Beach Glass Blessings 

Beach Glass Blessings 

I wrote recently about how finding beach glass reminds me of dating.

I think it reminds me even more of blessings. Those good things in life that lift our spirits, that call out for gratitude.

It takes training my eyes to see them – wanting to see them. And to see them in a range of colors and shapes and sizes.

It means taking the time to stop and bend down to pick them up. Most days, my collection reflects the time I’ve spent stopping and looking.

But then there are those tiny, rare pieces of blue beach glass. When they come to me, they feel like a promise.

It’s been a summer full of transitions (on top of a year full of transitions, on top of a few years full of transitions). Some have been painful and some hopeful and some both at the same time. None have been easy.

The first piece of blue beach glass I found felt like the blessing of a promise – “there is more goodness, love, and beauty ahead than you imagine.”

I’m not superstitious. I don’t think blue sea glass is a sign from God. But it has become an icon of hope for me.

Each weekend since that first piece, as I’ve walked the beach and prayed (or tried), a piece of blue sea glass has come to me, each one feeling like a small miracle.

Maybe not all miracles need to be supernatural. Maybe some of them can be bits of brokenness, tossed among the rocks and sand again and again until the edges wear down and something that is smooth and whole all on its own remains.

Maybe some miracles can be found in the rare gift that comes from nature and the world and all we put into it. When things come together to deposit a small, brilliant piece of blue beach glass at your feet.

And maybe some miracles can be found in the gift of eyes and time to see and receive them.

Still Summer

Still Summer

It’s still summer – I know because of the sun and the heat and the ice cream carts.

Ice cream carts are a summer fixture in Rogers Park, up and down the sidewalks, near parks, and especially on the beach. They plow through the sand bringing frozen goodness to anyone with a little cash.

And everyone, it seems, loves them. In my United Nations of a neighborhood, ice cream bars are trans-cultural.

I don’t want it to end – summer on the Lake. I knew I’d moved to a diverse neighborhood, but I didn’t realize just how diverse until I came to the beach Memorial Day weekend.

I lost count of the languages. Women in scarves and head coverings sat on blankets at the water’s edge alongside women in bikinis. Children of every shade of skin tone squealed as the cold lake waves splashed at their knees. Men tended grills – this one smelling of fresh tamales, that one of burgers, others of spices unrecognizable to me.

The sun and the Lake brought us all out to enjoy the gifts of summer.

Rogers Park is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the country. In Chicago’s patchwork quilt of ethnic neighborhoods, Rogers Park is plaid – people of different ethnicities and economic status live next door to each other. More than eighty languages are spoken here, many by refugees and other new residents.

When the weather is cooler, I catch glimpses of these neighbors. I pass them on the sidewalk going to the train station, or in the aisles of the local market (it squeezes a remarkable collection of food into a small space). But for the most part, we frequent different restaurants, attend different churches, keep different schedules.

Our kids would be in school together, if I had kids. I see them all congregated outside the elementary school across the street when I leave for work in the mornings. It’s harder to find those common spaces as a single.

Except for the summer, it turns out. When the beauty of the beach is open to all. It’s a glimpse of how it should be more often – shared smiles at the antics of children, apologies for stray volleyballs and frisbees, admiration of dogs, and ice cream.

I’m glad I’m not the only one still hanging on to it.

His Life Matters

His Life Matters

I met a charming young man on my way home on the Red Line last night. He had a bunch of those silver helium balloons – two spider man and one happy birthday, and when I asked, he happily replied that yes, today is his birthday.

He’s three. Dark curls, huge brown eyes, and beautiful latte skin. He asked my name and proudly announced he was going to church. He was a complete delight.

As I said goodbye and got off the train, my smile faded as my heart clenched. Tears began to squeeze into my eyes as I saw the realities he doesn’t know he faces.

In ten years, or even five, too many won’t see him as charming and confident and funny and beautiful.

They – we – will see him as suspicious , dangerous, scary.

Because he’s driving in the “wrong” part of town, or walking down the “wrong” street. He’ll be holding something we think is a weapon. He’ll be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He’ll be frustrated or confused or disrespectful. He’ll be doing something that somehow fits the wrong narrative as far as we are concerned.

And because of that, he’ll be bleeding in the street.

But not because of any of those things – not really. Because of the color of his skin.

No, not even that.

Because of the stories we tell ourselves and each other about the color of his skin. About where he belongs and who he is.

We’ll tell him those stories, too, and he may try to live up to them.

I wonder what stories his mother will tell him. Will they be stories shaped around who he really is – who he’s meant to be?

Or will they be stories shaped around us?

I pray that in ten or five years we are different. But I fear for him.

His life will likely be shaped around our fears. And I imagine when so many are afraid of you no matter what you don’t do, it may come to feel like the only way you can own your life would be to give them something to be afraid of.

So often we create our own nightmares, whether or not they are real.

We need to stop.

His life matters.

Meant to Be

Meant to Be

“When it’s meant to be, you’ll know it.”

“It just wasn’t meant to be.”

After 44 years of being single, I long ago lost count of the times I’ve heard these kinds of things, from both loving friends and clueless acquaintances, about all kinds of circumstances, but mostly about dating.

And no.

“Meant to be” doesn’t exist, at least not in that way it’s used.

There is no fate. There is no “God’s will,” at least not in that fatalistic, stand-in-for-fate sense.

God’s will is simply God – the beginning and the end of all things – drawing all of our chaotic randomness to that end like metal shavings to a magnet. The path will eventually get there however we twist and turn it in the meantime.

The only sense in which “meant to be” is true is in what is. Now. This moment. With no guarantees of where it will or won’t lead.

So many things that are meant to be never will be.

Sometimes you do know. In those first moments, there’s something that says, oh, this! This I was made for!

And you’re not wrong. But one or a hundred choices along the way – both already and yet to be made – mean what was meant to be won’t be.

Life is a series of grievings for what was meant to be. It is more than that, but it is that.

The denial may help some, but it’s never comforted me. It denies the often crappy reality of choices and their consequences. Some of those choices were mine. Some of them were about me, and some weren’t about me at all, but the result is the same.

Someone chose to walk away from what was meant to be. Because they are afraid of it. Because of some lie their past has taught them. Because of what they are afraid they’ll miss out on. Because they’ve bought what someone is selling about what they’re supposed to want. Because, for whatever reason, maybe even a good one, they’ve chosen a different possibility.

But sometimes, for this single moment, we can hold what was meant to be in our hand, just by recognizing it.

We will only be able to grasp it if we can let go of – grieve – what we want it to be in other moments, what we want to make it.

But if we can let go, it can be beautifully and imperfectly what was meant to be for this one moment. And whatever may come cannot destroy that.

Neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, not height or depth, not any powers, not even the future, can separate us from the gift of love. Even the gift of love that is only a moment.

The only thing we ever really have, the only gift we’re ever given, is now, in this moment and in its memory.

What good to turn away because it isn’t guaranteed to be there tomorrow?