Rain. Rain almost the full day without letting up. Consistent. Soggy, soaking kind of rain. I thought more than once about jumping out there on the corner. I had my balloon ready to go an my golashes all set.
Instead, I have been here at the church thinking on all the neighbors huddled in today keeping warm. My thoughts go out to all those who don’t have shelter and are scrambling to stay dry.
Next Monday, our church is hosting the Cold Weather Shelter for a week. Folks from our church and from Beth Shalom will be making meals, providing transport, doing laundry, and sharing in conversation and entertainment. This is an important ministry that has been kept up over the years thanks to countless volunteers and dedicated coordinators.
From inside our Carriage House Barn, I pray for the comfort of all those who will be coming to be housed within these big stone walls. I pray for all those facing the challenges of vulnerable housing and no housing. I pray that this community this block, this neighborhood can continue to be a place of welcome. May joy be found in the connections. May hope come on washout days in the retreat to regain energy.
“Be open, calm, receptive.”
These were the encouraging adjectives of my yoga instructor today. I entered such a space on the mat today–especially coming down off of a cold. I realized, too, that these words also describe my sense of inner flow while on the Little Patuxent Corner. Even as I am in constant motion waving, there is something emptying and opening and at peace about the experience. Even as I drive by the corner, which I do multiple times a day, I take in feelings of hopefulness and joy.
Saturdays are for sabbath and family and gaining energy for full work days and time out on the corner, too. And as much as I wished that the zen of yoga followed me home midday, I had little calm with my children. But, I do notice a change, an enlargement even in this past week. It’s an awareness and a well of gratitude that may be chipping at me, or melting me down slowly but surely.
Tomorrow, my church meets for an Annual Meeting. We’ll gather at a big potluck table and give thanks for fifty years of life in Columbia as our jubilee year draws to a close. There is much to be thankful. In this year to come we embark on our spiritual practices: giving, prayer, scripture, outreach, and worship. As part of my call and commitment, I’ll be on this balloon pastor path. I’ll seek to get out there as often as I can.
I can’t wait to see who I get to meet and greet along the way. And in time, I hope that people will join me on my little patch of grass–if even for a few short minutes–to wave with me, to connect, to pause in the middle of the literal bustle. Hope to see you there.
Lady in the bright green sedan: “What are you doing out here?”
Me: “Trying to spread a little joy.”
In the midst of the light rain on an overcast afternoon, the lady pulled up to the light and rolled down her passenger side window. Her question was the same I had received via countless puzzled looks cast my way. She shrugged at my answer and waved back as the light changed.
I enjoyed when the UPS driver from a couple of days ago drive by and smiled and said something like, “You are out again!”
It felt like the kind of small, incremental step of community building among the many, other important ways of reaching out.
I bubbled up with gratitude looking out and waving. I had a sense of the Spirit seeing us, knowing us all. Each wave was another opportunity to communicate that sense of knowingness. And I received it back, “I know you!”
I’ve noticed that when someone does wave enthusiastically toward me, I do this little bend and a double wave of hello. And my heart is full. And everything feels as spacious as the big gray sky as it sprinkles a rain of recognition.
Day 3 of Balloon Pastoring was spent…at home.
My child was sick today. Although he wasn’t well enough to go to school, he felt sparky by mid-morning. He was patient with me as he munched his wheat cereal and tried to build a big firehouse out of magnet tiles. I don’t take for granted the opportunity to stay home with my sick child. I give thanks for those at my work who were flexible with me today. I lift up those with sick children who had to bear the way to a job and drive today.
I’ve certainly hoped that balloon pastoring would help provide an opportunity to center in the midst of all the other things going on in my life. You no doubt have countless things on your plate, too. I love serving a faith community and connecting with people. I love being a mom and partner and spending time with my family. And, I love the newfound spiritual practice of getting a window into people’s busy lives and days by waving with my balloon.
It’s never going to be a perfect balance of all of my hats. Today, my mom hat meant a stay indoors, but my thoughts are with all of those traversing the long corridor home on commute. I send out light and love south of here to the cross section of Vantage Point and Little Patuxent. With the mess and chaos of my life in this hectic season, I pray peace that ripple from this neighborhood…and from the drawing board where my son and I did a little artwork.
“Try your best to make goodness attractive. That’s one of the toughest assignments you’ll ever be given.” – Fred Rogers
There is a special child-like quality to the standing on the street with the balloon. As I have described it to my children, they are not incredulous. Getting the heart and mind to go out to Little Patuxent is a matter of overcoming my own fears and sense of limitation. When I said what I was doing may not make much sense, my child simply asked, “why does it not make sense?”
Today I realized that it will be a particular gift when I can wave at children. It’s not always easy to see them in the backseat. Several older kids were sitting in front seats today and waved with big smiles. Just when I found myself stalling, their smiles energized me.
As I waved this afternoon, I gave thanks for Mr. Rogers. I considered how many of those driving by have been uplifted because of his work and the intentionality of what has rippled outward thanks to his efforts. And I give thanks for the efforts of those like John Milton (see “Foolish Year” tab for more info), who spent seventeen years waving at people from an intersection in my hometown of Memphis, TN.
At the close of my time around 4:30 p.m., a beautiful image of the evening was there in the sky– pinks and yellows of the setting sun going down over by Wilde Lake. Geese waved at me across the sky.
Then, I came home and my children fought over my blue balloon. My protests about the joy it intended to bring went unheard at home today! I’ve got my work cut out for me making goodness attractive!
Praying that the peace that was a part of my waving also finds its way home tonight. Thank you, Columbia and my neighbors, for day two.
I nearly didn’t make it out. On my way to the Vantage Point Road in another area of Columbia, I saw a man waving with a sign that read: “Jesus.” I immediately felt my questions and judgment: “What is his motive?” And this coming from me, a pastor! This was just the kind of thing I was about to get into. And just the kind of judgment that would be floating to me in each moment. Standing on the corner holding a balloon? Holy foolishness. Sharing a message with random passersby. A waste of time.
And yet, there I stood today. After my long resistance (see the “Foolish Year” tab for background), it was time to lean into this call. And yet, I’ve known that it will transform me. I have already felt the stretching, the elasticity of this spiritual practice of standing and waving with a simple balloon. It is about joy.
I managed to blow up my little yellow balloon, don my new pink hat with fuzzball, and find a solid spot to stand. The morning window from 9:30-10:00 a.m. was colder than expected. And I just came back from the snowy Midwest yesterday! I kept my fingers waving to keep warm and immediately felt thrills of joy as I waved and folks began to wave back. I kept the buoyont balloon in mind as it bobbed. I felt a lightheartedness of spirit, even when faced with muscle aches in my arm and some looks of annoyance. All moves so quickly. The smiles of those who genuinely welcomed the waves and those who gave a toot of the horn spurred me on. When asked by a walker why I was doing what I was doing: “Give a bit of joy, receive a bit of joy.”
In my afternoon window, 3:40-4:30 p.m., the traffic had picked up. The sun was out and people seemed curious. One man parked and came out to film a bit for his youtube channel. I told him this was my first day, but that I had hoped for a year of such standing. “We’ll see!” I offered with some uncertainty–all as I continued to wave. I saw at least one church member pass.
Friends, some people looked so elated. As I reflect on it now, I feel so full. Thank you to each soul who waved back. Let’s continue to invite joy to expand, to bob, to flow at Vantage Point Road. For the remainder of the day there was more room in my spirit than normal, more patience for my kids, more light in my heart at Advent.
The film student had asked me: “Do you plan to wave anywhere else?”
“No,” I replied. “This is my home base. I’ve been called to this spot between my church over there and my home in that direction. These are the people that pass in my neighborhood. This is the place where I am called to be.”
All these folks are my neighbors, no matter where they coming from, or where they are going. This is community. A spirit of joy waves with us.