Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Moments with Strangers

I was walking near Times Square on Saturday because I wanted to sneak a Big Mac into the movie The Founder and that theatre time was the best option for me.  I'm super busy* (*jokes. I'm not) and didn't want to wait for a late night show.  Look...I'm really cool...I promise.

As I was passing Madame Tussauds wax museum, one of those guys that tries to shove a $5 coupon in your face tried to shove a $5 coupon in my face.  I usually ignore or nod my head no in these situations, but I was feeling content so I smiled at him and said a cheerful "no thanks".

He immediately pulled me aside, held my hand, and said "that smile! It's like I was waiting for that smile all night!  You just really brightened my night!"

This gentleman was probably 10-15 years my senior (being generous) and so he wasn't old enough to have it be grandpa-ly cute, but he also wasn't young enough for me to feel alarmingly flattered.  But his cold hands held onto mine as he asked me where I was from ("I live in Harlem"..."What are you doing up there?! You belong on Park Ave!"), what I was doing, and then he proceeded to say I shouldn't be running errands but grabbing a drink-perhaps coffee or wine-with him. When I shot both of those options down ("Then what DO you drink?!"), and eventually thanked him for his offer and walked away, I giggled.  I giggled the whole time home.  Because it was a tiny, insignificant moment that brought two strangers together.  And I think we need more of these, quite frankly.

Since this experience I've been thinking a lot about other small but perfect moments I've had recently: 
-I talked to an alarmed father about his daughter who was in a car accident but after he asked me for cash I thought it was a scam and I still don't know what to make of it
-I went to a Troubadour performance where I was the only person under the age of 60 in the audience (and I loved EVERY MOMENT-shout out European Studies major!).  Here is a link of who I saw perform and yes the flute playing was everything and more.
-My Uber driver last week pitched me his short film and we became Instagram friends all in 15 minutes
-I went to my students basketball games on Saturday and had an intense cheering battle with the moms/sisters/cousins from the other team
-When I was the only person on the bus a couple weeks ago, the bus driver caught my attention (i was really jamming to Frank Ocean at the time), called me up, and we had a delightful conversation that was actually so pleasant I wish I didn't have to get off the bus.

In conclusion, talking to strangers is the best option 90% of the time.  Everyone should do it.

Friday, January 27, 2017

because we all need another opinion; my war-cry

I'm sitting on my bed on a Friday night, so so so exhausted from this last week but unable to sleep.  Tears are forming in the corners of my eyes and I consider some of the mighty changes this week that will have undeniable effects on people who deserve better.  

It's been a strange few weeks for me.  Clawing out stronger beliefs is challenging and sharing those beliefs is terrifying, but I've finally arrived at a point where I can no longer remain silent.

I hate labels.  I've hated labels my whole life.  I've often prided myself on the fact that it sometimes takes awhile for people to realize I'm a Mormon.  Because people always have an idea in their minds about what being Mormon looks, sounds, and acts like.  And I'm very often not those immediate stereotypes of the word.  It contains moments of insecurity and disappointment for both me and the person with whom I'm speaking; the constant question of "Am I being the person I need to be? Am I Mormon enough?"  Labels create expectations (positive or negative) and I've never felt as though I fit those expectations.  

Which is why I've spent the last couple weeks questioning my labels.  Trying to figure out if my beliefs and my beliefs were contradictory or if they were aligned.  

I went to the Womens March in Washington last week and let me tell you; it was wonderful.  I felt a spirit of unity and hope for change during an unsettling political transition.  If I can be frank, it was a feeling I wished I felt more regularly in Relief Society (one of the largest women's organizations in the world and something I have increasingly learned to appreciate over the years).  I was marching for equality for everyone I love; for the refugees and the immigrants; for team LGBTQ; for my students who have limited control of their life situations; for acceptance of everyone.

My poster read "Nasty Mormon" because I am finally ok with my labels.  I am Mormon.  And I used the word nasty because I want to share my voice and work for positive progress.  I am not a docile, timid woman (#surprise!).  I will fight for my students and my friends and my loved ones with my voice and my actions.  I will not sit idly by and wait for the right time because the right time has always been now.  I only received positive feedback for my poster.  I wasn't alone.  No one was alone and no one should be alone.

But then I got back from the march and I felt guilty.  I felt guilty for being white and for it taking this long to fight for my friends who aren't white.  I felt guilty because I felt like I wasn't Mormon enough.  I started questioning myself in a very serious way.  Was what I fighting for wrong?  Was this not the right thing?  I pleaded and prayed and yelled and cried.  Now that I had finally accepted my labels were they starting to falter? 

(Spiritual moment) I opened my scriptures and immediately turned to Luke 10.  I gobbled up the verses and the accompanying study guide.  I read of loving ones neighbor and the Good Samaritan.   I read of Mary and Martha opening up their home to receive our Lord and Savior.   I thought to myself: this is what it's all about.  THIS.  And in that moment, my beliefs perfectly aligned.

Love is always the answer.  

President Howard W. Hunter
“We need to remember that though we make our friends, God has made our neighbors—everywhere. Love should have no boundary. … Christ said, ‘For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?’ (Matthew 5:46)” (“The Lord’s Touchstone,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 35).
So I go forward with more confidence in the fight for goodness and charity.