Traffic Lights

It started happening again. I started crying at stoplights. On off-ramps. When my car slows and you’re standing there with a sign about work or being a veteran or needing to get home. And, it takes everything in me not to get out of my car and do something. And, it takes everything in me not to shrink away, look everywhere but your eyes. And, sometimes I don’t. I focus on the light, changing. It always changes. The seconds are so slow.

I went through a period of time where I always had a granola bar tucked under the seat. I kept spare change cradled in the cup-holder, just to have something to give. I wanted to help. I went through a season after where I stood in self-righteousness that it would only feed the problem, not give any solutions. The system is the problem, I raged. When I was working in nonprofit sector, I felt like I could connect you to a resource. I felt like I had an option. We need relationship more than anything else and these days I am strung thin and wish I could give you more than this smile. 

Why does it always come back to what I can give? My entitlement squirms out even when I’m hoping to shake out the injustice in this world.

I’m a counseling grad student and trying to make it through the day hearing heart ache and lost dreams morning after morning. I’m not a saint. And, most days the only thing I have to hold onto is the hope that this great big God of ours is telling a long story. And, some days I do just want to sit at this red light, waiting for the change, and cry.

We all need to get home. I’m still wondering where mine is. As the leaves begin to break into reds and oranges, nostalgia  stirs this part of me that holds onto fall hikes, boots crunching on paths, flannel and laughter. I’ve begun to know the lines of this city, the ways the roads fall into each other, anticipate the traffic. It’s like this ongoing relationship where I both love and easily compare it to a past love, a one that has probably become a beautiful distortion of reality. Idealism has a way of doing that.

I get on twitter during my breaks. They’re talking about Ferguson again. In 140 characters, rage and injustice and hope. I hold my tongue and my heart. I write out sentences. Delete them. Write them out again. Sometimes I push “send.” I am easily consumed by the urge to blame, and I blame myself. I’m activated and once that happens it’s hard for me to make the next right decision, a decision that could actually do some good in my neighborhood. A decision that could call out the injustice and move towards peace. I want to invite others in rather than push them out. I’m still unsure what that looks like going forward. I’m still asking the questions. 

I’m putting those granola bars back in my car. Maybe I’ll buy an extra cup of coffee this morning. I may be small and unable to change the system today, but your dignity is worth more than that. It’s above any inadequacy I feel. You’re strong. I want to tell you that. Let’s both keep fighting. A red light’s not a lot for a conversation, and it’s enough for a smile.

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