When Lost in the Woods

My friend Harper is four years old.  Yesterday after a worship service at church, Harper sought me out.  She came up to me with a solemn look.  I knelt down so we were at eye level and I asked:  ‘Harper, what’s up?’

Let me pause for a moment and say that Harper is a very wise soul.  She lives fully in the moment.  You know when she’s happy, frustrated or sad.   With Harper you don’t need to guess at what’s going on.   She’s honest, kind and fully present.   I have a lot to learn from her.

On this day she had a piece of paper to give me.  Her voice had a hushed and serious tone: “Kent, this is for you.  This is for when you are lost in the woods.  It’s a map so you can find your way home.”


Her words have stayed with me.  I don’t know about you but there are times when I feel lost.  Times when the darkness of the forest (metaphorically and literally) seems to hem me in and I don’t know which way to turn.

Harper wanted me to know that there is hope when I feel lost.  That I have a friend who cares about me and who has my back.

Who do you turn to when you are lost?  Who has your back when you feel overwhelmed by life?  What map do you use?

Harper reminds us that our hope is close-by.  It’s in the seemingly small expressions of kindness that remind us that we are known, loved, remembered.

On that same morning, my friend Mylinda Baits was leading a workshop at church.  She is a missionary who walks alongside people who have escaped human trafficking. https://internationalministries.org/teams/45-baits .

Mylinda draws upon resources from a program called First Aid Arts http://www.firstaidarts.org  Through art therapy she helps those victimized by unspeakable violence to find  their way toward healing.

In the workshop, Mylinda offered us a taste of her approach to accompaniment.  She asked each person present to introduce themselves with their name:  ‘My name is Kent and I am here to be seen, to be heard and to be honored.’ The twenty people present responded: “Kent, we see you, we hear you and we honor you.” And I responded, ‘I am here’.

Mylinda and Harper both understand that sometimes we feel lost.  It’s part of being human.  They understand too that finding our way home, comes as we let each other know that we are cared for, that we have each other’s back, that we are known.

Being seen, heard and honored is a gift.  On that Sunday at our church on Cabot Street we were reminded that we belong to each other and to a God who created each of us in God’s own image.  Perfect and worthy. A place of the heart to call home.

Harper, ‘thanks for the map’.

 

Buddy Bench

Think back.  You are 13 years old in Middle School.  It’s Gym class and teams are being chosen.  The best athletes are chosen as team captains.  One be one they begin to choose who they want on their team.

You aren’t particularly fast or tall and your hand- eye coordination isn’t all that good.  You watch as your classmates are chosen and you hope (and pray) that you won’t be last.

Remember what that felt like?  If you were fortunate enough to be the one selecting or the one usually chosen first, you too remember the lesson: Don’t show weakness.  Don’t fall behind.  Don’t be chosen last.

Of course such feelings don’t end with a 7th grade gym class.  The longing to fit in, to not lose face, to be accepted by others persists.

This past weekend I watched as a group of middle and senior high youth built and painted a bench.  This bench is special.  They call it a ‘buddy bench’.

photo-buddy-bench

The buddy bench is being placed at several church camps.  The bench is for anyone who feels alone, struggling, sad, alienated.  It is intended to be a safe place. Where you can sit and draw strength from the words of love and encouragement that have been painted by your peers.

More than words, the buddy bench is an invitation for people to come and sit with you.  A place to sit and remind one another that in God’s eyes no one is chosen last.  In God’s eyes each of us is beautiful, strong, gifted, unique.

Why?  Because each of us is a child of God.

Ever felt like you didn’t fit in? Ever have someone break your trust?  Ever been cast aside?  Ever been picked last…or, not at all?

This buddy bench is more than a place to sit and rest.  It is a metaphor that calls us to reimagine our place in the world.  To see oneself and others as worthy too.

In this unusually nasty political season where our so-called leaders revert to bullying, shaming and blaming their opponents…it’s good to remember that it doesn’t have to be this way.

Good to remember that we each deserve to be treated with respect and kindness.  To know that there’s a place on the ‘buddy bench’ for you and me.

Note:  For directions to  see a Buddy Bench at Grotonwood or Oceanwood Camps  in Massachusetts and Maine,  go to: http://www.tabcom.org