A Certain Trembling

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By Caroline Noland

They were attacked. Right here. Their blood stained this piece of earth.

I was walking when I heard the news. Walking on the hot crumbling asphalt of Alabama, near a town called Selma. 

A pit bull had attacked several animals at the farm that my church nurtures, loves, and shares space with. A sheep who had given birth to twins only weeks earlier, a sheep pregnant with what would have been Easter twins, and our sweet emu were all killed in the slaughter. 

People I sing hymns alongside on Sundays held the heads of bleeding creatures while they passed, tried to rescue their little ones, and sobbed when these efforts failed. 

When I heard, I was walking on crumbling asphalt where 50 years ago another mother was slaughtered. Viola Liuzzo was driving a man back to Selma after having marched 54 miles from that town to Montgomery demanding voting rights for all, no matter their race. She was white and her passenger was black. When she rode past the KKK, they shot at the car and killed her. Her passenger dipped his fingers in her warm body and used her blood to fake his death. She saved him on the road that day. Her five children and husband would later learn this news in their Detroit home. 

When the blood of another, be it animal or human, touches us- when we touch it- there is a certain trembling. Our own death feels that much nearer. Our inevitable mortality is smeared across our palms, covers our fingerprints. As I marched with 300 others those same 54 miles from Selma to Montgomery, I thought of the lives of those no longer with us. The lives of all the civil rights activists, whose blood had been spilled and whose lives were stolen. I thought of how shallowly I love and treat others. How I fail to recognize that the blood beating throughout their being makes them holy. 

When I returned to the farm and saw the orphan lambs and heard the stories of my friends, was reminded that my own life is also holy- but also short. May each of our hearts beat fearlessly until the day it beats no more. May we see it our duty to delight in each other. May we see our mortality as a propeller towards meaningful living. 

Caroline is a member of Berea Mennonite Church.

Welcome Them In

By Caroline Noland

You feel frustrated and want him to stop. To discontinue. To only be moderately excited. And you realize it is probably because you're a little jealous of him. You're jealous of his joy. 

Larry is a greeter at Home Depot and is in love with his job. He sits in his wheelchair for four hours at a time by the door with the cold wind blowing in. He is often ignored as he tells folks walking in, "Welcome to Home Depot!" Despite being looked over by customers, despite the blustering wind, despite the repetition, he couldn't be happier. 

His legs bounce with anticipation and he blushes with enthusiasm. He feels and knows his work is valuable and important. He feels great about himself and is overwhelmingly proud of his position. His work is like play for him. He is able to not only find, but continually find the deep joy in the things he does each day. 

Some days I want to tell him to take it more seriously. To ocus a bit more and calm down. And some days he might need to take the energy down or giggle a little less or not tell every customer just  how "cute" they are. But perhaps mostly, the joy and life in him is so rare that I 'm not sure what to do with it except be in awe.

Finding meaning in your work has very little to do with the things you produce or the meetings you hold or even your effectiveness at welcoming folks in a hurry. Finding meaning in a job is not restricted to only those jobs whose descriptions sound like heroic feats. Larry reminds me that finding meaning and subsequently discovering joy spurs from an inward knowledge of one's belovedness and the simple desire to welcome in those around us. Welcome them in.