When the show doesn’t go on

Back in November, I bought my sister and I tickets for a show we’d been dreaming about since the moment it was announced, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Broadway. I bought them for March 11, a random date in her spring break. 

It turned out to be the last day life was normal. 

We almost didn’t go-we left on a Tuesday, and the Sunday and Monday before I fretted. Not because I was scared-NYC had only had one known case at that point, and it seemed contained-but because of other people’s reactions. They were loosely saying to avoid unnecessary travel, and I did not want to seem irresponsible. I was also afraid my friends would be afraid to hang out with me when I got back.

But this play was a big deal to both my sister and I was encouraged by others to go, assured by friends that they would hang out with me, I just should be more careful. So we did, armed with gloves and wipes and hand sanitizer. Those were the last days of normalcy-we went to the Met, we met a friend of mine for dinner, we hit up the High Line and didn’t think twice if someone came within six feet of us. The theater was a bit different-they stopped refills on drinks (to me, this was not a big deal) and the actors were not allowed to take pictures or sign playbills (this was a BIG deal). 

I hung around the theater after to talk to some people involved-an usher and a couple of the actors. Maybe they were hiding it, or just weren’t allowed to share with a random girl, but no one seemed concerned about the possibility of shows closing. 

Twelve hours after we left, they announced that Broadway would go dark for at least a month. 

As with everything these days, this is unprecedented. 

I sat down Thursday evening and started writing a post about how lucky we were that we got the last show, how sad I was for the actors and ushers and bartenders at the theater, but how even when the literal show does not go on the show of life must. 

It’s now the next Thursday, and that is not what I am writing. 

Maybe it was denial, maybe it was arrogance-but I did not, until it actually happened, think that this was going to affect my life on the scale that it has. it also seems like the sum of my experience. I am a healthy white American. And as healthy white American, I read a lot of news that never affects my day-to-day life. As with most other things-fires in Australia, hurricanes in Puerto Rico-I thought I’d be praying for it from the comfort of my church. I thought I’d be discussing it with my coworkers over our breaks and be saying how awful it is for the people in places that weren’t where we were. I thought the biggest part of it would be that I ALMOST did not get to see Harry Potter. 

Spoiler alert-I was wrong. Everything that I do-my job, dance classes, all church activities-got systematically shut down Monday. My sister just had to go pack up her dorm room, and my brother cancelled a trip to Scotland where he was going to be a groomsmen in a friend’s wedding (I wanted to rage at the sky at these particular injustices). Where I live, schools, restaurants, and most stores are closed. I asked around to see if anyone needed childcare while schools were out, and no one took me up on it, because they were all already home and practicing social distancing. The show really has stopped, and we’re all six feet from each other in the wings. 

I don’t know when I’m going back to work.       

Does anyone? Can anyone? 

I do not want to be sad because I am well and I have food. On Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, my first two levels are met. But I am grieving for the third level, love and belonging. Not just for me, but for society as a whole. I mean, my friendships are intact and will survive this. But there are many things that won’t-this season’s sports teams, prom dates, independent coffee shops or bookstores, places that rely on people gathering. I know it’s a good thing the show has stopped-we are doing it to protect each other. But I get so much joy out of people-people at my house, people in public, people at other people’s houses. I love socializing!

Instead of socializing, I’m at home, praying and reading and watching Instagram stories of other people at home. I’m sweeping our porch and stretching and getting sucked into an endless vacuum of news. I’m staring at a picture of my dog’s fluffy toes and venturing out to the beach or park. I’m consulting with others on what is safe to do. I am remembering last week when we dared to meet each other in groups and trying to wrap my head around the idea of an isolated, halted society. I have listened to “Sun’s Gonna Shine” by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell about twelve times. 

Please send me more songs to listen to. 

fluffy toes

23 & Me

Can I sail through the changing ocean tides? Can I handle the seasons of my life?
-Stevie Nicks, Landslide

 “I’m in a minor existential crisis” I texted my family group chat. “I feel like I’m crossing the invisible between young and not-really-young and I’m not ready for it”. 

That was a couple weeks ago, about a month before I turned 24.

My family (4 people older, 1 person younger) consoled me accordingly, though I’m sure they were also laughing a little bit at how inaccurate that statement is. My mom asked me what the most crisis-inducing aspect of turning this new age was.

It’s this:
When you’re young, all your checkmark moments are laid out for you, and with a few exceptions, you check them off at the same time as everyone else you know. Finish elementary school, check. Finish middle school, check. Get your license, check. Graduate from high school, check. College if you choose, or your first job, check. College graduation, check.

And then the prewritten list ends and it’s fill-in-the-blank from there on out. 

You’ve spent the past seventeen years arranging your life by the tidy ebb and flow of semesters and summers, and unless you decide to go to grad school or are becoming a teacher, that schedule is over, too. You stop leveling up every May, you don’t move into a place with a countdown of when you’ll have to move out. 

It’s just life for the foreseeable future, and you can either panic about it or you can lean in. Out in the real world, I’ve been leaning in-I do a lot with my church, I work with town government, I am connected in my community. But in that moment, in the shower, in the text thread, I was panicking. The part of my brain that keeps track of feelings and not dates (that’s how brains work, right?) didn’t feel almost-24, it felt 22 and freshly out of college, 16 and flying to Paris by myself, 10 and wanting to move back to the home I had just left, 4 demanding my mom not just be near me while I was on the swings, but be actively watching me. 

To get the facts side and the feelings side of my brains on equal footing, here is a list of self-made checkmark moments from year 23: 

1) Become an official citizen of the state I reside in. I have been to the DMV three times in my life. Once when I was fifteen to get my permit, once when I was sixteen to get my license, and last September, to update my ID. My old license had a picture of sixteen-year-old me, from the first day I had a license. It had my parents address on it. I haven’t truly lived at my parents house since the day I left for college, and while I still occasionally look like a teenager, it’s not the one pictured. 

Even though getting a new license was something I had been meaning to do for a while (I have since been told that legally I should have switched it like months before), after it was done, the process seemed abrupt. There was no asking “Are you sure about this?”, no calling North Carolina to see if I came highly recommended as a citizen or not. I just went, paid twenty-five dollars, they took a picture and, bam, I’m someone new, another page of my past self torn from the book. But it feels nice to have taken that step of independence, to have my legal identity match my in-person one. 

2) Did not let anxiety affect outward interactions. A couple weeks ago, some friends of mine invited our friend group to their parents’ mountain house-conveniently, in the same mountain town where I had gone to college. I had left my packing until the last minute but wasn’t worried because I had thought it through and knew exactly how many books to bring, which food to arrange in my cooler, and how many layers of cold weather gear to cram in my duffel. But as I was going through my checklist, one thing was missing-my favorite hat, a navy Patagonia beanie that I’d gotten at the store where I’d worked in college. It was sweater-y on the outside and fleecey on the inside, a perfect combination for subfreezing hikes or windy runs down the ski slope. 

I called some family members to see if they had taken it with them from the last time I had used it, over New Year’s break in Asheville. No one had, with my dad pointing out I was on the way to Boone and could therefore swing by Mast and get the exact thing I was missing.  Runningout of time before I started the trek northwest. I gathered the rest of my snow gear, threw everything into the trunk of my car, and set off to pick up the crew. I had spent the entire week leading up fantastically enthused, so giddy to show off my college town to those who hadn’t seen it before. 

But instead of being excited as I crossed Charleston, I felt inexplicably unsettled, like that hat was the bow tying the weekend together and now that it wasn’t there, everything would be unraveled and it would be all my fault.  (Spoiler alert: nothing did. The weekend was fantastic.) spending half the trip praying that this newfound anxiety would leave and the other half on the phone with my mom. I honestly can’t remember what I was saying to her-I know I was still excited to go, but in that moment did not feel excited. I didn’t cry, though I did come close to it. 

My mom’s final advice as I pulled into where my friends were waiting to load their bags into my car: Take a deep breath. Say another prayer. Eat some chocolate. Put on good music. Explain to your friends that you’re out-of-sorts, if you want. I did not want, and instead plastered on a smile and a giggle as we piled bags and people in, having to try twice to get the trunk to close. Someone else had volunteered to drive the car, so I moved to the passenger seat, thanking the Lord above I could relax and let the chit-chat of my friends get me back in my groove.

3) Told (well, hinted to) a boy that I liked that I liked him. This will not be expanded upon further, just know it was bold for me. 

4) Created a solid friend group. I used to be obsessed with this series of books called Trixie Belden. They’re along the veins of Nancy Drew-a 1950s teenager solves mysteries- but less fussy. The main character is a 13-year old named Trixie, and she was a part of the world’s greatest friend group. It was her, her two older brothers, two other girls, and two other guys. This friend group not only had a name, they had matching embroidered jackets that proclaimed it. They hung out together all the time, they had all these inside jokes, they went on trips together, they didn’t knock at each other’s houses.  As a preteen reading these books, and then a teenager thinking about them, I didn’t have a friend group like that. I had a lot of good friends, but never a solid unfluctuating crew. 

Though one of my biggest prayers upon moving to Charleston was making good friends, it never occurred to me that I still wanted a tight group like Trixie’s until I found myself part of one. It started out intentionally- I vetted the people in the church group that I joined, finding the best candidates and then inviting them to do stuff. I came to their level- a walk across the bridge, Frisbee in the park. Before I knew it we were spending nearly every weekend doing something-mostly just games at someone’s house, but also bigger things like kayaking. 

My friend group neither has a name nor matching jackets, but we do have plenty of inside jokes & quotes. We have gone on a trip together (see above) and discussed more. They no longer knock on the door when they come over. We don’t hang out per se every weekend because life is busy and we have diversified stuff going on, but most Sundays we stand for at least an hour in the church parking lot talking about life. 

5) Expand my cooking resume. This has been a New Year’s resolution since I moved into my first apartment junior year of college, and lo and behold, I’ve finally done it. I asked everyone I came into contact with for their favorite recipe, put them all into a Google doc, and systematically made everything on the list. Now I’ve expanded into trying to recreate my favorite restaurant meals, ACP currently. I’ve learned that while I like making a variety of good food for myself, I love making it for other people. There really is no joy like someone getting up unprompted to get a second helping. 

There are other checkmark moments, but either they will stay with me, or have already been written about. Either way, the panic is gone and the future is ready to be stepped into. 23, you were good to me, and like butterflies from a box, I release you from real life to the wilds of my memory.  

24, you’re up.  Let’s fill in some blanks. 

In 2019,

I lost part of my left ear

a small part, a barely-noticeable part, but a part nonetheless, 

to something that I can’t remember the current name of but used to be called junior melanoma, 

noncancerous but harmful enough to warrant immediate removal, leaving an open wound patched back up with a skin graft, healing to a flat surface where the ridges and folds usually are, 

probably the result of two summers in college spent working in the unrelenting sun of the North Carolina beach, 

outside every day with my friends, 

starting off in June reapplying sunscreen every two hours but putting on less and less as our skin got darker until we didn’t bother at all, laughing, telling ourselves “oh, we’re too tan to get burned”, 

thinking sunburn was the worst it can get, 

knowing people aren’t invincible but not really believing it about ourselves. 

After that skin graft I couldn’t lift more than five pounds and I couldn’t get my head wet for two weeks 

while the nerves reconnected and the stitches were in

which was a problem since I was moving and I like clean hair 

but my friends came through, carrying boxes out of the house and in to and out of cars, 

one kneeling beside me in her bathtub, us both in swimsuits, gently pouring shampoo over my hair, careful of where the water went, 

humbling me

and leaving me thanking God night after night for the people I have. 

Now I wear hats and carry sunscreen in the car, putting on shirts when I would have stayed in my bikini, 

not loving the sun any less,

but constantly carrying proof of its small victory over me.

In 2019 I learned that I am not invincible,.

but also I learned invincible and undefeatable are two different things

I can be hurt, that’s true, but I have people that take care of me and a God that loves me good and so I

cannot be defeated.

Hat + sleeves

I’d Rather Wait

……is my new life motto.

It started out as my new driving motto. I had a scare while driving my mom’s car and my parents told me “You’d always rather wait. If you can’t make a turn safely, stay straight and go around the block. Go around five blocks if you need. If it’s raining, slow down. Whoever you’re meeting would rather wait the extra time. We love an intact car and we require an intact person”. I agreed, and now I repeat to myself constantly as I drive “I’d rather wait”. 

Slowly but surely, that motto has leaked into other areas of my life. It did not come easy: I am not naturally a wait-er. I like for things to happen fast, I think instant gratification was a fantastic invention. When I ask for something and the answer is no, my instinct is to ask for that same thing again or scheme to make it happen, rather than look for that better yes around the corner.  If it were up to me, traffic would constantly flow, all meals would be cooked at microwave-speed, I’d have started dating someone six months ago, and I’d have a fabulous fascinating & creatively stimulating job lined up for when my current job ends in two weeks. 

C.S. Lewis* once said “I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been born in God’s thought, and then made by God is the dearest, grandest, and most precious thing in all thinking.” 

Hoo boy, isn’t that the truth. Right now I’m in a season of forced waiting and let me tell you, it’s occasionally been the worst. Waiting is painful, it’s scary, and it’s awkward to talk about with your co-workers and relatives. But asmuch as I want God to speed His processes up to match my pace, I will never willingly run ahead of Him. Though I can think of many glorious variations of myself that would be so glamorous to be, they aren’t the person God is choosing me to be. 

God chose to make me a person who needs to wait. 

So, I’d rather wait. 

*Some websites attribute this quote to George MacDonald.

My Creative Best

An unexpected thing happened to me recently: I started running.  

Not anything completely crazy, like a marathon. Let’s be real,  I don’t even want to DRIVE twenty-six miles most days. I’ve been doing 5ks, which are 3.1 miles each.

Running, so far, is different from anything else I’ve tried because it takes effort that no one is forcing me to exude. I’ve always been an active person- cheerleading and dance until the end of high school, and then more dance in college. Things that take effort, for sure, but effort that was scheduled and directed for me. Ballet/jazz/lyrical/modern class from this time to this time-we start off at the barre, then move to the center, do some combinations across the floor, work on the dance for recital/competition, end with stretching. Cheerleading, too: after school, change & go to the upstairs gym. Stretch first, practice competition routine, work on jumps, work on stunts, and figure out what to do at the next game’s quarter & halftime break. These things benefitted me,  health-wise and personality-wise, but they weren’t really for me. If I wasn’t there, it wasn’t just me who missed out, it was an inconvenience to everyone-the dance teacher who had to repeat herself later, or the girls in my stunt group who then couldn’t practice. 

Back in March, I signed up for a series of 5ks at this place called Charlestowne Landing. The route takes you around a plantation house, under live oaks, down to the river, and past this boat that looks like it could be a pirate ship but is actually just old. It’s a gorgeous route. After you run, they serve dinner and have an awards ceremony. There are 5 races in total, and the proceeds go towards the animals that live there (river otters!!!). The first one was in April, and before it happened, my friend Mary Elizabeth and I were diligent about preparing. We did better than we thought we would.  The second race, a couple other friends joined us. Friends who were faster than us. Friends I tried to keep up with but couldn’t. I went too fast at the beginning, and we had to stop for a minute halfway through. We had a better time, because we went quicker at the start, but to us, we did worse. 

And to my surprise, I was disappointed. 

I’ve never been great at doing things just for the benefit of myself. When I was four, I wanted to learn how to cartwheel. So I taught myself how, practicing and practicing until my hands bled. That was the height of my self-discipline. For example, when I write, I can feel my internal infrastructure going from crumbling ruins to soaring tower. I feel my absolute best in front of a word document filled with my thoughts. And yet, most of the word documents I open never get more than a sentence or two.

It never seemed like a big deal to me. I would feel better if I was diligent about writing, sure, but I don’t NEED to be. 

 But then I came across this verse:

“Make careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your life.” – Galatians 6:4-5

For the third race, I had practiced and was prepared. I didn’t try to prove myself to the other runners; I didn’t try to keep up. Let’s be honest-the chances of others noticing how I was doing are slim to none, anyways. I just went with how I had practiced, with what felt good to me. I did have one brief moment of pause at the end, but then a friend shouted “GO!” and startled me back into my groove.  I ended up getting the best time yet, and I felt so proud of myself. 

I tend to do my creative best like a cheerleading routine, in short spurts of high energy. A one-and-done situation. My creative best should be managed like the third race, able to be sustained over a period of time/distance, something I have to work at to maintain. Something that makes me FEEL like my best.

I know I’ve said before that I’m going to write regularly, and then not done it, but I have a new motivation for my creative best. I know how good it feels to do things for my benefit, and I want to continue. Please help-ask me about my blank word documents, send me thought-provoking articles, tweets, or Instagram posts.

In the meantime, the fourth race is coming up. I’m going to go practice.  

EULOGY FOR A CAR  

A couple days ago, my car reached the end of its road.  Nothing dramatic happened; it just decided that it was done. 

 So far, I miss it. 

I’m not a super sentimental person, nor am I particularly materialistic (lol, I hope), so the missing was a bit of a surprise. See, this car was a far cry from a flawless car. The automatic locks didn’t work; it wasn’t great in snow, it was too small to transport my bike, and putting people in the backseat was kind of a pain because it only had two doors. One time the key broke in half in the ignition, and I’m pretty sure it spent a couple months last year inhabited by a demon (ask me about this, I dare you). 

But for all its flaws, it had one perfect positive-it was mine. It was the car that transformed me from “person with a license” to “person who can confidently conquer multi-hour road trips”.  I crisscrossed North Carolina a countless number of times in that car, spending an even bigger countless number of hours performing car concerts and having important life discussions with my friends.  

Yesterday I realized it’s not the car itself that I miss; but the life that happened in it. That car witnessed every emotion on the spectrum, many times over. I laughed in it; I cried in it, I laughed while I cried in it. My most prevalent college memory is gathering up all the friends who love me enough to climb into the backseat and going for drives on the Blue Ridge Parkway. One time two of my pseudo-brothers hid in the backseat for hours just to hear me scream in terror when I got in. Sophomore year of college, the parking lot I used was a long downhill slope named Greenwood. I don’t know which one of my friends started the Greenwood Game, but it was my car that it worked best on. We would inch into the parking lot as slow as our cars would let us, and then let gravity do its thing (y’all, I would get up to 47 mph) before slamming to a roller-coaster stop at the end. 

The last road trip I had in my car was the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I left the North Carolina mountains at about 4:30 AM, needing to be somewhere in Charleston at 11.  I have crystal-clear memories of many of my trips, like the time I nearly froze driving from the mountains to the coast because I had a snowball in my possession that I needed to throw at my unsuspecting sister. But this last trip, I can’t remember who I talked to, what songs I listened to, or what dancing I did. It’s a blur in my brain, just like those last few delight-filled seconds before everything screeched to a halt in the Greenwood parking lot. 

I’m driving my sister’s car right now (thank you, Abbey Rogers), but eventually I’ll get a replacement. It’ll be nicer than my car was, with less dents and more conveniences. Hopefully there will be room to transport my bike, and hopefully all ghosts stay far away from it. And though I will be grateful for those things, hopefully I never forget the things I loved about the first car, the car that took me so far. 

 

Senior Years

My sister’s senior night for swim team was tonight. Thought I always cheer her on in spirit, I could not be there in person, and instead sat on my couch and pondered my own experiences of senior year.

Senior year of high school was full of celebrations-the first day of school assembly, homecoming, senior nights, yearbook day, every Friday out to eat while the younger students looked on longingly.

Senior year of college is also full of celebrations, though also the responsibility of staging them. The first day of class. The last day of a friend’s required internship. The passing of a hard test. Any time someone crosses an item off the list separating them and graduation. Honestly, we should be spending every night congratulating each other for just getting by.

Senior year of high school was piling friends in a car and driving to the beach for the weekend after prom, our first real sip of adulthood.
Senior year of college is scouring the web for the cheapest plane tickets to anywhere warm. I have one trip planned for March and am contemplating if I can afford another, to visit friends in California who were kind enough to offer up the couch.

Senior year of high school was a loss of freedom, when I crashed my car on the way to dance rehearsal and relied on my mom for transportation the rest of the year.
Senior year of college is criss-crossing North Carolina like it ain’t no thing, usually alone. I have learned to love solo car rides, as I spend the time catching up with long-distance friends via phone, or asking God to give me hints about my future (so far, none, but it’s always worth a shot).

Senior year of high school was simple decisions. App State was the only place I applied to and after I got accepted in December, the only other thought I had about the future was decorations for my dorm room.
Senior year of college is not-so-simple decisions. What do I want to do, where do I want to go? 21 years old and I have yet to come up with a dream job, though real life is rushing at me awfully and thrillingly fast.

The Bible says that to everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven. This senior year, I am in a strange season of juxtaposition, being totally confident in the grand future God has for me and yet having no idea what it could hold. Of scrolling through LinkedIn like it’s my job and then getting discouraged and retreating into a book. Of never wanting things to change and wanting absolutely everything to. Of wishing it was graduation day already and then praying please please, help me savor my senior year.seniors

Girls

Last Friday night, I went to a high school football game.

It was maybe the fourth high school football game I’d been to in my life. Not because I lacked spirit for the school I went to, but because the school I went to was too small for football. Four years ago, when my sister moved from eighth grade to ninth grade, she decided she was done with the smallness. She moved to the public school and I moved to college and Friday night football games became my family’s new normal.

At this football game, I sat on the sidelines with my parents. I took pictures of the two players I knew, and the five hundred that I didn’t. I talked with my mom’s friends and I waved to my sister in the stadium and I clapped and booed with the crowd. But mostly I watched the cheerleaders.

My ideal world would be one in which every girl has another girl she can look up to. I don’t mean anyone fictional or famous, though those are important also. I mean a real person in her life. Maybe an older sister, babysitter, maybe a neighbor. Just someone slightly older who the girl can look at and think “I’m going to be just like her.”

I’m lucky enough to have many such girls. The first were two sisters named Katie & Michelle. At a young age, God planted two things in my life: the desire to cheer people on, and these two sisters. Katie & Michelle were babysitters for my siblings and I, and were both cheerleaders at the high school where we lived. I was a cheerleader for a rec football team, and once a year, the rec cheerleaders got to cheer with the high school cheerleaders.

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Katie & Michelle endlessly practiced jumps and cheers with me in preparation. It was one of the best nights of my elementary school life-standing under the big lights in the big stadium, looking up at those big girls and being 100% sure that this was the life I was born to have.

(Like I said,  my high school was too small for football, but I cheered for basketball with the best of them. We also became North Carolina State Champions).

Some of that confidence I was born with, but I think most of it comes from the fact that I could see myself in every single high school girl there. Tallish, blondeish, thin, white-Andover, KS is not a town known for its diversity. In fact, until I moved to North Carolina in fifth grade, I did not know a single person of a different race.

Now, last Friday night, the same setting in a different place. There were football players, there were cheering crowds, and to my delight, there were elementary school girls standing among the cheerleaders. It’s all the same-but one thing is different. The high school we were at, the high school my sister attends, is about 50% African American, and the attendance at the game reflected that.  There were cheerleaders that were thin, blonde, and white, but many of the girls were not.  The little girl I was watching was not. She was standing next to a high schooler that was not. I don’t know either of those girls, I don’t know if they know each other.  But I saw that little girl look up at that big girl under the big lights in the big stadium and I know that she KNEW that’s where she’d be.

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Beyonce said that girls run the world-well hey, let’s prove her right. No matter how old a girl you are, I bet you can find someone younger than you that shares your  interests. Find her, get her number, invite her out to lunch, build her up. Encourage her to do the same with someone else she knows. The cycle will go on, and maybe one day, my ideal world will be the one that actually exists.

 

Happy International Day of the Girl!

 

 

We The People

We the people, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to our posterity, and ourselves do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

 I spent a couple weeks in Asia this summer. While I was there, I was proud to represent America. I was proud to ask people around me about their culture, and to share mine to them.

When I got back, the protests in Charlottesville happened and I wasn’t so proud anymore. I had been welcomed with open arms to a place I had never been and I cried over the knowledge that some people do not have that experience in a place they consider to be home. I kept thinking about the phrases written above, the phrases in the Preamble. Those people in Charlottesville claimed to be proud Americans, yet they were not establishing justice. They were doing the opposite of domestic tranquility, and they sure as heck weren’t promoting the general welfare. They were securing the blessings of liberty for themselves, but for no one else. They were not “We the people”, they were “Us the people and They the people”.

A couple days after Charlottesville, I traveled to Charleston, South Carolina, to watch the eclipse. This was an interesting place for two reasons. One, it was in the path of the full eclipse, and two, it is the location of the first battle of the Civil War. Everyone and their mother were coming to watch the moon overtake the sun, and I feared that would include the tiki torch-wielding haters. But we hung up hammocks underneath the pier and chatted to people passing by with no drama. We helped people set up tents and we watched people help people. We lay on the sand and watched the sun shrink through our eclipse glasses. We clapped with the crowd as the moon overtook the sun and the color drained out of the world.

That stretch of sand in South Carolina was the most diverse setting I had ever been in, and yet, it was the most peaceful. There were Hispanics, African-Americans, whites, wealthy people, poor people, young people and old people, all happily scrambled together. There was no way to tell who was Republican and Democrat, there was only bathing suits and eclipse glasses. People were cheering the moon on and people were cheering each other on. There was no room for hate.img_9032.jpg

A couple days after the eclipse, a hurricane hit the gulf coast of Texas. Just as the moon shone equally to everyone in Charleston, the storm hit everyone in its path with an equal amount of force. I had been in the Houston airport a few weeks before, on my way back from Beijing. I had a window seat, and I was looking out at Texas as we flew in. The neighborhoods were all neatly arranged, and the homes in them looked shiny and new. The schoolswere big and the football stadiums bigger. Those shiny homes I flew over are all flooded, the people that live in them stranded. Those big schools are ready for students that won’t be able to come for another week. The airport that was bustling with activity is now dark and empty.

The highlight of the eclipse was the moon directly blocking the sun. The temperature dropped and it was too dark to move around. I imagine Texas feels somewhat like that moment right now. They can’t see any sunlight, they don’t know what step to take next.IMG_9035.jpgBut the thing about that dark moment, the one everyone had traveled to see: it only lasted about two minutes. Before we knew it, the smallest sliver of sun broke through, the temperature rose back up, and we knew where we were again. If Texas is the moon right now, the rest of America is the sun beaming out behind it, ready to bring everything back to normal. I have seen companies announcing proceeds going to Houston shelters. I have received e-mails from Samaritan’s Purse urging available people to join the relief effort. Brewing companies are exchanging beer for canned water to ship to victims. I’ve read story after story of neighbors helping each other, neighbors that may live on opposite sides of the city.

We the people, the people of Texas and the people of America, are promoting the general welfare. We’re establishing justice and ensuring domestic tranquility. The city of Houston established a curfew so that homes would not be looted-providing for the common defense.

We the people are once more “We, the people”.