This is the time of year where I start to think of our very first holiday season in SF. We moved here in December of 1991. Twenty-eight years ago Ron and I drove our U-Haul with our meager belongings from Anaheim across the Bay Bridge into our adopted city. We were kids really, newlyweds with big eyes and expectant hearts.
During those days we had the wanderlust. We got antsy to move on and try a new place and new space regularly. Before getting married we both traveled with performing groups and never stayed in one place too long. This is how we came to SF. I moved a lot as a kid and didn’t understand the value of community.
I like remembering that period of time because it’s associated with such a strong emotional response. I remember the smell of our new home. I remember the fog over the bridge. I remember trying to navigate my car and the N-Judah train. I remember our neighbor Manny Lieberman throwing me a flower from his backyard as I stood in my bedroom window. I remember feeling like I was in a dream, filled with beautiful homes, delicious food, and interesting smells. I thought life would be an exciting adventure, and after we’d wrung it dry, we’d move on to the next adventure. It never occurred to me that this would be our chosen, forever home.
It’s funny how people wind their way around your heart, and soon you can’t imagine life without them in it. This has been our journey. Even decades later we are enthralled and captivated by the amazing young people who choose us as their family. No story is the same, no experience is repeated. The beauty of the broken mosaics we are honored to journey with and cheer for never gets old. The determination of these resilient overcomers is humbling. My broken mosaic life, no different than theirs because broken is broken after all, gets to be part of the beauty we create each day. As wounded healers, we all get to be a part of someone else’s story of healing. What a gift.
I have said many times before that I have learned so much by being here. I have learned to sit in the pain and heartbreak. I have learned to see this space as sacred. I don’t need to have answers, I only need to be able to sit. Learning to sit judgement-free and hold loving space for someone else is much harder than it sounds. I get to practice this every single day! Some days I’m better at it than others: to be completely honest, but it’s a discipline well worth the practice.
At our Gratitude Celebration this year I was deeply overcome by unbridled thankfulness and
awe. I stood in front of a sea of expectant faces and talked about loss and pain as well as giving thanks and caring for each other. I apologized for the colonization and genocide and promised to continue to work against the effects of this with each day I live. I thanked them for the honor of being in their corner and trusting me with their stories. I finished with an amazing reading we had used in church (thanks Lisa!) a couple weeks previous by Walter Brueggeman.
Brueggeman suggests a practice of decreasing what is habitual in our society and in the
nature of status quo––and increasing, where you can, what is peaceable:
· Decrease what is greedy, frantic consumerism, for the increase of simple, life-giving sharing.
· Decrease what is fearful and defensive, for the increase of life-giving compassion and generosity.
· Decrease what is fraudulent and pretense, for the increase of life-giving truth-telling in your life, truth-telling about you and your neighbor, about the sickness of our society and our enmeshment in it.
· Decrease what is hateful and alienating, for the increase of healing and forgiveness, which finally are the only source of life.
As I looked into the eyes of each precious one that evening, I couldn’t help but be moved to tears. My thankfulness had no bounds. I’m thankful that I have had proximity to people and situations that have marked me deeply and forever changed me. I’m thankful for the lives that were spared this year and to celebrate that evening with one of them. I’m thankful to be sitting in the pain with others who feel they will never be the same or be able to move past their current pain. I’m thankful for the team of loving freedom fighters at Sunset Youth Services who show up every day and give out of their own experiences, heartache and sense of welcome. I am thankful for our board of directors, our donors, our funders, our partners and our friends. No organization can be healthy without lots of dedicated folks behind the scenes––giving, praying, and believing in the hope that often feels distant. I’m thankful that each day I am given many opportunities to show what grace looks like. Mostly, I am thankful that when Ron and I felt a tug to give our lives in service of these youth, young adults, and families, we said “yes.”
What are you being invited to say “yes” to during this season? You never know what’s hidden and awaiting your consent.
Thank you for being on #TeamSYS. We are grateful for you and sending love to you particularly during this emotional, sad, happy, joyful, depressing, lonely, confusing, and delightful season. You are not alone.