I’ve had the chance, thanks to the amazing work of people like Ken Brown and Nancy Stevens, to help out in a very small way with my church welcoming a family of eleven from the Congo, who had spent over twenty years in a refugee camp there. Two of the children were actually born in the refugee camp.

Two recent encounters with this family in particular reveal to me the amazing power of God’s love, especially when it is your mission in life to share that joy with your neighbor (as I humbly submit it is mine, and all of ours).

The first encounter was just their second day in the country, when they all needed to go to the social security and welfare offices to get them set up for benefits. I helped drive a mother and her child in the back of my Toyota Corolla, the first time I had ever handled a child seat in my car! After a long day of the worst kind of American bureaucracy, that tests the patience of even the most natural born citizens, they all held up well through the boredom and tedium of filling out forms and standing in line (out in Bethlehem they’re killing time, thanks Billy Joel), but when it was time to return to my car and rejoin the afternoon suburban Montgomery County traffic, the child could not stop crying. Probably hungry, tired, confused, as any child would be after five hours of good old American style bureaucracy. The mother was unflappable as she helped her child into the car seat, but the child would not stop sobbing. I had been listening to Cat Stevens albums, so instead of NPR I put on Tea for the Tillerman, and sang to the child and mother in the rear view mirror. Somehow my plaintive warbling along to “Where Do The Children Play” and “Wild World” helped calm the child, and the mother smiled. A lovely peaceful moment.

A month later, I helped move two dressers including one from my house over to their house, as they’ve needed more storage to handle all the amazing donations that people have collected for them. As we pulled into the drive, not only did the men come out and almost grab each side of the dresser as if to say: thank you your job is done we will take this from here, they smiled and cheered out the upstairs window, a young woman admired her own beauty in the mirror before we brought it upstairs, the children jumped for joy and asked me to lift them to the ceiling, they laughed and played and were overjoyed to see us again. They are home.

God is good.

The Longest Time

My mother believes

     that every grief

          recalls, or

at least summons

     the memory of

          every other grief.

And I can’t help but

     think if that

          is so, then

it must also be true

     for joy. Just as

          it must also be

when the seasons turn

     it brings back

          every other season

or maybe just the first.

     As in the first last

          time you ever

experience something.

     I remember hearing

          Billy Joel playing

in the other room

     on the stereo

          while I was in

the other room doing

     something else,

          I forget what

and I ran to

     where the music

          was coming from

thinking it might be

     the last time

          I ever hear that song.

I was only a kid,

     and surprised by

          my mother

with the cassette case

     in her hand,

          and I realized

we could play the song

     any time we wanted.

          Even when it’s not

on the radio,

     you can bring it back

          by rewind or

fast forward,

     to the precise moment

          the song begins.

And not only that, but

     every time you hear the song

          is also every other

time you’ve heard the song.

     Every age you become

          is also every age

you’ve ever been.

     Which is why I feel

          like a child

as the days grow shorter

     and longer

          and I’m rushing

from the other room

     to see everything

          before it passes,

and I forget

     there’s nothing

          to remember.