God built us to make connections.
By Kara Lawler
There is a tradition at the school where I teach. Every year, the night before graduation, the school hosts a special senior dinner. Every senior is able to choose a teacher to invite to the dinner. Most years, I’ve been invited, but in a recent year, I was not. I wasn’t the only teacher not invited, and even as I knew this to be true, I’d be lying if I told you it didn’t sting, if just a little; it did. I allowed the feeling to linger a bit longer than I should have before getting on with my day, my disappointment mostly behind me. Teaching, while rewarding on many days, is sometimes thankless and I felt discouraged.
Later that very day, I received an email from a parent thanking me for my work with her daughter that year. I read her words and started to cry, consistently amazed by the connections, the coincidences, the intercessions that stack up time after time, day after day. I notice them now and say my thanks for the email and the reminder that while sometimes I feel like what I’m doing doesn’t at all matter, it does to someone. Please remember this: Even when we feel like what we do doesn’t matter, it does. It really does. You matter. And our people are sometimes the best reminders, as Matt once reminded me.
In the car on the way home from school, Matt described his relationship with his best friend. He said, “We’re just such good friends. We’re like brothers.” He pointed up through the seats and said, “Do you see how that road curves up ahead? If he were all the way down there, I’d go to him. I wouldn’t just wait here for him to catch up to me. Good friends don’t do that. I’d walk all the way there so I could walk with him. That’s the kind of friends we are. I’d never let him walk alone. Plus, he’s like my brother.”
My son’s words were literal, but in them, I think he has the crux of friendship figured out: We walk to the people we love. Sometimes, that might look like a daddy setting up a little game with red Solo cups and dollar-store prizes for his four-year-old daughter who had lost game after game at the amusement park. Other times, it might look like my mom washing her best friend’s hair before she died, when she was sick from her chemo treatment. We never let our people walk alone. It’s not always easy; this I understand, but maybe it could get easier.
Years ago, I had a friend tell me we could no longer be friends because we thought of things so differently. That crushed me because I thought she was one of my people, even if we had different opinions. We can love people who think differently or are different from us, of course, but I’m sure you have similar stories. Instead of focusing on our differences, what if we found even just a small piece of common ground? Could it be that simple? I think so, and I always look to nature for lessons.
My parents now live in a small town about 30 minutes from my house and, for years, they have had chickens in a small coop in the backyard. In what we assume was a mink or weasel massacre, all but one of their three chickens were killed. Henrietta, an old hen who doesn’t lay eggs anymore, was the only one left next to the feathers of her longtime friends. The image makes me sad every time I think about it. In all the years my parents had had the coop and their flock, nothing had ever gotten in until that fateful night. Henrietta was lonely and sad and my parents brought her to our house to join our flock, thinking she’d be happier with friends. While we have so many different varieties of birds, she looks different because she’s a Barred Rock. Her feathers are black and white and her comb is the most vibrant red. She’s one of our prettiest birds and is my favorite hen now. Henrietta wandered around our property and the flock didn’t accept her right away. Some of the other hens even pecked her before they went off in their two groups. Imagine seeing your family killed and then going for refuge in a new place and being rejected. It’s too hard to think about, really, but there’s a powerful lesson here. Henrietta stayed close to me and I talked to her softly. She followed me. Mike gave me a piece of corn and I lay in the grass with it. She walked around me before coming very close and eating from my hand. It was just a piece of corn—just a hand, outstretched—just food for the hungry and the sad. It wasn’t that hard to do. It’s not that hard to do. Maybe it’s just one small step at a time? Maybe it’s just in the reaching of hands? Eventually, the flock did accept Henrietta and now they can be seen sharing a tomato snack together from time to time or huddled together in the coop when the night falls.
Tonight as I type this chapter, the stars are shining so brightly. When I looked up at them before I came in tonight, the universe seemed to slow just for a second. The beauty of the open sky made it easy to imagine there were no wars, no division, no us versus them mentality, even in my own head. Maybe if we all stopped worrying about what separates us, we could see it this way. Could we build a bridge, create a pass through the mountains that divide us? Like the stars, maybe we could just join together, for the common good—coming together to light up the darkness. Maybe we can start in our own community, in our own yards, with our own people and the relationships we have. God calls us to walk and sit together, and a holiness is revealed everywhere if we can only learn how.
Excerpted from Everywhere Holy: Seeing Beauty, Remembering Your Identity, and Finding God Right Where You Are by Kara Lawler. Copyright 2019 by Kara Lawler. Published by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission.