I stared at the fork in my hand.  I stared at the steaming pan of enchilada’s in the middle of the table.  Through the steam, I saw the smiling, gaunt face of my red-headed, dying friend and his beautiful, gifted with hospitality-wife. I smiled back. I looked to my left and saw my husband, to my right sat my toddler, forks also in hand.

“What if the doctor’s are wrong?  What if we can catch it from a fork?” I hated the thought, even as it formed. It was 1990. Until then, AIDS had been a news story, a health ed subject and a topic of gossip to me. Suddenly, it was very real. It was frightening, deadly and risky.

That day, AIDS stopped being a news story and became part of my story.

Why?  Because it was killing our friend. And it had the potential to kill our friendship.

Fork in hand, I had a choice to make. Would I allow my fear to pile hurt on an already bloodied and dying friend?  (There were some who whispered that people dying from aids “were getting what they deserve. And had brought it upon them selves” We saw how much this had hurt them more than the virus. itself.)

Or, would I trust in God and live the gospel I said I believed?

I swallowed my fear, and I dug into the pan, filling my plate, my husband’s and son’s with enchilada’s,  sauce and cheese.

Around that table, we shared a communion of enchilada’s and diet coke. We laughed. We cried. For a few moments-we lived the gospel.

I remember his bony, scaly red hand as we held hands to pray. I remember the tinge of fear again invading my heart as I reached out to clasp it. I remember the smile and warmth that met my hand in return.

A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.

It wasn’t because we were fearless or a good people. We aren’t.  We did it because we’d be desperate for touch if we were dying. And because the example we have is Christ . He touched the un-touchables of his day.

I wish I could say that prayer brought healing. It didn’t.

Our friend died.  Because AIDS kills. It still does. Every Single. Day.

Some ask where God is when people suffer.  I think he’s eating enchilada’s and drinking diet coke with them.  I think he holds a rough, scaly, bony hand in prayer.

When we let Him.

Today is World AIDS day.

My question to you is- Will you let him?

Wondering what you can do?  Here are some ways to touch someone:

World Vision Sponsor a child affected by AIDS

Bloodwater– Donate $ to help find a cure and to help treat those who hurt.

In honor of our friend (Alan) we’re sponsoring a child through World Vision.  His name is Daniel- he is a first grader who lives in Tanzania.

“knit, purl, knit, purl.”

In theory, knitting is simple. There are only two stitches. The knit stitch and the purl stitch. Everything is some combination of, or variation of, those two stitches.

In practice, knitting is not, always simple. I’m working on a beautiful hat, that while composed of just those two stitches, is proving to be complex. (For my knittah friends-)It’s “The Proverbial Cap” My Meg Swansen.The pattern is in the current issue of Interweave Knits.

Because it’s complicated, I have to focus. I need to constantly check the chart and determine my next action. This is not thoughtless knitting. It’s really not stress relieving knitting.  It’s challenging knitting, which is a kind of tension.  It’s thoughtful knitting.

I like it.  I can see that the work is going to be worth it.  The hat is going to be beautiful. I love that I am rising to the challenge, and because of this- I don’t mind the tension.

While I was concentrating on knitting this cap, a friend “came out” publically. Her action provokes a response. As a Christian, I have  one simple biblical response to someone who discloses [more of, in this case] who they are, to me… that’s The Gospel.

The Gospel is simple: God  loves, God accepts us where (ever) we are and loves us. So should  I. In life, His, is the pattern I choose to follow.

But, like the cap… it’s simple, in a complex way. It’s not easy. It’s not comfortable.  There is tension involved in living it out. Just as there is tension involved in following the pattern.  I have to choose my next action. In this case.. I know how to respond- that’s with love.  But, what does love look like in this situation? Is it a purl or a knit stitch? What comes next, in this particular pattern? How will love look going forward? Like the hat… I’m challenged. Like the hat.. I have to keep focused. I have to keep going back to the pattern… the gospel.

Simple. Complex.

Questions flood my mind….

“How do I manage this relationship?  How do I balance love and honesty?  Will disagreement be seen as rejection?  How honest should I be? What does this mean for her? for me? For the bigger picture? How do I figure this all out?”

The bottom line? What do I do, now? 

The truth is, I don’t have all the answers.

But, I do have the first one: (more…)

The Autumn sky threatened rain.  I parked my car in the school parking lot, choked down a burger, fries and iced tea. I needed sustenance before I went in to help with my second grader’s class “Math Explorations” assignment.  (The fact that I failed almost every math class I’ve ever been in, didn’t come up on the background check. Whew. )

As I sat in the car, I contemplated the wisdom of entering a room of 24 rabid second graders, smelling like french fries. (I envisioned a mob scene with back packs instead of pitchforks.)

I knew they were rabid because I’d just witnessed them filing out the door for lunch recess. They looked like they’d dumped the rest of their Halloween candy into their lunch boxes, before mom got a chance to toss it.  The term: JACKED UP could describe the behavior. Let’s just say I know Where the Wild Things Are.  They are at my son’s school. ( he fits in fine.) I turned on some classical music and to “center myself”. Whatever that means.

[Bored by the music and by my sad attempt at centering-] I looked up to notice a rubber wheeled, off- road style wheel chair near the door.  In it, sat a radical little, helmet wearing, wild dude. He had pirate stickers all over his helmet and a “born to be wild” bumper sticker on his wheel chair. (Or I made that up, but you get the picture.) He was alternately, throwing sticks and bouncing a ball.

Alone.

My heart went out to him.  All those rabidly fun kids, ran right  past him to go play.   Tears filled my eyes.  I’ve been left out and alone. Not just as a child, but as an adult.  I hate it.

Right about the time I was considering risking being “the creepy woman” who wandered onto the playground and played ball with the wheel-chair kid.  A hoodie clad, second or third grade fellow ball bouncer, ran over to him.

The boy in the wheel chair cautiously tossed him the ball, as a test of trust. If the ball was tossed back, all was well, if it was chucked at him or snatched away, it was just another episode of playground trauma.

I held my breath. The boy bounced it back. after a few tentative bounces, they moved on to throwing sticks for distance and height. (They both should have been wearing helmets, they took a few sticks to the head. Come to think of it, they will probably get in trouble for that,  if they get caught.) A few more kids came over to join in the fun. They broadened the game. (Or trouble making, depending on which side of the school fence you’re on, I suppose.)

I smiled. And let out the breath I’d held in fear. I experienced inclusion. No teasing or targeting. No excluding. It was connection and compassion. There was care for the one who was left out. Compassion on the marginalized. Sounds like the gospel to me.

18“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19

I want to be that kid hoodie wearing ball bouncing kid, when I grow up.  I want to be the one who reaches out and includes, instead of excluding the different.  I want to have compassion that moves me to action. I want to make that kind of difference, every day.

What about you?

Dear Lord- I pray you’d bless those boys I saw on the playground today. I pray that you’d give me and all who read, the courage to reach out and to take the risk of bouncing the ball. Let us catch your compassion and live it out on the playground of our lives- I love you Lord- Amen