A Year of Change

2016

I go to the grocery store with a twenty-dollar bill, because that’s all I have. I focus on my shopping list, food that will hopefully last me a week. I tell myself, “Don’t buy that, you can’t afford it.” I’m hungry, so I grab a candy bar because it’s cheap. I head to the self-checkout, so I don’t have to be embarrassed if I’ve miscounted and don’t have enough money. I leave for home, hoping the few dollars change will be enough for gas.

 

2017

I go to the grocery store with a hundred-dollar bill, because there are two in the “Groceries” jar. I focus on my shopping list, ingredients for a new dish I’m making for dinner. I tell myself, “Don’t buy that, it isn’t healthy.” I’m hungry, so I remember to buy a couple kinds of snacks. I head to the self-checkout, because there isn’t a line. I leave for home, hoping I didn’t forget anything.

 

I Believe

Mom asked me if I went to church today.

I didn’t have the guts to tell her

I don’t have the faith to pray.

I know she just plain wouldn’t understand

She’d be worried, concerned,

Certain I’d be damned.

To her, there is only one right way.

There is one question,

and one answer.

There is one right

and one wrong.

There is one creator

and one world.

Her life must seem so simple.

Often, she will say how she doesn’t understand how some people don’t believe in God.

Never do I tell her that I don’t understand how some people do.

Because I don’t want to worry her, and I already know what she would say:

“In a world where a little boy can be gunned down

by a neighborhood police officer

for playing with a borrowed toy,

Where women are raped

by friends they think they can trust

and no one does anything about it,

Where men are accused of crimes

they didn’t commit and forced to pay

a price that they don’t owe,

Where individuals are still identified,

first and foremost,

by the color of their skin.

Where mothers are crying

and children are dying

and fathers are trying their hardest just to keep their families off the streets,

Where do you find your hope, if not in our Savior?

Where do you find your peace?

What do you believe in?”

I thought I dreaded that question.

I thought I had no answer because

I was taught that there was only one answer,

and if you didn’t know the right one,

you were wrong.

I saw a picture once that presented two ways to produce nine: four plus five or three plus six. I showed it to my father. He said yes, but there is only one nine. I said no, there is nine, neun, neuf, and nueve. He said yes, but there is only one meaning. I said, but it’s a measurement, right? So there are still different nines, just different kinds of nines being measured; whether it’s nine apples or nine oranges, whether it’s nine white men or nine black men or nine children or nine Arabs or nine Jews or nine Christians… So not only is there not one answer, there’s not one question.

“What do you believe in?” she asks.

I realized that I don’t dread that question.

I realized that I had an answer because

there isn’t only one answer

so you don’t have to know the right one

and you aren’t wrong.

Because, you see,

I do believe, I really do.

It’s just from a different point of view.

I believe in smiling, and sharing some brightness

with someone

whose day might seem a little too dark.

I believe in families; of blood

and of choice,

that give you their strength when you can’t find your own.

I believe in loving: loving hard,

loving deeply,

loving unconditionally, irrationally, uncontrollably.

I believe in music, the ultimate drug

that loses you

in it without you even realizing you’re gone.

I believe that you can find evil

in the soul

but you can also find goodness.

It is the home of a god but also of a devil and

the choice is yours

as to which you let run free.

I believe in heaven, not as a place but as a

state of mind

that can be found in yourself and in others.

I believe that the good outweighs the bad, and when that appears

to not be true,

the change may only come from one place: you.

I believe that truth does not

set you free,

that it proves that you already are free; from fear.

I believe that it doesn’t matter what happened yesterday because

it’s not today

and a fresh start is always possible.

I believe in tomorrow, and in the changes

it may bring

if you just give it a chance.

See, I believe in laughing,

in imperfection,

in people,

and in connection.

I believe in magic,

in passion,

in goodness,

and in action.

I believe in friendship,

in family,

in love

and in equality.

I believe in miracles,

in trust,

in hope,

and in us.

I believe in writing,

in truth,

in second chances,

and in youth.

I believe in experience,

in wisdom,

in peace,

and in freedom.

I believe in music,

in forgiving,

in happiness,

and most importantly, in living.

To me, there is more than one right way.

There are many questions,

and even more answers.

There is wrong and there is right,

but they aren’t always black and white.

There is so much more to believe in

than a man and a book.

It doesn’t need to be simple.

Because there will always be bad things that happen, but

We live in a world where a college basketball team wears t-shirts

in support of the lives and deaths of people they’ve never met

just because it’s the right thing to do,

Where policemen rescue shelter dogs

that would otherwise be caged and killed

and give them a second chance at life,

Where a man uses his last dollar

finding a meal and a bed for a complete stranger

who has nothing to give in return,

Where a teenager who can’t swim

jumps into deep water

to save the lives of three struggling children,

Where people on a busy street

help a woman give birth in the freezing cold

to a baby who wouldn’t wait for an ambulance,

Where a man pays for the meal of

a family at a neighboring table because

he overheard their discussion of a “diagnosis”,

Where a little girl donates her Christmas presents

to a charity that will give them to children

who don’t have any of their own,

Where a young woman shares her coffee

and offers conversation to a lonely veteran

who just lost his wife,

Where a nine-year-old boy

pushes and pulls his paralyzed younger brother

through a triathlon he would never be able to finish on his own.

Where mothers are caring

and children are sharing

and fathers are bearing the weight of problems for others who couldn’t carry them alone.

There I find hope.

There I find peace.

That is what I believe in.