a confession, a revelation and a commitment
We’re back after our amazing time away in Savannah. The trip back was a bit of a trial — our plane sat on the tarmac for 2 hours in Savannah because of weather in Houston, and then, once we arrived in Houston, we sat on the tarmac for another hour waiting for a gate to open up, because all the flights in Houston hadn’t left because of the weather. For a crazy second, I thought perhaps we’d never get off the plane. But we’re home, safe and sound.
While the wait was annoying, one of the gifts of being trapped on the tarmac was that I was able to read a wonderful book a friend recommended to me, to completion: Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Father Gregory Boyle. Father Boyle is the founder of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, "the largest gang intervention, rehab and re-entry program in the world." His book was the source of a revelation for me, but before I get there, I need to make a confession.
As of today, I’ve been blogging at Chookooloonks (on one platform or another) for 15 years, 4 months, and 10 days. While I tend to update this site relatively regularly, there was a time — maybe 8 years ago? — when I blogged every single weekday, without fail. My frequency has fallen off since then, but perhaps more significantly, the effort it has taken to write has become increasingly difficult … honestly, since November of 2016.
See, I’ve always been so focused on making Chookooloonks a place where there was light and joy and compassion and caring, but the truth is that when the current presidential administration was elected into office, I became really (and let’s face it, irrationally) bitter. I’m not proud of this, but for the past few years, I found myself asking why I should continue to share uplifting thoughts on the site. I felt like I’d spent so many years trying to help people understand the uncommon beauty of the world around them — not to mention the uncommon beauty of readers themselves, of all races, nationalities, religions, cultures, sexual orientations and identifications, and so much more — and yet so many people in America voted for a person who was antithetical to everything I tried for Chookooloonks to be. I’m clearly incredibly naïve, I thought to myself, even as I continued to do This Was a Good Week posts (and let’s face it, sometimes only do This Was a Good Week posts). I’m sharing this goodness, and really, no one gives a damn. And in my mind, the fact that my traffic began to dwindle and comments were fewer than ever was proof that I was right. It couldn’t possibly be a sign that interest in blogging has waned in favour of other social media sites. No. It had to be that people no longer cared about good anymore. Far more interesting was watching willful cruelty, or ridicule, or mockery, or debasement. No one had time for light.
Then I read Tattoos from the Heart, and of course, I was inspired by the amazing stories that are in the book (which I won’t share here, in case you want to read it). But it was toward the end of the book, where I suddenly realized how wrong I’ve been about my motivations here at Chookooloonks.
Father Boyle, in the second-to-last chapter of the book, tackles the idea of “success.” He said that while he understood why everyone — particularly potential donors to Homeboy Industries — wants to hear success stories (because who doesn’t?), he doesn’t have much time for them. He goes through a long discussion about why they don’t matter, but ultimately, his point was this:
You don’t focus on doing the right thing because of the results that may follow. You focus on doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.
You’re kind because being kind counts. You celebrate compassion because being compassionate counts. And you seek kinship and practice empathy and care for one another because, dammit, it counts.
I suddenly realized that my despondency at the fact that Chookooloonks hadn’t changed the world was misplaced at best, and arrogant at worst. The point of my little blog should never have been to change anyone’s mind (although if it helps make people connect with stories they wouldn’t otherwise encounter, or consider the power of their own light, that is a lovely result). The point of my little blog should be to just keep making light. Whether traffic grows or drops is really irrelevant. The act of continuing to attempt to put good in the world is purpose enough.
And so my commitment — or more accurately, re-commitment — to you is to focus on creating and putting as much light as I can here on the internet. Fair warning — sometimes doing so might mean sharing some insight that I had (as I did here, today), but more often than not, it may entail simply sharing a photo and a sentence describing some tiny, mundane thing I’m grateful for in my little life.
It’s going to be my light practice.
I hope you’ll stay along for the ride.
Also, this lovely speech Father Greg gives at the end of his fundraiser this year is a lovely reminder to all of us that we’re all connected. (About 24 minutes long; Father Greg’s words begin at about minute 5.)