Sometimes living with and near family is hilarious, and sentimental, and easy. And sometimes it’s not.
The last few months our extended and immediate family has suffered. Every family does. It doesn’t look the same for every family, but every family must endure suffering at some point. You just hope that when it hits yours, it doesn’t do permanent damage. And even that cannot always be avoided.
Tonight, I watched some old John Wayne movies with my grandparents, all of us quieter than usual (especially Nonna), and still healing from the most recent events to befall our little household. As I sat at the kitchen table, Nonna noticed me putting unopened mail I had received into one large package without opening any of it.
“Hey, you no gonna open your letters?”
“No Nonna, these aren’t for me. I’m just the messenger.”
Many, if not all of you, have probably heard by now that on August 5th, a hate-filled man took the lives of six members of the Sikh community. It is a tragedy that, like every shooting, is felt not only by those immediately effected, but by the entire community. Feeling deeply for our Sikh brothers and sisters, we Milwaukee Couchsurfers decided to collect cards and donations to help the victims and their families.
Couchsurfers are unique creatures. (To learn more about us, check out my other blog here.) Where lines of segregation tend to exist in the “real” world – religions, ethnicities, socio-economic statuses, genders – they generally don’t exist within our Couchsurfing world. As a Christian woman, I have had every type of human being stay on my couch or host me. And they’ve all been very different from me, and very different from each other. But that doesn’t hinder our experiences with one another – instead it enhances them, making our passion for learning other cultures and ways of life even deeper and more genuine.
Now while I am a Couchsurfer, my Roman-Catholic-Italian-WWII-surviving-Depression-Era Nonna is not. She does not take changes or differences well, and cannot conceive of any stranger sleeping on her couch. Cooking them a meal? Maybe. Letting them use her bed linens? Never. Accepting I have multi-ethnic friends? Sure. The first time I brought home a multi-ethnic boyfriend? Mild heart attack.
“Who you messaging?” Nonna asked, getting up from her Nonna-sized couch.
“My friends and I are sending cards and money donations to help the victims of the Sikh shooting. Remember, on the news last week? Helicopters over our house?”
“Ohhh yeah yeah yeah. So sad. It’sa rrrrevolting all da shootings. Mah, why you send something? You no know them.”
“Because Nonna. There’s way too much hate in this world. And showing love to those who’ve been a victim of such violent hate is the least we can do.”
If you know Nonna, you’ll know how special what I’m about to write really is.
She walked over to her purse, took out $$, and said, “Here. I make a donation too. Put my name too. Is so very, very sad.”
This act was so much more than a donation. This act represented some barrier, however small it may be, being broken between real-world lines of segregation. This act represented a woman taking her own family’s hurt and frustrations and turning it into compassion for a family she doesn’t even know. This act, though small, made me think that good can always come from bad.
All families suffer. The families of and closest to the victims of the Sikh shooting are suffering in a way that is different from our family’s suffering, but it still bonds us together in one greater community.
And if a little old lady in her eighties can still have moments where her heart and mind are changed, then there is always hope. A friend quoted the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel recently, and I absolutely loved it (maybe I’ll even see the movie, despite it’s lack of wizards/faeries/sci-fi-ishness):
“Everything will be alright in the end. So if it is not alright, then it is not yet the end.”
Today things are not alright. Not for my family, and not for many families. But little acts every day, coupled with my faith and the miracles I’ve already witnessed, lead me to believe that it will be alright in the end.
Goodnight for now. There are two cuddly faces staring at me that insist it’s bedtime.