helplessly hoping…

13 11 2008

Generally, things are bad in the world and especially so in Michigan.  The national news is punctuated with our reality.  There are almost zero degrees of separation when it comes to knowing someone who is affected in a personal way by the present economic circumstances.

I’ve been pondering the case of my brother-in-law this week as he began what is touted to be a ten month weekly separation from his family as he works as a construction foreman on the other side of the state.  They are all saddened and barely know what that will mean to them months down the road as they adjust to him being home only on weekends.  But the bottom line is the bottom line – he has work and they are grateful.

In my years working as an interpreter for immigrant hispanic families, that reality was more the rule rather than the exception.  Because of the special needs of the kids I worked with, moms and families would stay put so as not to lose the therapies, doctors and help that they so desperately needed.  Dads would leave for months finding work in neighboring cities or states and send the money back home.  Was it ideal?  Hardly so.  Was it the best they could do in their circumstances?  Yes. Did they love each other deeply?  Yes.

Thinking alot about the ideal and the real,  I was faced with yet another situation that caught me up short yesterday.  Having coffee with a friend I used to work with at a four-star hotel (the kind that has bellman), I heard again that things are bad.  People that live on tips are hurting in a big way.  Mainly, the hotel is a conference hotel so people are in and out based on their company’s whims often time paid for by the company.  But, they are hanging on tighter and tighter to the extra bucks they have in their pockets and tip based employees are feeling the pinch.  I understand it from both sides but it hurts just the same.

In the course of our conversation, that pain was like a mosquito bite compared to the stinging reality of his situation as a divorced dad.  I’ve known him for 10 years – since the day he put himself in exile after being slapped in the face with a reality he would have rather never seen with his own eyes.  Leaving behind a confused 6 year old and 3 year old has scarred his soul. Every tip pressed into his hand by kind strangers has his kids’ names written on it.  Sports equipment, gymnastic lessons, birthday gifts and the monthly amount handed over to their mom to help with their care.  It was not the way he had planned to be a dad.  It was not his idea of family.  But it is his reality…trying to make the best of a bad situation.

Mom has since burned through another 10 year relationship and is soon on to the next.  She is only imitating life as it was patterned for her with a dad and  three step-fathers entering and exiting a revolving door.  Meanwhile, my friend lives for HIS weekends to love on his kids and just delight in their presence.  Another reality – that 6 year old is now 16 and is acting his age.

Peer acceptance becomes the highest value and without a support system to tell him otherwise – he’s allowed to not give his dad the time of day let alone spend the alloted weekends with him.  I can’t imagine the pain. But then again, I can because we do it to each other all the time.  We can be physically present – day in and day out – and not really be there.

We finished our coffee reminding each other how much this story seems like God himself.  There HE is – He hasn’t moved.  He always loves us.  But we get ourselves all caught up in looking at the bright lights and spending time with people who make us feel better about ourselves – just like our BFFs.  You know, the one you stood next to at graduation and haven’t seen since?  

And I’m not preaching to the choir here.  I’ve stood by when relationships in my own life were about to self-destruct.  My love didn’t seem to be enough to fill the darkness deep in a soul – until from somewhere inside another light was turned on.  Words I had spoken seemed to mean nothing until they were spoken from someone else’s mouth and the truth was heard.  It’s ok – I’m not the only person who has things to say.  What is important is that things were heard.

I don’t know who will get through to my friend’s kid…I don’t know if or when it will happen.  What I need to do is to remind my friend that he is genuinely loving and extending grace into the life of his son – even if the kid needs to be almost 30 before he realizes his dad is lonely in the wake of his selfishness. 

And because I can’t think without pictures and songs…it’s another Crosby, Stills & Nash Thursday.  It can be a double header if you’ll take the time…after you finish with “Teach Your Children”…just type in “Helplessly hoping” and pick the one on the upper left corner.

“confusion has its cost…”