Words Not Weapons

IMG_5244.PNG

After hearing of the terrorist attack in Barcelona, I contacted my German friend, Margrit.

Thirty-six years ago in 1981, my mother and father met Margrit’s parents at a wine festival in Margrit’s hometown, Deidesheim, Germany.  Our two sets of parents shared the ages of their children, and they discovered they had two girls approximately the same age, Margrit and me. Our parents exchanged addresses, and Margrit and I became pen pals.

Our letters tied us together. Even after the tech revolution, we continued to write. Margrit and I’ve adjusted our writing. We still both prefer a handwritten letter, and I could pick Margrit’s beautiful script out of a line-up for sure!  Our letters aren’t as frequent, but with the tech revolution, we’re able to follow each other on Facebook and share photos via messenger. Margrit and I’ve celebrated world events, like the downfall of the Berlin Wall, and we’ve denounced horrors, like the despicable acts of 9.11.

Inspiring this blog entry is Margrit’s and my time on Las Ramblas, celebrating our 25th friendship anniversary in June 2009. Margrit and I walked side-by-side down the peaceful Boulevard, enjoying the summer evening. We people-watched, listened to street musicians and chose a place to stop for a ‘tres bier Grazie.’ 

IMG_6809

We had our photo taken with a Las Ramblas street performer, a larger-than-life gargoyle, who while the camera clicked, leaned in for a kiss, whispering Catalan into my ear. Margrit and I laughed about the gargoyle’s forwardness, and in the years to come, the photo reminded Margrit and me of our harmless, fun-loving encounter with the Gargoyle on Las Ramblas in Barcelona.

The photo’s taken during a time when peacefulness accompanied most traveling Westerners.  A time when terrorists weren’t walking into crowded tourist areas with bombs strapped to their backs. A time when people rented cars to get to a destination not to kill people. A time when we guarded our wallets against pickpocketers but didn’t fear for our lives when having coffee or tea in a city square.

IMG_6871

On Thursday, August 17th, the day of terror on Las Ramblas,  I contacted Margrit on WhatsApp. I sent her the news headliner and referenced our 2009 photo:

our moment with the gargoyle is on my mind😩😢

And three days later – quicker than a letter traveling over the Atlantic but slower than pressing send on a social media message or an international texting app – I received Margrit’s response.

Happiness and tragedy are so close together 🙁

A van didn’t bloodily extinguish our lives on Las Ramblas when we were there.  Instead, we had a trustworthy interaction with a gargoyle.  To us, Las Ramblas is a place of inside-jokes and laughter, and now I can’t help but cringe thinking about what Las Ramblas elicits in those who suffered pain, personal loss, and unbearable heartache because of a heinous, despicable crime.

Friends, this isn’t only Barcelona’s terror, this is our world’s worst nightmare unfolding in front of our eyes – the disregard for human life and the desensitization toward violence are crippling our world.

Let’s stop the madness!

*******

Tragically,

Monsters exist

But thankfully, so do pen pals –

To who and what are you paying attention?  Good or evil?

A pen pal uses words not weapons to write a life story.

The world should take a page out of a pen pal’s book.

Remember the adage, ‘sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me?’

My hope is within my lifetime, words connect us again, not ill-willed reactions, violent acts or deliberate tragedy.

One can hope and plot our comeback –

One kind word at a time.

 

 

May you find your peace again, Barcelona!

 

 

 

In a Snap!

My daughter didn’t go to the beach for Spring Break – she came home and built NeckGrace’s website.  As a token of my appreciation, I gave her a mini-photo shoot on the way to the airport. We pretty much had 20 minutes to make some sort of magic happen.

Phoenix’s late afternoon traffic caused some delays, so we did the best we could in the little time we had – shooting in a snap! Finished, we jumped in the car. I drove, and per usual, SKP asked if she could preview the images on the camera.

“Mama, where’s your lens cap?”

I had no idea – I remembered it being in my back pocket when I gave the camera to SKP to take photos of me, but who knew where it’d disappeared in the hurried way we’d snapped those shots.

Ugh, we didn’t have time to go back and search, so continuing to the airport, in stop ‘n go, bumper-to-bumper traffic, we drove.  During the drive, SKP found a favorite image and texted the image # to my phone.

“Do you think you could send me this picture before my flight takes off?”

Of course, when you’re a mama and you’re appreciative of your child’s hard work, you do what you’re asked, at pretty much any cost –

I dropped SKP at the airport and went to my office and began uploading images – I singled out SKP’s requested image and set it via iMessage. She responded, “thank you, but could you send me the one that’s not a closeup?” I searched the 70 image gallery for the image that she may have been referring, and what do you know, while I hunted,

IMG_7403

I found my lens cap.

*****

This morning, fighting little or no traffic, I picked up my lens cap which was sitting in this exact spot, in the gravel. It hadn’t been snapped up by anyone.

Life lessons in a snap –

when we find the good in situations, magic happens.

*****

 

From the Pew

As a second Sunday visitor at a church, I sit toward the back of the sanctuary,

“if I sit in the back, I can hide that I don’t know the Catholic mass protocol

The mass procession begins.

Late, following behind the processional, a family scurries up the aisle and files into the pew in front of me – a mother with four children. The mother whispers the seating arrangement instructions, and the youngest grimaces and whines, “I want to sit next to you!”  The mother looks at the young boy and points to the end of the pew.

The oldest and youngest boys bookend the family in the pew. Two identical twin girls flank either side of their mother.

The mother is semi-disheveled. With hair that hasn’t been washed and wearing a loose-fitted, wrinkled shirt and faded jeans, the mother’s large frame spills onto her twins on either side of her. I wonder if she spent the early morning getting her children ready for church, not herself.

During the majority of the church service, the mother spends her time “shhhh-ing” the three youngest children. The oldest boy sits perfectly still on the end of the pew next to the center aisle. He actively participates in the service – reciting, singing and praying. His mother doesn’t look at him. He knows the drill, and I watch him. I see his earnest attempt to follow the rules and to please his mother. He wants to behave. He wants to be good. He’s been taught how to act. He respects his mother. I can tell.

The two twin girls are identical -the only difference allowing me to tell them apart is their jean shorts’ lengths. Both with shiny, silky, brown braids hanging down the centers of their backs, the girls sneak peeks toward the back of the congregation, fidget in their seats, and hang on the pew in front of them. The twin to the left of her mother leans forward so she may have eye contact with her mother and asks, “how much longer?” The mother firmly squeezes the twin’s arm, whispering, “SHHHHhhh,” and the twin sits back in her seat next to her mother. Her mother’s side seems to wrap itself around the young girl and to hold her in her seat.

I look at the mother who’s seated directly in front of me. I notice the mother’s soft, porcelain skin wrapping around her billowy frame. She looks so motherly – what she’s wearing and the fact she seemingly hasn’t showered don’t matter. She’s first and foremost a dedicated mother. I can tell.

The family’s seated stillness is tested during the priest’s message – The priest spoke about Saint Thomas Aquinas and why he was considered a saint – The children’s attentions lost.

The perfectly-behaved oldest boy lowers his head. The youngest boy lets out a full-faced yawn and attempts to crawl across his twin sister’s lap into his mother’s arms. The twin momentarily nudges him away from their mother, but then quickly makes room for her brother. With the youngest boy on her lap, the mother’s side cuddles the twin on the left, and her right arm wraps around the twin on her right. The mother looks to her oldest boy over the head of the twin on her left. They have eye contact, and the boy smiles.

Whew! The family makes it through the priest’s message, but now it’s time for communion. The twin on the mother’s left lies down in the pew.  The mother tells her to sit up. The twin tries but fails. The twin slides down onto the kneeling bench. The other twin leans over and tries to make her twin sister stand up. Suddenly, the mother motions to the oldest boy to move into the center aisle – they’re leaving. The oldest boy moves and the rest of the family follows him out of the sanctuary.  They leave as quickly as they had arrived, late and now early, and all together.

After the family left, I felt the stillness in the pew ahead of me – this family had made me think.

Unknowingly, this mother taught me lessons about sainthood not from the pulpit but right from her pew this morning.

Late or early, good or bad, or right or wrong, we aren’t here to be perfect in procedure. Instead, it’s about recognizing the perfection that comes from goodness.

Not knowing when to kneel, how to take communion and far from being a saint, I’m comforted by this mother and her children. I’m reminded that life’s about showing up and giving to others and about being still and not whining.

Life’s not about perfection – it’s about seeking the good.

Life’s about seeing the beauty in others and glorifying others’ incredible work.

How to seek goodness is taught, often by saints.

It’s up to us to watch and copy their goodness.

Maybe I’ll seek a pew a couple rows up next Sunday…

IMG_9401

“From the Pew”

“The things that we love tell us who we are”

-Saint Thomas Aquinas