About four years ago Stephen encouraged me to write that book I’ve always wanted to write but never started. At the time, the only book I felt I could write was sharing my own story about my spiritual journey as a questioning Catholic woman. So I bought a journal and started writing. I’m still writing in the journal and over the years it’s morphed into a long letter to Zoey about my thoughts and reflections on my faith in God and my beef with the Catholic Church. Anyone who knows me well can tell you that although my faith is a central part of who I am, I am not one to preach or force my beliefs on others. However, I do enjoy sharing what I believe as I respect the right of others to practice and live out their own religious and spiritual beliefs. I share a bit of my story here merely because I have been nourished and encouraged by others who have offered their stories.
A week ago today I found myself reading blog post after blog post about the bloggers Emily, Joy, Shaun, Jeff, and Myquillyn who took a trip to Uganda to visit children and their families being sponsored by Compassion International. I was moved by their stories. When I was working as a social worker, I heard so many stories of people’s lives everyday–of joy, despair, longing, loss, trauma, and hope. It was enough at the time to make my heart burst. Towards the end of my working days, I was neck-deep in reaching out with an open heart and open hands. And by the time I decided to stop working when I became pregnant with Zoey, I was ready to stop listening to all those stories because I felt drained of compassion. I had “suffered with” my clients and taken their stories into myself to the point where I was full of their suffering but had nothing left of myself to give. But several years have passed since then. I’ve let go of my past clients’ pain, though now and then their faces and names still come to mind. And I find myself needing to reach out again–to reach beyond my circle of comfort. To stretch myself and grow my heart again. I want to teach my children that we don’t live in isolation–that community is important–that it’s essential to living a full life. We must reach out to others in need. I have no doubt that I learned that at an early age seeing my parents donate time, money, and food to charities that they felt helped the vulnerable and marginalized. I can’t help but wonder–what will Zoey and our son learn from Stephen and me about how to reach out to others in need? What do we model for them in our actions and words?
I believe in words, in the power and potential they possess, that what we say is significant and it’s up to us to share our stories. But I also believe there comes a time when you can’t just write about life. You have to live it. Even when it scares you half to death.–Jeff Goins