I first read Where the Heart Is, by Billie Letts in high school. A few years later came a movie, well-cast and with a much-loved soundtrack, and it quickly became a favorite.
In a scene that never fails to leave me in tears, the spunky protagonist, Novalee, comforts her friend Lexi after the woman and her children suffer a horrific tragedy. Lexi asks what she’s supposed to tell her children about what happened to them, and Novalee responds:
“You tell them that our lives can change with every breath we take… and tell ’em to hold on like hell to what they’ve got: each other…… You tell them we’ve all got meanness in us, but we’ve got goodness too. And the only thing worth living for is the good. And that’s why we’ve got to make sure we pass it on.”
Simple words from a simple woman. True words.
Over the years, I’ve seen my share of meanness in people and the world itself. Selfish men who leave their families. Dark illnesses stealing joy and time from loved ones. Accidents leaving broken bones and broken relationships leaving shattered hearts.
On any given day, the news flows with stories of the evil and hurt in the world. Kidnappings, torture, and rape. Laws promoting hatred, intolerance, and discrimination. Rampant child prostitution. Thousands of children without families. Thousands without access to food, water, or basic medical care. War, violence, and endless refugees.
Sometimes, it seems like the ugliness is just too much
But we must remember, there is good too.
On Wednesday night, I sat in a room surrounded by family and friends as we waited on my sister to deliver her first baby. Due to some complications, there was a C-section, and even though we all knew how mundanely standard a procedure, how completely routine…there was tension. Brows furrowed as “what ifs?” crossed minds, and we shared funny childhood stories, cracked jokes, buried ourselves in cell phones—anything to speed the unknowing moments.
And then, we knew. A nurse threw the door open and entered our little room with this perfect miracle.
7 lbs, 5 oz. Long fingers, big feet, full lips, my sister’s nose. Healthy. A new realm of endless possibility held inside all that she might become. So much love created with her first breaths.
The tension escaped in a collective gasp of awe. Tears fell in thankfulness for the good. So much good.
I can’t speak for the others, but I find it overwhelming to hold a new baby. As I trace tiny fingers, I’m overcome by the power of my Creator; I’m humbled to hold His work.
And so to my niece, I say:
Welcome to this world, baby girl. I can’t promise that life will always be easy; in fact, I can guarantee that it won’t. People will crush your heart (and your sweet Mama will have to hold your Daddy back from crushing their bones.) There will be disappointments, frustrations, pain, and sadness. But there will also be so much joy, and I hope that you learn early to fight for the good. I hope you learn that laughter (and warm cookies) can cure many ills. I hope you learn to love and serve others with the same grace as your mama, and that you stand up for your beliefs with your daddy’s tenacity. I look forward to watching you and Ellie play pretend games together and build entire worlds….as your mama and I did so long ago. (Note: you ARE allowed to bungee-jump Barbies off the balcony. She did!) There are so many stories to tell you, songs to teach you, surprising dance moves to coax out of your mama, and delectable desserts to taste from Nana. So much joy, little girl! But above all, I hope you come to know just how much you are loved by this crazy family you’ve been born into, but even more by the God who created you, a reminder of all that is good.
Love, Aunt Camille