There has been a lot of talk recently about two things. The first is quite flattering but not global in nature (yet) and that is my lack of blogging. It seems summer vacation with three kids and two jobs does not allow much in the way of time to think let alone write. Back in May I wished I could hire a personal assistant and driver to figure out what end-of-school event, party, poetry contest, thank you volunteer lunch, recital, performance, field day bonanza I was supposed to be at and what I was supposed to bring. I threatened to make tshirts that said end of school put the MAY in Mayhem. Now I am on a witch hunt for whoever came up with the saying “lazy, hazy days of summer.” If you have ever been to a swim meet or helped out with Vacation Bible School you know this is saying is an oxymoron on the scale of “sleeping like a baby” or “it’s a dog’s life”. I have yet to find a Mom who has not looked jealously at the sleeping mutt -satisfied with a quick scratch behind the ear and leftover sandwich crusts- and longed to change places.
The second is the story of Karen Klein, the New York bus monitor and grandmother of 8 who was bullied by teenagers. I have not read much of the story, don’t really need to. It is an age old tale of people being mean to someone who is perceived as an easy target, weak, somehow valued as less. Why didn’t anyone else on Karen Klein’s bus speak up? Some have, with financial donations, to the tune of $618,000 – a sum so large that what started as a vacation stipend from internet supporters has turned into a potential early retirement fund. At the heart of the matter for me is how intertwined we all are. At some point or another, we have all been the victim and the bully. I am not saying we have taken a turn making fun of the fat kid on the bus -maybe we just contributed through silence. But more importantly we are all related to the story because we are all broken and lonely in some way. Our hurt, our soul holes -as Glennon Melton of Momastery blog fame calls it- create dark vacuums sucking light and energy out of others. Unless these holes are filled with light and love.
I escaped childhood and puberty relatively unscathed except for an incident in 4th grade I remember so vividly I can tell you what I was wearing. It was recess on a beautiful spring day in New Jersey. I was wearing my favorite London Fog khaki skirt and sleeveless green lacoste shirt purchased at the factory store in Redding, PA the previous summer. We were playing kickball and two boys were picking teams. Being a good kicker I felt confident I would be picked early on, once all the boys had been selected. As we stood in line, one of the girls leaned over me to talk to a girl on my other side. She said: ” Melanie will never be picked because she has arms that look like a boy.” Already self conscious about the hair on my arms (and barely thankful it was blonde) I asked what they meant. The said your muscles look too big when you put your hands in your pockets with that shirt. Luckily I got picked before I started to cry and I never had to formulate a comeback. In truth, they were right. My arms were strong. They still are. They helped me be a college athlete, carry 3 babies uphill and down dale, and cook and write and hug. Last week the barista at Starbucks held up the line to have a conversation about my arms; this time to compliment me on how beautiful and toned they are. As I smiled and said thank you, it brought me straight back to 1979 and Rumson, NJ and I secretly stuck my tongue out at the 2 girls whose faces I have forgotten but whose words still stick.
The picture above of a girl on the bus was shown to me yesterday. It is of Hanna Hall, the little girl who plays Jenny in Forrest Gump. I remember seeing the movie in 1994 and thinking she was beautiful -both inside and out. When Forrest is being ridiculed on the bus, she is the only one to offer him a seat next to her. Not an overly friendly invitation, she says: “You can sit here if you want.” Which of course he does and they go on to be just like “peas and carrots,” one of the most famous lines of the decade. The movie goes on to show just how broken Jenny is by abuse and loneliness. Perhaps her familiarity with these feelings is what spurs her to speak up against the bullies. The picture below is of my middle daughter, Anna. The two are so similar in looks, the Hall photo even tricked my 6 year old. She said: “I don’t have a dress like that and when did I ride a bus with a brown seat?” This has all come within two days of Anna’s friend Mimi Kirkland being selected for a movie role and showing up in UsWeekly (http://www.usmagazine.com/entertainment/news/pic-julianne-hough-debuts-short-blonde-do-on-safe-haven-set-2012226). Flutters of fame and movie stardom have riddled the house in the form of giggly excitement as well as threatful parenting. I have caught myself saying, well if you ever want to be in a movie, you have to stop arguing with your sister-follow directions-brush your teeth-look people in the eye-read 50 pages a night-do swim team without complaining etc. Which in reality have nothing and everything to do with getting what you want. And it brought me back to one of my favorite friend quotes by Becky Schotland Wolsk: “I just realized at age 32 that I won’t be famous unless I open fire on a McDonald’s near the LA Freeway.” Fame is a funny thing. Those who have it don’t want it and those who want it can’t have it. Or maybe it is on a different scale than we are thinking.
We are all famous to someone because we are in community -virtual, social, spiritual, actual -whether we want to be or not. A facebook page alone connects us to about a bagillion people. We have made a difference in somebody’s life, probably for the good and the bad. On the bus in our silence and in our offering of a seat. We are also known to God. Your dreams, your hurts, your bullies, your inner superstar. You are the most famous you there is. Embrace your star and let it shine.