Sunday, April 26, 2009

Truth and the Delicacy of Life

I've been doing some ducking and dodging in my life recently and, well, not so recently. A family member of mine had been disregarding some boundaries in my life, only I didn't recognize it as a boundary issue at first. It just felt like she was driving me crazy with all the phone calls and excessive information on her soured marriage. Maybe it's age --- perhaps now that I'm 40, I'm a little tired of not speaking up. Maybe it's not age at all, but God giving me opportunities for authenticity in my relationships. Whatever the case, I sometimes avoid speaking up because I don't like confrontation, I don't want to feel uncomfortable, and I hate the thought of hurting someone's feelings. I wasn't sure how she'd take it, but she actually responded quite well. I think defined boundaries has given our relationship some much needed balance.

And there's another one: my neighbor, Willow (not her real name). Willow is a little girl of ten years of age. We've lived in our house for nine years, so that means we've known Willow for mostly her whole life. She wasn't talking well for about the first 3 years. But when she finally got a grasp on the English language, boy, did she immerse herself in it! "Miss Muhala, can Zwahara and Teshumawe come over and play? Wait, which one is Zwahara?" or, "Miss Muhala, can your dog come over and play?" or, "Miss Muhala, can you tell Mr. Ashunoah that I have something for him when he gets home?" If she is not overwhelming you with questions upon first sight of you, she is talking your ear off while you try to get into the car, bring in groceries or pull weeds in your flower garden.

I'd try to accommodate her when I felt up to it, or I'd just roll my eyes in irritation. Then I was like, "Wait a minute. I'm the adult, she is the child. Why am I ducking and dodging her?" I was determined to have a little talk with her the next time I saw her. And try to remember that Jesus loves the little children. All the little Willows of the world.

My opportunity to talk with her came at a time when I was already irritated with the boys, and she was calling from her back yard into my open window asking me to come out. "Willow, I need to talk with you," I called out through my dining room window. And I was glad I took the time to walk outside to our fence, instead of talking to her through the window (those few moments provided me the opportunity to calm down a bit and remember that I should be delicate --- that she is just a little girl).

I spoke to her calmly, but firmly, about boundaries and the importance of respecting people's personal space, and not overwhelming us with questions every time she sees us. I told her there might be times that the boys would go over to play, or times when I might let my dog go over to entertain her, but that she ought to let me offer, and that she should refrain from asking so much. She seemed embarrassed, but she also seemed to understand what I was saying. She is a smart girl. But there was also something else. As we continued to stand and talk over the fence (well, over the fence for me, through the fence for her; she's not very tall), she told me some things about herself that I never knew. Like the fact that her grandmother is raising her because her mother was, and probably still is, doing drugs. She mentioned that her birthday would be coming up and that she'd soon be turning ten. I made a big deal about it, but she told me that her mother doesn't always come to visit on her birthday; that in fact, she may not even see her on her birthday this year. She made a reference to the man who was actually her "real" father, as opposed to the man whom she took for her biological father. It's clear that her grandmother provides her with some much needed stability. I felt so sad that this little girl had a mother who really didn't seem to care for her. Her grandmother is not married, nor is Willow's mother. Most of our neighbors are either single, divorced or widowed. I reasoned that Ashunoah and I probably provide Willow with the best and strongest example of a loving marriage. During that same conversation, Willow and I talked about a lot of things. I learned things about her that I'd never known before. I think, for the first time in 9 years, that we actually connected on a meaningful level. Look how delicate life is! Here, I'd come to "speak my mind" and ended up confronted by Willow's great need, and met also by my own compassion, which I was not expecting to meet.

Today is Willow's birthday, and I told her I would make some jewelry for her which, of course she got excited about. I told her that after church, we usually take a nap, but later in the afternoon, I'd come and get her so we could make jewelry. She was so pleased.

It's been a long and draining weekend and we all needed the nap like nobody's business. As I lay there taking in the warm breezes from our open bedroom windows, I heard a voice, carried on the wind, drifting up and floating to my ears: "Miss Muhaaaaala! Miss Muhaaaala..."

Enjoy your Sabbath, beloved.



Rosheeda said...

U gotta love the kids! They are so innocent and they just go w/the flow. LOL did u get up and make that baby some jewelry, M?

And the bigger question: did you enjoy doing it?

I've learned w/kids that they have stories and you have to have a balanced approach in dealing with them, firm and clear, but also gentle and loving. Knowing when to 'tow the line' and when to offere a little leniency...

fun times!


Muhala Akamau said...

I finally saw her yesterday evening. Her grandmother said she couldn't come over (can you blame her? People are crazy nowadays!), but she did allow me to make her some earrings. I made her several pair, and yes (!), I did enjoy it. She was sooo appreciative, and especially loved the crystal ones I made for myself, but hardly ever wear, so I passed them onto her. She was totally thrilled! Yes, you are right: it's important to have that balance.
Love you, sweet thing!

Anonymous said...

this story is funny and sad in the same time...

katie said...

Wow. The story of the little girl gives me goosebumps. We've been studying the fruit of the Spirit lately and it strikes me that this is a perfect example. God lead me to your blog today to read that story- I just know it. It inspires me to confront issues in love rather than get bitter while convincing myself I'm "keeping peace".
God bless you today!

Ms. Modest Fashion Cents said...

I found your blog today through someone elese blog. She'd given a link to a story that you'd apparently deleted - any how - I ended up reading a bunch of different posts before I came across this one.

When you first stated this little girl had trouble talking even at age 3 - I thought about my own child. And than when I read the story about her constantly asking you questions and "pestering" you - I thought - that sounds like Boo too!

My son is 7&1/2 has Autism and seizures. His little heart is in the right place but he doesn't understand "our confines" of "social ediquite". He lives in a different world - a world where everyone should be friends and make time for you - even if you want to talk about something silly - like how excited you were to find a dozen or so abandon redeemable bottles that you managed to get $1.50 for!

Boo has been met with a lot of intolerance, prejudice and cruelty. All of which he doesn't really understand but feels hurt by. Some of the worst offenders had been (are no longer) "friends" of ours.

There are people though who appriciate Boo for the gifts that he has; his love for animals and babies, his appriciation of (and need to smell) everyone's flowers, and his excitement when someone is genuinely happy to see him!

I often think to myself "for as you've done unto the least of these - you've done it unto Me!" and (at times) labor to deal paiently with my son. It's not always easy - and maybe this sounds kind of strange - but I often wonder - what would a 7 year old autistic Jesus look like?

Muhala Akamau said...

Ms. Modestfashioncents...I gotta tell you, your comments here have blessed me so; God is using you to cultivate in me the very thing I've been asking Him for: wisdom, humility, sensitivity to the needs of others. It's not always easy to see ourselves in the shoes of another person, but there is real significance in doing so; after all, who are the ones who are 'least of these' if not many of the people we (think we) know well? Bless you for stopping by, and for passing onto me a bit of wisdom that I like to think has fallen on cultivated soil. Pray for me. :-}


Ms. Modest Fashion Cents said...

Sending prayers God's way for you!