Extravagant welcomes and a follow-up

On the heels of my recent soapbox rant, I want to thank all of you who read and commented on my last post. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but although I am reluctant to engage in much political banter here (I am quite good at it in person), I think of gun control as a moral issue. It’s not politics; it’s just wrong to expose our children, families, neighbors and everyone else to this danger. 

Following up

I should have offered some follow-up options and I failed to do so. Like me, you may live in a state or congressional district that does not support these efforts, but these organizations are working hard to make change. They deserve our support. You may want to consider offering even modest support to Everytown for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action or The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence .

Extravagant Welcomes 

I recently joined a church I have been attending for several months. Along the way, one of the pastors had been assuring me that there was no pressure for me to join, but when I did she could promise an “extravagant welcome.” I joined recently with eight or so others and we were warmly, extravagantly, welcomed with hearty handshakes, words of welcome, and a reception (with cake!). 

I love the term “extravagant welcome” which I interpret to mean sincere and heartfelt. It has nothing to do with money, and everything to do with a generous spirit. It should become a regular practice. Making people welcome goes beyond our home. As a newbie in my community, feeling welcome is something with which I am increasingly acquainted. We need to enthusiastically welcome the newcomer to our exercise class or book group, to our golf league or pickle ball team. Ask their name if you didn’t catch it (or worse, if it wasn’t offered), tell them you’re glad to see them, ask how they heard about this activity, etc. The day we moved into this house, our next door neighbors stopped by to say they were going to pick up sandwiches at Subway and what would we like? That was an extravagant welcome. 

As I mulled over the importance of an extravagant welcome, I realized that it may be especially important after the isolation of the pandemic. A few weeks ago one of my book groups discussed Elizabeth Strout’s Lucy by the Sea. Strout has an engaging way of writing more than one book about a character. She has written about Lucy before and about Lucy’s former husband, William, who is also a main character in this book. Like many of us, Lucy initially views the pandemic as an inconvenience that she expects will last a few weeks or maybe a month. William is a scientist and understands from the beginning just how serious the threat is and how important it is to get Lucy and their adult daughters out of New York. 

Our discussion bounced between our own experiences with the pandemic and how we viewed the book. Some readers felt the book was boring, but then others pointed out that the pandemic was boring and Strout really captured that in her writing. But the big take-away from the discussion was how fresh and even raw our feelings were about the pandemic. It’s still on many minds, it’s changed us in many ways, and the effects will linger. 

And if we are all a little raw or bruised post pandemic, perhaps even coping with significant losses, extravagant welcomes are especially important right now. 

What do you think? Am I on to something? 

Thanks for stopping by; see you again soon. 

Buses, guns, thoughts and prayers

I wrote this post after the March 27 shooting at a Nashville, Tennessee, school killed three adults and three children. It was an appalling, brutish act of evil. As are all of these incidents. Then I set the copy aside, concerned that it was perhaps too political for this podium where the subject matter is most often books, recipes and home decor.. Then a lone gunman carried a high-powered rifle — a war weapon — into a Monday morning staff meeting at a Louisville, Kentucky, bank. The carnage continues.. 

My kids used to catch the school bus at the corner, three doors away from our house. I often sat on the front step, coffee in hand, and watched them. It was a big group that boarded the bus  there, twelve to fifteen kids from kindergarten thru fifth grade. Somewhere along the line the bus riders had devised a system of lining up backpacks in the order in which they arrived at the corner. (Do kids everywhere do this?) This is the order they lined up in to board the bus, but once their backpack was in place, they were free to kick soccer balls, twirl, dance, whatever their busy, wriggly bodies needed to do. I don’t know if my husband or my kids knew I did this, but it’s one of my sweeter memories of their grade school years.

This was in more innocent days, before individuals began bringing assault rifles to school. 

Then came Columbine, Sandy Hook, Stoneman-Douglas, Uvalde and more. Last summer I wrote here  about a senseless shooting at a July 4th parade in the Chicago suburbs:” A young gunman sat atop a downtown building and used a powerful weapon of war to shoot and kill at least six parade attendees and injure more than two dozen more.”

So we send thoughts and prayers to families who will never watch their children hop on the school bus, run in the playground, or kick a soccer ball again. And we send more thoughts and prayers to other families whose mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers will not be around the table at Sunday dinner again. What does this really do?

Not much. There have been more than 130 mass shootings this year in the United States. Guns are now the single greatest cause of death among children. I’m trying to understand the argument that guns are not the whole story, but we have to start somewhere, and we have to keep working at it.

Ours is a smart, resourceful, creative, well-educated society. How does this country separate our fundamental belief in a militia from this love affair with weapons of war? I’m not interested in anyone’s hunting rifles and I can even let the handguns go (a big step for me), but why on earth are military grade automatic weapons — developed as tools of war— legal?

Last month I read this powerful message from Nasthviille author and mom Mary Laura Philpott.  I cannot stop thinking about her words: “It is time to ask everyone we know: Are you ready to support reasonable gun safety reform? And if not, what are you willing to sacrifice? Whose children? Name them.”

Think about that.

I’ll be stepping off my soapbox now. Thanks for stopping by.