Nana 6 (Race and Ethnicity and Culture and Religion and Trauma)

I have hesitated to write the following as a brief post, filled with topics which could each comprise a tome of thousands of pages, but our precious granddaughter will arrive in the next few days and I will be penning observations in which all of them will feature, so I’ll provide some background now.  I am more of an observer and storyteller than I am philosopher or theologian, so I will be narrating and commenting, rather than seeking to create some overarching political statement.  And I will do the best I can to stick to my own story, as other stories belong to other individuals.

My son and his fiancée are the same age, 34, but their lives have followed different paths.  When they were seven, he was a Montessori first grader in the middle of the United States, secure and happy and enamored of sharks and dinosaurs.  She was a member of a large family and growing up in a Somali village, to which the violence and destructiveness of civil war and terror came, as it did to the rest of her country.  As a refugee, her journey took her from Somalia to Djibouti to Italy and finally to France, where she ultimately grew up with a foster family.  She and my son met when he was a college student spending the summer in Lyons, where she was working.  In the next decade, she married and had a son and divorced, and a few years ago they discovered one another again.

Now they find themselves in a world turned upside down by racial and ethnic and religious and cultural conflict — not that it hasn’t always been so, but the fears generated by certain political leaders ands groups in this country and in Europe and Africa exacerbate the natural challenges of creating a family in which so many different backgrounds and expectations and hopes present themselves. We are now a family of many colors; of England and Germany and Wales and Somalia; of Christianity and Islam; and of losses and stories untold.

May the tiny girl on her way be a source of joy who energizes the family into which she arrives.  And for her sake and for her generation’s, may we meet the challenges ahead with love and hope and laughter and a sense of boundless possibility.


Christmas Hope


New family members . . .  a hoped-for daughter-in-law and her son, Muslims whose journey has taken them from Somalia to Italy to France to England to America.  The world with its news and conflicts and politics has landed in our living room, where the young people played a game on the floor last night, as loud and boisterous as any game ever played there before.  The challenges of religious interface have landed in our kitchen, where the dinnertime conversation covered holidays, and around the tree, where presents have been carefully wrapped so that all are included.

A new and soon-to-be former church . . .  I have been pastoring a Lutheran congregation this year as they have worked through the transition from former pastor of nearly 40 years to someone new and unexpected.  They are ready, I think, to say good-bye and hello, and to embrace ways of being church which will bring fresh delights as their gifts are ignited and expanded.  Tonight and tomorrow, probably my first and last Lutheran Christmas liturgies as I near the conclusion of a year of surprise and growth.

A new sense of where I fit in my family’s puzzled pieces . . .  my dad died six weeks ago,  and with him went most memories of my mother and youngest brother.  Not that he mentioned them much over the past 56 years, but he knew them better than I did, better than my brother who recalls them not at all.  The moment which has flashed into my mind most frequently over the past weeks?  I am six years old, and my dad is teaching me to ride my bike without its training wheels, out in front of our new house on Azalea Lane in Vero Beach.  I am terrified, and the bike veers in lopsided arcs across the street and onto the sidewalk — without crashing, for reasons which remain a mystery to me.  My dad seems confident that I will triumph in the end.

I have never had much of an idea of how to do anything that my life has demanded of me.  How to care for a daughter-in-law and grandson from other worlds, pastor a church, ride a bike.  But the light shines and the darkness has not overcome it.  The light shines, as I tell sometimes skeptical Christians, on all of us, and it seeps into places of worship, and it flashes from the metal of blue Schwinn bikes.

Merry Christmas.



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