I wish I had thought to take a picture of them, sitting there with me. Me, all hulled out and bare—wearing my soft pants and no makeup, because with them I can. And them—six of my close friends–using their smartphones (of all things) and their words and their hands that can’t be still in the face of injustice–to put me back together. I’m sure they hardly knew how well they held me.
In the evening, we gather around a table to plan a time to get away together, but before we even get to that they reach for me and they want to know what’s happening now with the kids, with our school. So I tell them, looking around the table and gathering in all our mama-tired faces, all our stretched thin places. They feel worn, just like me. Now, maybe more than ever, I’m aware that we each have our own knots fraying loose at the edges. We all have so much we don’t know how and desperately little margin for all our caring about it. But maybe that’s what makes it possible for us to offer each other grace. Oh, we have our brittle moments, when our voices sound a bit too far removed, but it always comes back to this—this sitting around a table reaching into each other’s lives.
So I put down the truth I carry and spread it out in front of me on the table, right there beside a plate of crackers and a block of cheese. These friends of mine, they listen to me talk about how my heart is broken for so many hurting families. I tell them about how I have cried, listening to parents speak of their pain, of children mistreated and discarded and dismissed before and thriving now, finally. The words pour out, as though just the one question—So, what’s happened?—serves as my heart-stent. I sit bare, telling my soft-pants-and-no-makeup friends the ripping stories of these others, feeling all emptied but wishing I could change things. This openness is maybe our best gift to each other, that tonight we are unmasked and trusting. The rush ebbs, and I fall silent.
“What if,” one of my friends says, filling the open space,”what if we all write a letter to the governor. I mean, what if tonight or tomorrow he gets six letters all at once?” It’s as if I’ve fallen, and she offers me her hand, her iron-laced courage.
“Let’s do it now,” another friend says, lending her spontaneity, her bright-lit belief in possibility. “Get your phones. Let’s do it right now.”
And they do.
Right then. While we’re sitting at the table. It’s neither a mean to nor a maybe, but a right now gift.
And they make me laugh, throwing out sentences they’d like to write and then smoothing them out collaboratively. I watch them build scaffolding under my dangling feet, sentence upon sentence, for support. They remind me that we are all stronger together, and that this is why the enemy of our souls works so hard to divide us.
As a current educator in the private sector, I am appalled that North Carolina handled these children and their education in such a careless manner…and… Children at this school have been given a safe environment to learn and to thrive. I have heard stories from parents there about the remarkable and wonderful changes this school has made in their children’s lives…and…If the State Board considers Dynamic a “risk” for financial reasons, I can tell you that these parents of this small school have more dedication and drive to see this school succeed, not only for their own children, but for those that would come behind them in the future. Six separate letters from six beautifully different friends. Six willing to sign their names to a fight for justice. Six uniquely offering me the gifts they have when I feel most vulnerable. Six reaching for me while I fight for faith.
So I sit–emptied and bringing nothing, but slowly filling. I watch my friends furiously typing, reading back lines and paragraphs, exchanging ideas, and I am actually stunned that they are helping this way, that they can’t sit still or feel satisfied with wishing out loud that things were different. What a terrible lie we all believe—despite so much contradictory evidence—when we believe God has left us to fight alone. These are not the first letters my friends have written in support of our school. All along they—and many others—have stood beside us, insisting on something better. Shared strength brought to action builds shelter for the least of these, and societies change. And in an evening, God uses six friends to gather in my fraying edges and pour their gifts right into the emptiest parts of me, supplying me for this journey that feels like too much for me.
And suddenly, watching and listening to them, I smile over this silly thing that comes to me: It takes six letters to spell friend.