had to call him, even if I just left a voicemail.  “Let’s turn our basement into an Escape Room that we run as a fundraiser for Joy International!  We can say, ‘I escaped for fun to fund REAL freedom’ and all the money can go to fight human trafficking.  What do you think?!?”

If you know my husband, you know that he’s an introvert.  He’s a scholar.  His favorite bonus of this new house may be that it has a small room he lined with bookshelves and filled with his books.  He prefers a few close friends over big crowds almost every time.  And he’s not usually hoping to fill his free time in the company of strangers traipsing through his house playing some kind of puzzle game that his wife is weirdly enamored with.

But this is what he said that day, “Jodi, you are not going to believe what I prayed this morning on my way to work.  I was thanking God for this house, and all the ways it is such a huge blessing to us. I asked Him to show us how to use it for something in His kingdom.  I asked Him to show us how we could bless others with this gift He’s given us. Just this morning.  This is what I prayed.  I think He just answered my prayer.”

I was so surprised and delighted and excited!  Because I can cast a vision in rainbow glitter and sparkly lights with the best of ‘em, all I could see was how much fun it was all going to be.  How much money we could raise.  How awesome it would be to get to enjoy all our friends playing the game at our house AND be raising money for an important cause.  All I could see was win/win wonderful.

So here we are three months later.  The room goes live tomorrow.  The journey here has had some glittery moments—absolutely—and God definitely has cast some sparkly lights of encouragement along the path.  But what it has really been is a lot of work.  A lot of realizing that I didn’t know the first thing about designing a room that would keep groups of people entertained for a whole hour.  And a whole lot of realizing that I had jumped into the deep end of an audacious idea with a huge “whee!” of glee and I wasn’t even sure if I could swim.

I enrolled in my own “culled-from-every-free-source-I-can-think-of” university of Escape Game design.  I listened to podcasts and watched professors online.  I read blogs. I read from books and articles.  I played a few point-and-click escape games online (I’m not even a gamer!) and I started following the Escape Room Enthusiast fb group. Then my friends threw me a buoy when one engineer-wizard said, “I’ll design one of the puzzles.  That’s a cause I care about.”  (Whaaht?! Somebody throw some glitter!!) and his wife said, “I’m good at Publisher.  I’ll knock out this graphic design nightmare for you.”  Yippee!  A shooting star called Getting-Things-Done shot through my dark. Another friend turned me on to Sign-up Genius.  Still another rounded up beta-testers for me.  Then my sister offered to do the thank-you gifts…see the theme? People got behind this and said, “Go. For. It.”   But still I rode a wheel of self-doubt, hopefulness, fear, optimism, fun, discouragement, and on and on.  Around and around, and anytime I just wanted to hop off and say, forget it!  This is ridiculous!  My husband would say, “Keep going.  You probably have something here,” and my good friend would say, “Press on.  You’re never gonna know unless you try.”

But here’s the thing—I've wanted to KNOW.  I've wanted to know that this whole enterprise wasn’t just going to be a “good try.”  I've wanted to know that I wasn’t going to embarrass myself, waste my time and resources, and feel kind of ridiculous at the end.  The whole thing feels like a risk.

Even right now.  The night before we go “live.”  No more beta testers (read: dear friends who go gently). Tomorrow people I have never met will come play our Escape Game and hopefully decide they had enough fun to pay ten dollars to Joy International.

And it leads me all back to the conversation that started this blog post to begin with.  The one where my kiddo compares fighting against human trafficking as being part of the Underground Railroad.  Last year, I cried because I thought about the slaves.  This year, I cry because I think about the rebels—the normal, ordinary people willing to commit a felony, suffer huge punishments, (including sometimes death) to help slaves get to freedom.  I picture the farmwife, with her kids playing in the yard, kneading her bread til kingdom come, listening to the bark of a slave catcher’s dog, knowing she’s got a few slaves in her cellar.  I picture the farmer, lying awake at night, hoping that his family won’t pay for the mercy he showed the slave.  What will happen to them if they take him off to jail? Should he have looked after his own better?  These were ordinary, every-day people.  I don’t even know any of their names.  And yet, when slaves came knocking on their door, they risked quite a lot to help rescue them. 

I feel humbled. Whatever “risk” I may have thought I was taking to try something new for a fundraiser doesn’t compare. These folks on the Underground Railroad, they didn’t even know if the slaves they sheltered would really make it all the way to freedom. They just did what they believed was right.   I can donate funds to a proven nonprofit, one who reports all the time about how they have worked with local law enforcement to rescue people.  I can read about the ways they offer support and rehabilitation to the rescued.  I can read about all the results, in numbers and in personal stories.  I don’t have to wonder if the funds get spent well, or if they are making a difference.

With all that danger, uncertainty, and personal sacrifice, the people of the Underground Railroad fought against slavery by hiding slaves in their cellars, in their haylofts, in their sheds.  

I can be brave enough to invite you to come play a fun game for an hour in my basement. J

We’re just gonna hitch my house up to the Underground Railroad and see where this train goes.