“that’s what the storm’s all about”

by christie shumate mcelwee

Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.” ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The world right now is exhausting. I know I am tired. Tired of cruelty and stubbornness and ignorance and injustice. I am drained. When my head hits the pillow at night and tears flow, I know I have over-consumed too much of the bad that is out there. And boy, it is out there, waiting in the darkness, ready to pounce and eat us all alive with its venom.

My heart is drained. What I am mostly tired of is the judgment and shaming, and yes, it is coming from within. I judge. I shame. And it is tearing my joy into shards. I am the Ancient Booer in The Princess Bride who shames Buttercup’s nightmares.

“Boo! Boo! Rubbish! Filth! Slime! Muck! Boo! Boo! Boo!”

The old woman was a manifestation of Buttercup’s conscience. She knew her love was out there, waiting. She was shaming herself because of the decisions she had made.

How do I move from becoming the Queen of Slime, the Queen of Filth, the Queen of Putrescence? What is my conscience telling me about love? How do I maneuver this rocky and dangerous terrain and set aside my own judgment and shame? Is it even possible?

I do not have answers to these difficult questions. The sheer scope of the pandemic and the ongoing fight for social justice have presented us with many challenges. The stories in the news can be confusing. Where is the truth? How do we model honor and decency for our children and grandchildren? Whom do we look toward for guidance? Wisdom? Empathy?

Once again, I am not sure I have any answers. All I do know is that my soul needs peace. I seem to be at odds with so many, yet I do know this: I believe in the virtue of love, the dignity of grace, and the importance of our collective humanity. 

I will choose not to lose heart. I will soften my judgment. I will look and listen and try to understand. All of this may sound simple and naive, but it is all I have and I am willing to hang onto these nuggets of hope.

I will get through these confounding days. If I have moments of despair, I will sit with them. When I see magic, I will acknowledge its presence. I will embrace joyful moments. Navigating this complicated labyrinth may be a daily challenge, but I am choosing to live my remaining years with tenderness. I will strive to let go of the sharp edges and learn to forgive others and myself. I will weather this storm.

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure whether the storm is really over. But one thing is for certain, when you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what the storm’s all about.”
~Haruki Murakami

How am I weathering this storm? Through piles of books and yoga and good friends and fabulous food and music and hikes through glorious fields of wildflowers.

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Good People

“Where’d all the good people go?

I’ve been changing channels

I don’t see them on the TV shows

Where’d all the good people go?

We go heaps and heaps of what we sow.”

Jack Johnson, “Good People”

That song seems to be reverberating in my head lately. The world appears to be saturated with mean spirited, hateful, bigoted, selfish, and rotten individuals spewing venom through their vile words and behavior. There are presidential candidates rallying fear. There are government officials boasting their superiority over others. There are guns everywhere, yet no one is safe. There are “churches” that hail hate as their doctrine. Everyone is pointing fingers. Victims abound. 

“Where’d all the good people go?” 

This got me thinking about the qualities of “good people.” What makes a good person?

A good person has honor. She gives her word and follows up on promises. 

A good person possesses grace. Grace is something that comes from within. A person with grace is kind and good and full of heart. 

A good person is grateful. He doesn’t brag about what he has or feel jealous when others have more. He is grateful for the simple joys in his life.

A good person has compassion. She empathizes with others. She gives of her time and her money. She reaches out to her friends and helps strangers. Her smile is sincere.

A good person is accepting. He may not agree with others, but he accepts other views. He reserves judgment.

I am lucky to have many good people in my life. They hug longer, judge less, laugh with glee, and make this world fine and glorious. They know who they are, and I am grateful every day for their passion. They are full of honor and grace and gratitude and compassion and acceptance. They are the “good people.” 

So, turn off the news, power down your phone, and tune out the spoiled and the wicked. Seek out the good people in your life. They are our greatest joys.

“What a great favor God does to those he places in the company of good people.”

– St. Teresa of Avila