I learned words like god and pray at Unity church when I was about 5 or 6.
God Kids… we wore t-shirts that said that… for summer events…
What is God? I asked my mother one sunny day in our backyard.
She looked all around the yard and into the sun and back down at me and placed her hand on my chest and said… God is Good. I took it to mean that… if anyone or anything was good, that was god.
By the time I was 13, living on the border of Mexico, I understood a culture steeped in Catholicism. It came in layers… why do they have black stuff on their foreheads? What is a Sin and what does it mean to them? Who is Jesus? Is Jesus god? I like ghosts. I didn’t understand.
Surrounded by statues and murals and charms and idols of people that were captured in some sort of deep understanding that caused people to do strange things. They seemed to understand God in more language than my mother ever provided.
Once it was time for me to enter high school, I didn’t want to follow into the school full of the bullies I had already spent 8 years avoiding. I didn’t want to go to school at all. Back then, it was illegal to not send your child to school, and it had to be a school within your district unless you paid for a private academy. Despite being on welfare, my mother scraped together my inheritance from my grandmother, to send me to a private school.
I’ll admit to being nervous of the social aspects of school, but honestly I was extremely fascinated to get a firsthand experience at this God I had heard so much about. The book had great stories. I love all the characters especially if they truly were based on real people. But again… what is god? Jesus, really? He was a really amazing human. I like ghosts.
I spent most of my time at Loretto Academy in the hallways and nurses’ office. Spying mostly, learning patterns, avoiding social interaction. I would read the fliers over and over on the cork boards and walk by all my favorite statues and spend inordinate amounts of time in the bathroom.
One day I saw a flier for EF Tours: Europe. Mostly geared more for the senior class trip, it was a free sign-up sheet for the meeting to learn more, even though I was a sophomore I couldn’t contain myself. Mom said it was the happiest she had ever seen me. I was absolutely dead set on going. The money we had left for the final two years at the academy was enough to cover the trip. So I chose Europe, with the realization I would have to attend public school on my return.
It’s life changing to see the world. I began writing, in Switzerland, after blackbirds… just after drinking my first beer. I began to see, life differently. I ate fresh rose cream in a garden in Canterbury, and even saw the Queen. I saw fountains in Italy and ate baguette in France. Oh so much bread! I drank too much in Italy and our tour guide attempted to take advantage of me, but I got away thanks to Giuseppe the bus driver. I counted cats. I pet the cats… everywhere we went. We entered catacombs. We saw cathedrals that have been written about in sacred text and art… art as large as my living room wall… painted hundreds and hundreds of years ago. I wonder how long it took him I would stare. Was he cold while he painted? What did he eat the day he painted that part? I still don’t understand how they chiseled bodies so finely. So many Gods. It was all so good.
I returned to attend a public school, where I fell into the oddball clique; the collection of eclectic that had nowhere to be, seeking some way to be, mostly just being and bad deeding. Deviants to some degree, we pushed boundaries that were intensely self-developing. Enveloping passions and distractions, we were free.
Then college, to build up the ego and learn how to unlearn once you’ve learned it, so then you can become. Who was I becoming? It had only just begun.
Guadalupe Frida Kahlo Day of the Dead. Kafka… Williams… Ferlinghetti, Kerouac stacked… My father killed himself. I began painting the words that were too hard to find. Smoking everything I could smoke to ease my lung heaving mind. Sliding up and down social climbs and falling in love… with anything that would spark my insides. I tried to hide and found myself in motherhood and we began attending UU.
It wasn’t church. It was a gathering of friends that shared interesting thoughts on Sundays. I tried to settle in. Where is the god? What is god here I would wonder? It wasn’t church. It was good people being good to one another. It was god but I had forgotten.
My daughter was about 3 when I heard it. The call. I was in the garage pretending to be a painter again and I heard it. I wrote it down. This calling. To good, to gathering, to opening and changes. The call, I wrote it … I woke to it, this spirit path. Writing. Giving language anew… I could see again. I wrote for hours on end, for days and days. Months. Filled legal pads in a night. Threw away pens. And then to transcribe them. I woke. To this goodness that felt like god.
I woke to the goodness that felt like god. And I have started to get more involved. Being good with intention. Finding good with intention, is god. Our church is more church for me now because we are all gods, or servants of goodness to others.
This past week I asked to help an angel in our community with her volunteer work and it led me to the old stomping grounds. To be in Loretto’s kitchen, the old freezer door with the giant push button lever and the filth of years around it. The tiles in the kitchen were the same as the bathrooms I spent so many thoughtful moments within. I felt that old ghost again, the god. The wondering. The sacred space that always seemed so silent felt louder now. I was becoming.
Loretto Academy gave me a peek into the world half my life ago, only to call me back to show me the world again, and have me interact this time. I was the observer seeking god outside of myself. To become the godliness, I became the player, the action figure in the act of good.
Rebecca. And Mathias.
Overcooked and underwarmed, leftover school lunch food, they ate it … and had seconds.
They ate that spaghetti like it was made by angels.
My friend introduced me to Rebecca before I really understood what our purpose was that day.
To feed the immigrants, she said in the phone, I will explain it when we meet.
She did explain it to me, and even still, it is truly a maze in understanding.
Cuantos años tiene? I ask her, in my shamefully bad Spanish.
De dónde eres? My friend asks her.
Honduras. Y tu? She asks me.
Viven en El Paso todo mi vida, nací aqui…. Y …I’m treinta-cinco
She is eager to understand me, her eyes shine with life.
Que es el nombre de … I point to her son.
Hansel Mathias… pero, Mathias.
Ma-tee-ahs I say it twice and then forget to speak Spanish and ask her why she was there.
My friend translates to her.
Ah, she says, and her story goes into words I only catch a few of. Peligroso… dangerous, and correr… Run.
How long did it take you to get here I asked her… dos meses, pero Mathias se puso muy enfermo en México.
My friend asks of the child’s father.
SI! She continues, as my friend translates, he is the one that threatened to kill her if she didn’t give him their son. … so she ran.
What is here for you? A dónde vas ? I ask her…
Un primo, en Kansas.
We were there that day… to feed her. To give her a meal before she embarked on her last journey into safety. Safety that I wonder, does it feel safe to her? To leave all that you have known and loved… a small town she described… a small town she lived in her entire life. To leave her family to start her own life with her son. Without really anyone. Does she feel safe?
We were there to give her a ride to the bus station, where she will make her last 48 hours into a tiny piece of her family and start anew. I hugged her. I told her she was beautiful and her son was too. I imagined… Hansel, and his breadcrumbs, and how Mathias had to eat them all… so his father wouldn’t find him.
My friend drove me back to Loretto …
And I got into my car, and returned to my life differently.
God is at Loretto Academy.
God is at Unity. God is at UU.
But my mother was right when I was five.
Patting my tiny chest.
God is the good