We stopped in Rockaway, New Jersey at 14:10 yesterday, Saturday, May 29, 2010. It was our first stop after packing the van full of my belongings and leaving my beloved Union, my beloved NYC, the life I had fought to make for myself, a life I love. I feel as though I am starting all over, building something new. A new life that I will come to love in time, I am sure.
In the meantime, I put my right hand in my pocket, and realized it was empty. I no longer had keys to a home. I mentioned to my parents that my pocket was sad, that my pants felt homeless. It was a moment later, following my father's response, that I realized I wasn't really joking about my pants. I was talking about myself.
My dad pulled a rock out of his pocket and gave it to me. "That's a loan." I was touched that he would give me anything to put in my pocket, but his adamant declaration that he was going to get it back was a little disconcerting. Then, he explained to me that the rock came from a Lenten service this year. "That represents the cornerstone of the church."
"Oh! Jesus is the cornerstone. This rock is Jesus!" I exclaimed. Suddenly, the gesture meant the world to me. My pants aren't homeless--they have Jesus in them!
Terrified of the unknown future, especially the immediate stay in Iowa, I am trying to focus on my next steps, hoping for California, trusting God, but still afraid. The stone reminded me that I am not homeless--I have Jesus in my heart. I'll be okay.
Dad tries to so hard sometimes his efforts can feel inauthentic to me. This gesture was effortlessly, thoughtlessly compassionate. And it connected with me. It spoke my language.
This reminded me powerfully of the way that Willy Wonka loved people--effortlessly, just by being himself. By giving what he had. He didn't try to love people. He just loved them. And it connected for so many people--McGiffert 1, UTS, my friend Tom at the park, Lawrence the guy who works in the parking garage. Pretty much everyone who ever saw him. Not all of them, but most.
Like Jesus. Something in people connected to him, too. He spoke their language. And he loved them--effortlessly, by being his genuine self.
I sometimes try so hard. It often seems the more I try, the less effective I become. Something about this seems very wrong to me. In reality, not everyone is going to accept me or my gestures. (They did not all accept Jesus, or Willy Wonka. And God know I struggle at times to accept my dad and his gestures). By and large, if I'm working that hard and being that ineffective, something in the relationship needs to be addressed, either interpersonally or internally, because it means I do not feel safe to be my genuine self.
I want to be like Jesus. When I remember Willy Wonka and how he loved people I hope I remember that he loved people the way Jesus loved people--that Willy Wonka is an example from my contemporary context which I can emulate.
And I hope my dad lets me keep his rock--or finds one for me that I can keep as a reminder that sometimes, I want to be more like my dad, who was his genuine self, effortlessly compassionate and in so doing, spoke Jesus's love to me. And I'm pretty sure he didn't even know it.