On the way to their town house’s parking lot we smile at each other, quietly, nervously. You’ve never driven a car, I ask. No, she says. Not even once? I ask. No, she says. I decide to start in an empty parking lot somewhere; I mention this but I’m unsure if she comprehends. So I Read more about Social justice for ‘the rest of us’[…]
I watch my friend in her sparse kitchen. She uses a small saucepan to scald milk for us to drink. Dave used to do the same when he baked bread in our kitchen, and the sweet-sour smell reminds me of home. She pours two steaming glasses and then sits on the folding chair, the only Read more about How we respond here to the refugee crisis[…]
Around my dinner table Wednesday night, we ate tacos and a whole bag of apples between the nine of us, my Year of Small Things people. Lest you get a false impression of blissful community, consider the details. I had to ask, twice, for children not to sit on each other. My youngest was crying because my Read more about Book update: Year of Small Things trailer[…]
Dave, Louisa, and I climbed a few uneven cement steps to the door of a stranger. Knocked.
A woman wearing a beautiful teal scarf on her head answered the door with a confused expression. It’s hard to convey “we’re here to mentor you” with someone who doesn’t speak English.
For those of you who woke up Wednesday discouraged, consider this moment. Think about what we as hopeful visionaries, Jesus followers, and do-gooders have gained, even in our disappointment.
The sounds of the neighbor’s air conditioner, a cardinal’s cry, and a big yellow bus’s “pfssht” all congeal in my last-minute dreams during those minutes just before I have to get out of bed. Those sounds are native to Alpha Street at 7 o’clock on any weekday.
Our windows are open, the blinds are up. From our bed under the window sill, I prop my chin on the pillow to watch the world awaken. The bus turn on its flashing lights to stop. Neighbors start cars, dogs bark. A minute later, I abandon my post to brush my teeth in our attic bedroom’s half-bath.
Usually, I think about my kids sleeping downstairs. How they were supposed to be on that particular bus; how the Lansing school district assigned them to that route as late as last month. How I put that letter in the recycling bin.
That letter was our latest “Instead.”
We were grilling when our friends called: their daughter had a 104 fever and they needed help. I set my six-month-old in her bouncy chair, kissed Dave, and drove to their apartment about five minutes away. Taking the stairs two at a time, I arrived at their door ready to save the world. Or, um, to help my friends.
I remember feeling so proud of myself for no longer breathing shallowly when the smells from a half-dozen nationalities’ cuisines filled the hallway. (Tumeric? Coriander? Ginger? Curry? All?) So proud of myself that this refugee family, these newcomers, had called my family. I know people from Burma: I thought that a lot back then.
In their tiny apartment, the mother held her lethargic daughter while the dad showed me the tiny bottle of infant painkiller he’d brought from Thailand. “Hot,” her mom said. “Hot.” Very.
They knew what I knew: she needed a doctor.
I hadn’t seen the neighbor behind our house for a few days, which is rare because she’s got this garden she’s been tending for 40 years now and she’s always pruning, weeding, transplanting. When the humidity is 107 percent and it’s 107 degrees, the 80-some year-old woman is still out there, picking up leaf by leaf, placing each into the yard-waste bag.
Louisa and I took a walk today with the dog, loping past our neighbor’s house — no sign of life. I was a bit nervous about ringing the bell (“Hi, are you trapped under something heavy?”), so I noted which curtains were open and that her recycling can wasn’t out, and we walked home.
In our driveway a few minutes later, dread held me from going inside. “We’ve got to go back,” I told Louisa. We locked the dog in the house and traced our steps around the block her house. The same curtains were open; the house still was quiet.