Whose Turn Is It?

In the 1960’s European automakers introduced the VW beetle to Americans. Automakers were introducing economy cars Iike the Ford Falcon and Chevy Corvair to compete with gas guzzlers like my father’s Oldsmobile. The general opinion at the time was if a vehicle used less gas, it would not only cost less to drive but emit less CO2.

Smog was a problem visible from my parent’s home above San Francisco Bay. When the air was still, a gray pall hung heavily over the Bay Area. Because smog was a concern in cities, scientists were investigating the contribution of CO2 and human activity upon air quality and climate change. Most of the chatter at the time wasn’t about climate change and extinctions but about smog, air quality, and dependence upon foreign oil.

That my boyfriend drove a cute yellow VW bug hardly qualified me as an activist. Greenpeace was seven years away. Conversations about conservation were mild compared to today’s discussions—rising seas, reducing bird populations, gasping lungs, raging mega fires, critical food production, and corporate irresponsibility. Nevertheless, I had adopted a progressive attitude toward conservation, even though I was uninformed about climate science.

During a break between semesters, I naively brought up with my father the issue of industrial pollution and our country’s dependency upon gas and oil. “What are we going to do about this?” Which truthfully meant what was he going to do?

My father seemed like an important man, connected to influential people. Surely he could do something. My flattering but futile challenge must have amused him.

He lowered his newspaper just enough to peer at me above the headlines. “I’ll leave that problem for your generation to solve,” he answered.

Decades later I was perched on a stool in a daughter’s kitchen when she launched into a worry session about climate change. “What are we going to do?” Suddenly my father’s response was resonantly present, like the Spirit of Missed Opportunity.

Indeed what are we going to do? The planet is indeed heating up, the problem recklessly compounding, the problem outrunning us.

Listening to this daughter’s rant, I suggested we do something manageable.

She looked at me expectantly.

“Text your handyman to remind him we need the hinges he forgot to leave last week.” A total reversal of topic, but it would produce a practical result.

Chuckling, she sent the text, although she didn’t give up easily. My dodge had had only a temporary effect. She pressed on until I, like my father, said, “Let’s hope the grandchildren will be able to enact solutions.”

The infamous rhetorical dodge.


We fill four closets with clothes, most of them non-essential, many of them made from Textiles contributing to chemical pollution.

When purchasing our vehicles, we prefer power to economy.

We use gas powered yard equipment.

We use plastic.

We depend on the grid. We like our electronics, our internet connection, our iPhones, our fancy appliances.

The only things we have done to offset climate change are plant trees, carry our own reusable water bottles and bags, compost kitchen and yard trash, use LED lighting, and turn off our lights.

What and who are we waiting for? Corporations? Government? Neighbors? Friends? Grandchildren?

I’m stuck at the opinion stage and “What can we do?”

Anything. Something. Plant more trees. Turn off the lights. Consume less. Install solar. Buy a hybrid or electronic vehicle.

And nag the grandkids: “You gotta do something! Don’t copy us.” We knew we had inherited the earth and all its blessings, but have done virtually nothing, except consume.


Having just returned from a family reunion, I am taking time out to reflect on belonging.

Every three years descendants of Ronald and Alice Jeffery of Crab Orchard, Nebraska, gather for a reunion, an event officially repeated since 1983, although unofficially held when, beginning in 1940, my father drove my family from San Francisco to the Jeffery farm in Nebraska. The early reunions of my childhood cling to our memories as exciting and joyous occasions with sleep overs, picnics, fried chicken and corn on the cob, baseball on the lawn, hay loft shenanigans, Grandpa’s teasing, Grandma’s lessons on self-sufficiency, hide and seek in rows of corn, and our disobedient climbing to the top of the windmill or chasing the pigs.

The faded but sturdy barn still stands.

The first official Jeffery reunion was held on the grounds of Crab Orchard’s Methodist Church. Reunions were held every two years until 9 years ago when it was decided thereafter reunions would be held every three years. When family numbers tripled exponentially, the necessity of meeting at a place catering to reunions convinced us to hold every subsequent reunion at YMCA of the Rockies outside of Estes Park, Colorado, near Rocky Mountain National Park, and where large reunion lodges can be rented and different age groups can choose from many activities.

Each reunion is organized by a small committee of volunteers selected on the last evening of each reunion. My family branch has organized three Jeffery reunions: in South Dakota’s Custer, at Kentucky Dam Village State Park, and at the Outer Banks in North Carolina. The Jeffery family reunion has also been held in Indian Cave, Nebraska; Ouray, Colorado; Fort Flagler State Park, Washington; Snow Mountain YMCA, Colorado; Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Eugene Mahoney State Park, Nebraska; Whalen, Minnesota, at a resort along biking trails; and Winter Park, Colorado.

The senior men like reminiscing about when they couldn’t see their neighbors’ rooftops, an out of sight but not out of mind community. Our grandparents and their siblings lived and worked large farms in sections, their neighbors a mile distant in every direction. When someone needed help with threshing or building a barn or pulling a vehicle out of the mud, or caring for children, people showed up. The land was large but the community was tight.

Ronald and Alice Jeffery** had five children, who then produced 18 children, who then contributed an average of three children with their spouses which equals approximately 54 offspring, who then averaged three children per to yield approximately 162 children who are now developing their families. The first generation has now passed. The second generation (mine) has lost two members. The third generation, which has begun grand-parenting, now organizes the reunions, which vary in size from 80 to 150 people. Don’t worry if you can’t follow my fuzzy math.* I have trouble counting them when they are in the same room with me.

The results of all this reproduction is clearly remarkable. Although primarily white Protestants —Our ancestors immigrated in 1840 to America from Methodist John Wesley’s Cornwall, England—we are also Jewish and Catholic mixed with a couple of wanna be agnostics and atheists. We are farmers, photographers, business managers, professors, teachers, nurses, linemen, forest fighters, accountants, engineers, chemists, clerks, bankers, entrepreneurs, contractors, biologists, physicians, artists, factory workers, writers, social workers, CFO’s, technology engineers, software writers, buyers, musicians, financiers, machinists, armed service personnel, and more. We are scattered from shore to shore, sometimes living overseas. Yet we are capable and willing to blend together for this reunion,

When I drove into the YMCA complex last week, I was alone but not for long. I parked my car, walked to the Administration Building, and looked for my people. There they were, checking in at our reunion table: my people with warm welcome hugs, directions to our lodgings, and dinner plans. Imagine 80 people in a lodge dining area, seeing each other for the first time in three years, lining up for hot dogs and hamburgers, tomatoes, potato salad, and watermelon. A four month old baby, the youngest, lies on the floor on a blanket under a suspended mobile. The gaggle is joyful. A three-year-old throws a quick tantrum when he loses sight of his family. Laughter flies. Greetings flow. There is enough food for seconds. The mountain sunset pinks the sky. A group gathers around a fire pit. Children chase one another. Cousins watch the evening sky from the front porch. Inside women surround one table, men another. I overhear the men discussing weather, floods, soybeans, finances. The women talk about their grandchildren, their homes, hair, travel. Before long everyone is teasing one another. It is a generous three hours before everyone retires.

Over the three days, amid our play activities, we learn all this: A cousin has been diagnosed with ALS, just like her sister and an aunt. We wonder if it is genetic. She encourages us; she doesn’t want us to be sad or worried. We check on one another: How is the paralyzed brother doing? How is the widowed cousin doing? A cousin’s service dog, presiding faithfully near his master, has apparently saved his master three times from epileptic seizures. A cousin prepares to move to a retirement community. My brother talks of why or why not to move from California’s Yosemite forest to Idaho. A cousin summarizes his long range plan to remain on his farm. We hear about Arizona winters, Nebraska floods, gardens, hearing aids. We praise the talents of grandchildren, their future plans, their unique personalities.

A cousin has moved from Colorado to Oregon to craft a new chapter in her life, possibly her final chapter, to be near her sons and their families. I say, “You are writing a new story.” She corrects me, “I’m not writing the story.” She faithfully follows the Lord’s direction for her life. She wants to emphasize this truth. She has always encouraged me in my own faith life, she being the more devout, me the more practical, slightly askew follower of faith, occasionally thinking, Really?

When I mention how hard my son works, that there aren’t enough doctors, that he tells me doctors are becoming disillusioned, my cousin’s daughter, a nurse at Mayo, speaks up and reinforces this point of view. There will not be enough medical practitioners in the future.

A group goes on a day hike. Another group goes rock climbing. Some men go on a fly fishing tour. Others hang out at the craft center. Cousins of my generation circle each morning at ten to share about our lives, what is happening, what might happen. We gravitate to memories of our early reunions on the farm when we were children, stories about our grand-parents, filling in blank spots. We played on the discarded farm implements in the woods. We took baths in a common tub. At Christmas everyone received a silver dollar. Cats weren’t allowed in the house. We drank water from a common dipper in an enamel pail, the water pumped from a well in the yard. Grandma cared for everyone in the years of tragedy. The affection and cohesion of those early years is like honey, sweet and tactile.

I open a bottle of wine one night with my niece, her husband, and my sister-in-law. Our stories fall into a comfortable space; we are the only ones who can understand them, no matter how many times we tell them to our friends, even our children.

Tuesday morning at 5:30am my phone trembles and clangs. I stumble out of bed, dress, and drive to the main family lodge. At 6am I’m to meet my brother, sister-in-law, niece and her husband. We volunteered to make breakfast for everyone. Rich, my cousin-in-law, has been up since 5 and has made the first pot of coffee. I’ve arrived ahead of my clan, who are, they say later, knocking on my door trying to rouse me, certain that I’ve slept through my alarm. I’m grateful for the coffee and Rich’s early morning silence. I begin pulling out skillets and pans. John flips pancakes on two griddles. Eileen and I bake 16 pounds of bacon and scramble six dozen eggs. Burt and Sharon cut up bananas and melons. Sharon lays out condiments, paper plates and bowls, cereal, yogurt, milk, syrup, and blueberries. She keeps the three carafes of coffee flowing. Ten hikers show up before seven. By 9am, everyone has been fed and Burt is scrubbing pots and pans.

The reunion is exactly as it was envisioned: it’s not a vacation, it is a reunion. It lasts three days and keeps us bonded, reminding us that we were and are loved, supported and supporting, accepted and accepting. In the meantime we are free to wear ourselves out wading through mountain streams, zip lining, or hiking. I took long walks and hung out in the art and craft center, quietly making earrings and necklaces. There is something for everyone to do. The anchor, however, is belonging.


* Any accurate accounting of our numbers might take awhile. When five of us tried to count the second generation cousins our totals disagreed: Fourteen! No, Sixteen! I think it’s eighteen. Wait, did you count Pam and Ronny? We’ve lost two. Exactly who are we counting? Start over. Let’s see. It’s eighteen! Eighteen! Are you sure? Yes. Wait. There were…and then…

** Dorothy Ann Rinne Hahn has written a complete history of our Jeffery family beginning in Cornwall, England. She will share this document within the family after she revises it with recent suggestions by family members.

The reunion photo of all 2019 attendees was taken by professional photographer Erika Trout Thompson, daughter of my cousin Wayne Trout and his wife Shirley.


What Means Water

In the summer of 1983 after I completed my masters degree, I decided to celebrate by taking my children on a westward camping tour. I bought a used pop up camper and borrowed a camper’s atlas. Between the green areas marking national parks and the homes of relatives, the trip could be done cheaply as long as we avoided lodging at places with nice beds and bathrooms. A campground with showers was a premium find, although almost any lake or river would do.

Between Kentucky and Colorado, water was abundant and clear. However, when we left Colorado, we entered long stretches of hot highway passing through dry land spotted with sage brush and scraggly junipers.

“Let’s find a river and cool off before lunch,” I suggested during a monotonous morning of driving.

The map showed an area near the highway where the Green River, a tributary of the Colorado River, passed through a state park. Anticipating a cool dip, we left the main highway. Asphalt soon narrowed to a dusty gravel road that stopped at a parking area identified as Green River State Park. There was a primitive toilet sheathed in wood slats and covered with a vented tin roof. A hand pump stood near a couple of picnic tables. A few cottonwood trees indicated the presence of water nearby.

When we walked to the river, we found a muddy ditch.

“A river? That isn’t a river!”

“And it sure isn’t green!”

“It’s the Mud River.”

“Well, at one time it must have been green,” I suggested. Mentally I speculated that ranchers had dammed the river and reduced its flow. Summer sun had evaporated what water remained.

We tried washing our hands and faces at the pump. A gush of water burst forth after energetic pumping then seized. We resorted to our five gallon water jug, made some punch, and ate sandwiches before retracing our path down the road to the highway and continuing on.

As a mother with two teenage girls and a preteen son, I had plenty of experience soothing disappointments. Any six week adventure with my crew was bound to present some difficulties. Outwardly I reframed disappointments with optimistic possibilities. “Mountains ahead!…Look! A US Forestry sign!…Just wait until you see the Grand Canyon!…Yosemite is awesome!” Inwardly, however, I questioned myself. Had I too hopefully entered into this trip?

Caught up in the newness of each day and its surprises, everyone so far had been a good sport. Another side tour to a mud hole might cause my cooperating kids to rebel.

Later that day we stopped for gas at a truck stop. A couple of vehicles were the only signs of civilization. A gritty wind blew from the south, our shorts flapped against our thighs, and our hair whipped across our faces. Inside the establishment we discovered pay showers. Each of the two showers was on a timer with a coin slot. A quarter provided a five minute spray of lukewarm water.

The showers were behind a lockable door. A noisy venting fan in the ceiling switched on with the lights. Stingy vinyl shower curtains hung from rods, but the prefab showers looked clean.

“I’m getting our towels and some soap. We are going to take showers!” I announced. I imagine they rolled their eyes at each other. I didn’t stop to see their reactions. Children are free to have their own conversations between each other without a parent listening. Besides, I was determined to demonstrate how refreshing a pay shower could be.

Like ducklings following Mother Duck, they fell in line, at first reluctant, then timid, until finally splashing and laughing and asking for more quarters.

The five minute blessings of soap and water at a truck stop had washed away more than sweat and dust. Our doubts had disappeared.

Somewhere beyond the rugged, salmon colored horizon line was our destination for the day, a place we had only seen in National Geographic and heard about from others. Finally, the highway began to twist until we were climbing switch backs toward the cooler regions of Mesa Verde.

The Green River’s mud and the truck stop’s showers are mostly a forgotten layer today. If I were to ask my adult children about that day, they might say, it didn’t happen that way. Nevertheless, I’m sticking to the story.

At home in Kentucky a small pond burbles next to the deck. We water plants every summer morning, take generous showers, and drink freely from faucets. We can be at Barren River Lake in only forty minutes. We vacation in the North Carolina Mountains near the French Broad River and its tributaries. We have arranged ourselves around the soothing sound of water. We experience a trusting and secure relationship with water. In our imaginations rivers are resources of refreshment, lined with cooling trees.

On that camping trip, we learned otherwise.

I like to think we were acting on faith, exercising a pattern of hope. We believed in the possibility of flowing water. When we found mud instead, we pushed on. We weren’t free of doubt, but we also didn’t cave in and turn back.

On Mesa Verde that night, cool breezes brushed at the trees around our campsite. A slight drizzle fell at dusk. We slipped into sleep. In the morning, sunshine and chilled air awakened us. After a breakfast of cereal and fruit, we toured the ancient ruins of people from the past who had carved a life out of the mesa’s cliffs and wet springs, safely above the unyielding dry land to the east.

It’s no surprise that in literature and song we find Justice flows like a river. We hunger and thirst for righteousness. We’ve got peace like a river. We’ve got joy like a fountain. Love like the ocean.

A Mothers’ Celebration

Today is Mother’s Day. I am with a daughter and her family, embraced in familiar routines, cocooned by my own motherhood with its myriad and layered roles, its history, even its unknowns.

There was a time when Mother’s Day caused me heartache, when I could not free myself of the grief of losing my own mother to tragedy eight days before I turned thirteen. For many years I did not go to church on Mother’s Day for fear of publicly sobbing, uncontrollable grief rising like a geyser to flood everyone around me and spoil the occasion. It was a selfish reaction, I believe, for my children loved me and showered me with understanding affection while I quietly went to the garden to trim roses and plant petunias.

Indeed, the cure for my inability to live comfortably with loss was the continued growth of my children’s adult lives, their voluminous selves, their developing families, the absolute repetition of nurturing love, its intensity, its familiarity. A simple blessing unfolding over and over.

I once feared I would die young and never see this unfolding. But that did not happen. I have lived and am still vibrant at 75 years old. I can attend college graduations and may even live to feel a great grand-child in my arms. This gift of life overwhelms me at times, welling up in my heart and radiating out in silly ways, dancing while cooking, humming while weeding, sometimes causing me to want to reach out and hug people unawares. How can I tell a friend this? That suddenly I want to embrace her and tell her how happy I’ve become!

Frankly, my experience is both ordinary and extraordinary. It will certainly resonate with others. What if we mothers and grandmothers would suddenly be thrown together in a great song fest of gratitude, dancing and embracing each other and our loved ones. Oh what a celebration that would be!

Photoshopping History

With today’s photography tools, my face can be replaced with yours. If a blemish appears, it can be retouched. If the flowers look bedraggled, I can renew them with digital fresh flowers.

Recently after the hanging of an exhibit of historical church photos, my friends and I saw that blackface masks were decorating the back wall in one picture. The 1960’s photograph is of a band called the Pantomime Band or PB. Two men are in drag, with faces painted like mimes. Musicians and singers are wearing red stripped blouses and shirts. They have skimmers on their heads. The PB Band possibly didn’t actually play their instruments but pretended, or mimed, using recorded music.

The purpose of the band was playful, innocuous, designed as a fun way to kick off a church campaign for annual pledges. They only “played” for two nights.

“Is that Lenny in drag?” Asked my friend. Eighty-eight years old, she remembers people who have long since departed. ‘

“Look, there’s Joe!” Said someone.

“No, that can’t be Joe. That’s Joe’s dad.”

The band’s photograph, resized and enhanced, had been touched many times, framed by the members of the church art board, and hung. No one had said anything about the five small masks in the picture—until after every photo had been hung and workers were cleaning up.

“That’s black face! You can’t hang this! You’ve got to take it down!”

I backed up. I think I said, “Noooo” as in “We can’t remove this photo; it’s necessary” mixed with “Oh no, how did I miss that. Let’s photoshop it.”

I don’t think he heard me. “Look, we have to take this one down. It’s black face,” he called out.

“What is it?” Asked my venerable friend, followed by a cacophony of five voices in unison.

“Oh no! It has to come down/Photoshop it out/It will have to come down/I didn’t see it/You can’t have this up/People will be upset/What will we do?/Take it down!”

“I’ll do it,” said a photographer.


“Photoshop it, erase them.”

And so, it was done. The digital photo with its masks on the wall was “shopped” and reprinted and placed over the original photo in its frame on the wall.

What are the philosophical implications of erasing historical documentation, even in a local photo?

In the 1960s’s in the United States, Martin Luther King and others were insisting on equal protection under the law, an end to separate but equal. An awakening of sensitivity to racism was on the rise, but probably not to the level to cause a small group at a Kentucky church to realize that black face as a stage decoration would offend viewers forty years later.

My husband joked, “I’m bothered by men in drag. I want those two queens erased.” We laughed. But men dressed in drag, pretending to be queens, could offend a transgender person, as in They were making fun of me and my people—Even if dressing in drag was considered comical at the time in the 60’s when transgender people were usually hidden and commonly ridiculed, before the rainbow movement arose, before people understood being gay or transgender to be a biological, natural fact of life.

Our collective memory of making fun of queer people cannot be erased, anymore than our memory of symbols of latent racial insensitivity like black face masks, separate water fountains, and the back of the bus.

A divorcee, resenting the over-large family portrait above her mantle, glued Abraham Lincoln’s face over her ex-husband’s face. We are amused by her act of defiance. She knows she had children with the man, ate breakfast with him, argued over the thermostat, put away his shoes. Covering his face emphasizes the irony of her situation.

It is impossible to know the inside story behind the masks in the Pantomime Band photograph since the only record we have is the original photograph of friends having a jolly good time pretending to be a band for a Christian fundraiser. They might have looked for mime masks but instead found black face ones. Hanging them was an Oh well what the heck choice.

History can be redacted, rewritten, omitted from new editions. Would an erasure be misunderstood, over time? Our photoshopped photo, with its masks removed sits on top of the original. It will be discovered someday. Someone might notice and be puzzled. Would the truth matter?

Maybe in 2019 the church didn’t want to advertise its 1960’s insensitivities. Or maybe someone objected to the black face masks. Either option could be true. Would one option be more acceptable than the other? Imagine someone thinking, They were ashamed of their racism, when in actuality five people feared black face masks in the original photograph would disturb a parishioner or visitor. To erase was a politically correct move, which might be interpreted as morally objectionable by a historian. The erasure choice is sensible within one context, but possibly disturbing and misunderstood in another situation and time.

If the image erased had been two water fountains side by side, one labeled “White” and the other “Colored” as if to erase our shame for waiting so long to come to our senses, someone would have said, “You can’t do that!”

Irony in history is like oxygen—everywhere.

A Nutty Season

Beginning in late autumn, walnuts blanket our lawns and flower beds with rotting black mushy balls the size of lemons. In June the nuts sprout under shrubs and in the grass like sneaky aliens. That is, IF the nuts are left undisturbed.

At our place, a mature black walnut tree spreads high and wide just off our deck along a fence line; another marks the front edge of our property and the entrance to our driveway. In the hot summer the trees give welcome shade. They also infect our soil with juglone, a chemical poisonous to most flowers, vegetables, and shrubs, even pine trees.

Sitting on our deck in June, a friend praised the back yard’s black walnut. “That is a gorgeous tree!” Graceful, extravagant, enormous, the tree survived a property line clean-out 30 years ago. When we couldn’t grow tomatoes within 50 feet of it, we moved the tomatoes. When a pine shrub died, we replaced it with a juniper. Zinnias instead of petunias. Hydrangeas instead of azaleas. We have definitely accommodated the tree.

In early November when we walk across the lawn and our feet roll and twist on freshly fallen nuts, we begin their removal. After filling a wheelbarrow with nuts, we cart them 200 yards to the back tree line where squirrels dine. We have been doing this for years, even though as we age and lose cells, the trees grow and gain cells, thus producing ever more nuts.

Two days ago, we finally finished tossing nuts into trash barrels, carting off nuts to squirrel piles, rolling up nuts, raking nuts, digging out nuts, driving over nuts.

We could hire someone to pick up the nuts or even to cut down the trees. So why are we still doing our own nut removal? Because we can is the simplest answer, but there is more to the story.

It’s about respect. The trees are prolific, provident.

It’s about cooperation, with each other and the trees. After all, walnuts fall only for two weeks while we have enough energy and will to rid ourselves of them, over time, an hour here, an hour there.

It’s about responsibility and reciprocity. The trees shade us, cool our yard, clean our air. In the deep woods, the walnuts could remain in place on the ground, but we have an artfully landscaped yard which requires consideration.

It’s about participation and attention. The trees participate in growing and giving naturally, without debate or analysis. They nourish and replenish. Tending to them and their fruit engages us.

This extended metaphor about black walnuts is intended to remind us how best to honor life, celebrate faith, practice peace, and acknowledge each other and our natural world with respect and kindness.

Seasons Greetings, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukkah, Blessings and Peace—Within these phrases are foundations of respect, cooperation, responsibility, reciprocity, and participation; repetitive allusions to deliverance and salvation; reminders of celebratory events, generosity, and renewal. Even if used carelessly, the phrases maintain their foundational intention.

There is a natural order to trees, life, and meaning, which begs our attention and care, even when we are distracted by disruptions and challenges. We respond, perhaps not joyfully, but tenderly, deliberately, faithfully, gratefully, patiently, because we can, because we must. We are more than ourselves. We all are.

New Mercies I See

You, God, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, and my foot from stumbling, so I’ll walk before the Lord in the land of the living. —Psalm 116:8-9

I’m surprised to find myself living still. When I was forty, I wondered how long I would have and how I would use that time. Circumstances had alerted me. I had been delivered from death, tears, and stumbling. Now what? I can’t say that I actually made a conscious list of goals, but I certainly was choosing a deliberate direction to walk before the Lord in the land of the living.

I learned to recognize God at work in my life—everyday—in communion with others. In my home love bloomed; with friends laughter and work flourished; in teaching love soothed adolescent behavior; reminders of god’s covenant spread like water.

Life was simpler than I had believed, made simpler by God’s presence in my beginning thoughts, my daily choices, my reactions.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’ve made mistakes, ridiculous ones. I have had my share of shameful moments. Intemperate outbursts. Painful and confusing sidetracks. Oops, try not to do that again! What is wrong with you, woman?! Get a grip!

Recently, one afternoon I was loading a cart of groceries into the trunk of my car. I was bone tired, overheated, thirsty. I needed to return my cart. Which way was faster, the front door of Kroger’s or the cart return in the parking lot?

A woman with two grandchildren was approaching. The children, dressed in school clothes, playfully pushed their grocery cart. The grandmother must have noticed my fatigue.

“Verona, take this woman’s cart back to the store for her.”

The sweet child, her hair in plaits, smiled and said, “Yes ma’am.”

“Watch the cars, now.” The cart was almost as tall as the child. A truck waited.

It was an ordinary act, simple, gracious, kind. God in the living.

I’m grateful to be among the living, to have witnessed love enacted in a Kroger parking lot. It reminded me again how our job as Christians is to see God at work in the world here and now and to join in that work. I like walking with the Lord here – in the land of the living.

Morning by morning new mercies I see.