Friday, December 19, 2014

Building Dreams


My aunt Susan, a U.S. expat,
worked tirelessly over the last ten 
months chairing her London village's 
gigantic Christmas festival, a fete 
whose profits not only light the 
village for the holiday season, but 
also contribute to many 
worthy causes.

This year, the chosen charity was 
a local theatre company that brings
together children, teens and adults
of all backgrounds and abilities, to
make theatre participation accessible 
and inclusive to all, even those with
physical disabilities.

If the festival donation enables
even one child or adult to become 
part of a production, and that sparks
either a life-long passion or a feeling
of self-esteem, who knows how many
others might be inspired by that
individual, too.

As I've written before, good works
ripple farther than most of us 
ever realize.

A few days after the festival, I was
marveling at the ceiling of a magnificent
cathedral, the voice of our tour guide 
echoing in my mind:

The Cathedral took over 200 years
to build.  Several generations
worked on it, their entire lives.

Imagine, I thought to myself, working
on something your whole life that you 
most likely would never see completed.

This thought simmered in my brain
long after we'd left the Cathedral, left 
England and were back home
in the States.

I couldn't shake the thought that
I had seen the culmination of an
architect's dream and the life's work
of so many builders,

but they never did.

I still find it incredible.

Several years ago, I received a very
moving email that compared
parenthood to cathedral building:

Your name will not be 
engraved upon it.

Your sacrifices ~ the times you showed
up when you weren't feeling well, the 
little details you took care of behind 
the scenes, the love and care that went
into your work, will never 
be documented.

And, you won't live to see how your
labor impacts future generations.

Like cathedral builders, parents 
are simply

building dreams.

After visiting Yorkminster, that fantastic 
cathedral in England, I began to see 
cathedral builders everywhere, and
to envision souls touched by hands
they will never know.

Like the hands of my aunt, whose
work on the festival could continue
affecting lives long after she and 
my uncle move back to the U.S.

Or the woman in line at the post
office, sending a package overseas for 
Operation Christmas Child.  For some 
kids, this is the first gift they'll ever
receive--a gesture that might alter
their world view, forever.

Maybe it's the alumnus, contributing 
to a scholarship program that will
bring another's aspirations one step 
closer to becoming reality.

Perhaps it's the animal shelter volunteer,
keeping one furry soul alive long enough
to connect with a human being whose own 
life will be changed in a meaningful
way by the adoption.  And the adopter's
experience might encourage others to
rescue a pet, influencing more lives.

Even the man putting bird seed out in 
the winter for his winged friends can 
impact their survival ~ leading to more
nests in the spring, to new life, to an
extra song or two in the trees.

Building dreams.

I recall my dear friend Kathleen,
organizing her pantry with the help
of her mom, just weeks before she died.  

Like the cathedral builder who knew his
career was nearing an end, wanting to lay
one more brick, to carve one more bird or
leaf or cross, she hoped to leave the touch
of her caring hands behind for her husband
and children in any way that she could.

I love to envision the workers who built the 
grand cathedrals, pondering the future lives
they would impact and how the exquisite building 
would make happy occasions even more joyous,
and give comfort to sad days with it's solidity
and beauty.

We don't need to be stone cutters, carpenters, 
heavy lifters or stain glass artists to be
cathedral builders.

We just need to have their faith that even 
the smallest gift from our hands 
or heart matter.

This way, like those majestic cathedrals and 
their builders, we reach boldly for the sky, 
leaving our handprints on the future.

We were here.

Wishing you a blessed holiday season and
an abundance of joy in the coming year.


{all photos my own}

Friday, December 5, 2014

Coming Home

He was there in my jet-lagged
dreams, just as the sun began
to rise over the London rooftops.

Dark brown eyes. 
Soft black curls. 

Waking reluctantly, tucked up 
cozy and warm in my aunt's
guest room, my mind 
lingered on him still, and
I smiled.

The sweet face fading with
the sun belonged to Teddy,  
my childhood dog and enduring
companion in the early chapters
of my life.

A black standard poodle, he
joined our family as a puppy,
when I was in first grade.

The following year, Teddy
growled at the toddler next
door, so my parents found him
a new home with a man in the
country ~ one that didn't 
include little ones running
in and out of the house.

Three of us were very sad.

Apparently, so was Teddy.

He kept running away, and
the man called my mom to ask
if we'd take him back.

I'm fairly certain she made a
unilateral decision, and Teddy was
returned, just before Christmas.

{That was a wonderful 

As a child I was convinced
that Teddy knew he belonged
with us, and just wanted to
come home.

He moved with our family
four more times, from East Coast
to West Coast and then to 
Minnesota, and there was
never another growl at anybody.

I was away at college when
Teddy died.

This time of year, as the
temperature drops and we begin
and end our work or school days 
in darkness, home is especially
beckoning to me.

I've always loved 
coming home.

It's been that way forever, 
whether home was a tiny 
apartment, a dorm room, 
a small house or a more 
spacious one.

Because home goes beyond 
basic shelter.

It's our place in this big
world; the one with the
red X that says,

you belong here.

And even if that spot is
temporary, the fact that we
can go there to be home is
comforting beyond words.

I know not everyone is
so fortunate.

Imagine being unable to
go home, even if you run
and run like Teddy did,
because of wars or politics,
tenuous economics, or just
plain bad luck.

That's reality for a lot of
people around the globe, as
well as right here in our own

For them, home is just 
a dream.

As the holidays approach and I
consider the things that I'm most
grateful for, having a place to call
home is certainly one I will never,
ever, take for granted.

Although it's been decades since 
I cuddled him close to me, I
still miss Teddy's soft fur and
 comforting presence, and smile at 
his determination to get back to 
where he belonged.

To come home.


all images my own

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