“I’d like to sweep the pavement with his face.” - My Granny Hendrix
If you ever met my grandmother, you would encounter a sweet, southern, dainty, petite, well mannered, straight postured and dressed to the nines knockout. She never grew out of style. She was Emily Post to the T. I never heard her curse or swear and she always taught us to be kind, forgive and show respect. It was not even to those who deserved it. Showing respect was the point, not judging first if one deserved it and then demonstrating respect. Respect was just what we did. Respectful was who we are. Anyway, before we knew, even if.
She was a republican for all of my life. I can remember the morning we woke up to President Bill Clinton’s victory over President George H. W. Bush. I was ten years old and knew nothing about politics except what I’d overheard her and Pop and Mom and Dad say around the dinner table. When I heard “we’d lost”, I let out a big disgusted response, not because I really was but because I thought that’s what was warranted based on the conversations just 24 hours before. Granny locked her eyes on mine and delicately walked right into my space, snapped her finger in my face and pointed straight in between my eyes. Then she spoke.
“He’s your President now and you will respect him.”
It was an unexpected scolding because she didn’t vote for him, I knew that. She disagreed with many things he stood for, I knew that. What I didn’t know at ten years old was how to respond respectfully to defeat or not getting our way on a larger scale. It surprised me, but I’ve thought about it a lot lately, what it looks like to demote your character when things don’t go your way. When it felt like so much was at stake and so much was happening outside of her control, she wouldn’t excuse herself to engage in bad behavior, demote herself to a lower level of character. She wouldn’t tolerate it out of us either.
I’ve had to draw on that a lot since launching this initiative, movement, “invitation to Awaken”. You may or may not be surprised by some of the messages I’ve received from “God loving Christians” behaving like the devil in “Jesus name”. I’ve become quite familiar with the “delete” function in most applications, both for their messages and some for my replies prior to sending. I’m still learning too, but I want to live this way. I have a deep desire to leave people with their dignity, even if they don’t honor mine, because my response speaks to who I am.
Granny passed away in early 2011, ten years ago this week actually. I was afraid to lose them, that generation. There was something concrete about their character, faith, ethic. They weren’t perfect, but they were solid in some good things that feel lost sometimes today.
There was one other time she surprised me. It ironically happened that same year. She must have been on a roll. This time, it really felt like she had broken her own rule of “respectful”. It was one midweek afternoon, she was running carpool for my sister and I that day. I had just started a new school as a fourth grader in a grade 4-6 primary school. I don’t mind admitting I was a skinny little raga muffin with long stringy sandy blonde hair, pale skin and freckles. The stuff Scotch Irish are made of. To top it off, I REALLY needed braces. My two front teeth were gimongous and they did not dwell on the inside of my mouth. They really liked fresh air. I mean, they were pretty far out there.
While standing in the carpool line, a six grade boy said some pretty hurtful things about my face. By the time Gran pulled up far enough for me to jump into the passenger door, my poor little white freckled face was red with embarrassment and wet from a whole bunch of tears. We were half way home before I could tell her what happened. She wouldn’t take her eyes off the road or her hands off the wheel. She just drove in silence.
As we pulled into the driveway, my tears had stopped and my face was back to it’s normal state. She turned off the car, clenched the steering wheel again, turned and leaned in my space and then she spoke.
“I’d like to sweep the pavement with his face.”
My eyes grew wide and I said nothing. But I thought to myself, “I’d kind of like to do that too.”
“But we can’t.” She said.
That kid never even looked at me again, so I have a feeling she did something to correct the wrong behind the scenes. Because love doesn’t leave someone in their suffering. But it also doesn’t fail to teach someone who is suffering how to stay in their own integrity. She knew how that bully made me feel because she saw my pain. She wouldn’t have stood by and allowed it to be unaddressed. She also knew how living outside of my integrity would have caused me to feel and that life would provide plenty more opportunities to be crushed and she wanted to prepare me for that.
When I think about what Granny taught me that year and how I’m applying it today, this is what comes to mind:
Real love isn’t some lofty ideal or sentiment we can’t touch, it happens in the everyday moments and it’s demonstrated in real time. It can’t be delayed because love doesn’t hold back. It doesn’t shy away or procrastinate because our need for it is urgent. We can’t live without it, the giving and receiving of it. The in and out of love in our hearts is like that of oxygen to our lungs. Without it, we can survive a little while, but not long, before we begin to deteriorate and slip away into slumber. If we don’t see a radical resurgence of resilient loved and loving human beings, I’m afraid of where we are headed. BUT if we DO see THAT, we’ll, here is what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr said:
“We must discover the power of love, the power, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that we will be able to make of this old world a new world. For Love is the only way.”