When I was a kid occasionally my parents would receive a chain letter in the mail. They always really bothered my mom and I remember hearing her talk about them with my dad in a hushed voice so as not to worry us, I guess. As a young teenager, I got pretty big into writing letters for awhile. I wanted a pen pal from some exotic place and I was always sending letters out in hopes of finding a kindred spirit somewhere in the world. I did get a lot of mail, so it’s not entirely surprising I eventually received a chain letter. Finally, I understood why my mom would fret so about them.
The letter I received basically said if I did not send it back to the individual who sent it to me and then on to twenty other people, someone in my family would die. It was not a friendly letter at all. And it was not from anyone I knew. That didn’t make it less scary for me, though. My mom found me copying the letter (no easy task - I’m not talking about running it through a copy machine, pen and paper here, people) and put a stop to that immediately, assuring me nobody was going to die if I didn’t send the letter on. She also pointed out I would be threatening my friends and breaking the law if I followed through with it. What a dilemma!
Physically threatening letters like those seem to have gone by the wayside. Of course, people don’t write letters very often anymore, but I can’t say I have ever received an email threatening death and destruction to my loved ones either. Today, the threats tend to be more about social standing and embarrassment than threats against my life. Ever read a status on Facebook which talks about any of a number of social injustices or illnesses? They say something like: “I have a child with Measles and it affects my whole family because it itches and is miserable.” Which is fine if someone wants to try to gain some sympathy or raise awareness about a topic I suppose. The part that turns them into chain-letter fodder is the ending, which says something like:” Only 2% of all people will be brave enough to post this on their status”. The attack here is on my social standing in a couple of ways. First, I am not brave if I don’t post it and second, I clearly must not care about those individuals afflicted with whatever the injustice or illness is.
I never re-post them. Even when I care.
The ones I find particularly annoying are those about being a Christian. I have no problem with people sharing what they believe on Facebook, it’s just the way those statuses are written is irritating. The post is usually a Bible verse or a synopsis of a Bible verse. Fine so far, but then there is the ending in which I am told I either don’t have enough courage or am too ashamed of my faith to post it for even an hour. Or something like that. If you use social media, you know what I’m talking about.
I’m not trying to hurt the feelings of those who like to share those statuses. But I do think it is not necessarily a measure of courage for me to post a status on my wall for an hour. In any given hour I likely have exactly zero people who look at my wall. So it doesn’t really matter what I put up there. And copying and pasting do not require bravado.
I grew up a true 1990s’ kid. The program Saved by the Bell was a weekly staple on TV; “In west Philadelphia born and raised” was sung by everyone; paper-rock-scissors settled all conflicts; I dreamed of “being slimed”; all the cool kids wore Ring Pops; and I predicted my future by playing M.A.S.H..
Those were the good old days when wearing a walkman was cool; TGIF offered hours of great television shows on Friday nights for the entire family; and waking up early on Saturday mornings meant watching amazing cartoons like TMNT and practicing wrestling moves while watching American heroes like Hulk Hogan drop the big leg-drop from the top ropes, all while dressed in a hyper-color “No-Fear” shirt. I was a kid, I could wear that.
Fear. Kids live free of fear. Small children assume someone is always going to catch them when they jump off the counter; that they can float or swim regardless of how deep or big the pool is; and nothing is ever too high or unstable to climb on. Somewhere along the line, however, fear creeps into the vocabulary and as time goes on it becomes an emotion felt on a regular basis.
The good news is, is there is always an antidote to fear. Turn the nightlight on. Look before you leap. Check under your bed to make sure the boogeyman is not hiding there. Or, sit around and be an average adult. For me, nothing says safe like being an “average” adult. Go to college, get a 9-5 job, get married, have a few kids. Get up, go to work, get up, go to work, and repeat day in and day out. Average. Safe. Free from fear….and for me, free from really living.
I have decided it is time to let Hulkamania run wild all over fear in my life. I’m going to leg-drop fear from the top ropes, repeatedly. The only thing I am afraid of now (well besides the dark) is of being average. A 9-5 job with a regular paycheck strikes fear deep inside of me, it is fear of falling into complacency and allowing myself to become too comfortable. I believe we are called to live life with a reckless abandon, to live outside of comfort zones. and to realize God will always provide for us, as is stated repeatedly in the Bible.
My kids and I were talking the other day about birth order and how it affects individuals. My daughter related a story about a speaker who came to the college to present. As part of his presentation he asked all the students in the audience who were the oldest in their families to cheer. And they cheered loud and strong. Next he asked all the babies of the family to cheer. And they did - wildly, crazily as the youngest tend to do. Finally, he asked middle children - no wait - he actually went on with his presentation without giving a nod to the oft-ignored middle child.
Aaah the plight of the children born in the middle. I am one.
I have read several articles about middle children in the past - and have learned about some of the characteristics of middle children. For example, middle children tend to feel they are being left out, are unimportant and even invisible, so they become conditioned to speak up loudly in order to be heard. I also learned middles tend to be rebels. Oldest children tend to be confident, because they are first in their families to achieve milestones. They also tend to be more bossy, as their role models are typically adults. The baby of the family is, of course, just spoiled rotten.
I can relate to some of the stereotypes about being the middle. As a middle, I remember the sting of feeling slighted when my grandma was introducing two of my siblings and me to some friends. She introduced my older sister, Lisa, as her oldest grandchild and my youngest sister, Laura, as the youngest. And then she continued talking to the friend, skipping right over me! The friend pointed me out and asked for my name. I started to cry. I couldn't make Grandma understand I was crying because she forgot me. She thought it was because she introduced Lisa as the oldest and Laura as the youngest. I could tell she was getting frustrated with me, then all at once she apparently thought she had come up with a way to placate me because she said, “Honey, Lisa is my oldest grandchild and Laura is my youngest, but YOU are the blond!”
I stopped crying and thought about that. I was the blond! From that time forward if Lisa was introduced as oldest or Laura as youngest, I made certain to proudly point out I was the blond!
Stop laughing. In my seven-year-old brain it was an honor. I won’t say that incident damaged me, but geez, I did feel rather invisible that day. Who knows? Maybe those types of situations caused me to become more vocal and taught me to advocate strongly for what I believe in.
Launching a non-profit organization is nothing if not daunting. The enormous responsibility of it does not escape me. After the initial flurry of activity and excitement wears off - the reality of the tremendous task ahead strikes. But I have always made it a practice not to complain about how things are done unless I have a suggestion for how I can help make them better. For many years I have been burdened with a deep desire to share my faith with the world. But the traditional way that is done has not worked well for me.
The outlets I found within the confines of the church walls felt restrictive and I found it far too easy to immerse myself in church life and church people. Before I knew it the majority of my friends were church friends and even though I planned events designed to invite the world into my church - quite often few people came and the events left me feeling unsatisfied and restless.
I faced some very difficult times these past few years. In the midst of being homeless and incredibly sad, my friend Kim unexpectedly and very generously reached out in kindness and paid for a hotel room for my daughter, Maddy, and me to stay for two weekends in a row. She wanted to give us some time to ourselves to relax and be together.
Upon our arrival the first night we stayed there we were surprised to find a laundry basket (which I needed) filled with goodies and clothes and other gifts. Kim had connected with another friend, Reese, and they decided to bless us with that surprise.