My Latino friends who taught me how to (really) play checkers called it a “chanchito” (piggy) when you were able to trap your opponent’s piece so it could not move.
The distinctive checkerboard decor of the Checkers where I wait outside for a burger reminds me of those long ago days at the drop-in center playing games, trying to build peace between gangs.
At an elementary school across the street, I hear the screams of children at recess. I resist the urge to reach for my phone which is my goto habit when I am waiting. I would simply obsess over the news of the most recent school shooting.
Instead, I try to remain present to this moment of waiting. I feel the sun’s caress on my face. I think of life and checkers. I ponder why there seem to be no kings on this checkerboard, why it seems we all are chanchitos trapped in an endless cycle of violence.
I listen intently to the joy of children at play.
I mourn the loss of the moments of lucidity.
When the words run like liquid gold. When joy envelopes me. When clarity ceases to be a mystery.
Then Elegiac spreads its wings and my vision falls once again into the shadows.
What I saw disappears and I am left wandering through the rest of the day stumbling like a blind man after elusive Braille.
I am so tired. Yet I cannot let go of what I thought I glimpsed beyond the veil.
Another winged companion joins Elegiac. It alights upon my other shoulder, a weight so heavy and cold that it seeps into the very marrow of my bones.
Its name is Lethargy.
God’s truths often arrive in strange packages.
Like the song by Foreigner I have been blasting on my truck’s stereo this past week.
It’s called Soul Doctor.
“I need to see the soul doctor
Before the fever begins
You know I’m searching for the soul doctor
When love is wearing thin
Doctor soul is in.”
Depression is not simply something in the mind. It is also what the Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross described as “the dark night of the soul.”
So on hard days, I’m searching for a soul doctor.
Rather than crawling into a mental hole or pretending everything is okay, I am learning to pray and accept that I am never alone.
Jesus promised to never leave or forsake me. And often, after these dark nights of the soul, joy does come in the morning.
Which means I can hang a sign outside my heart that says, “Dr. Soul is in….”
the sun is a warm friend upon my face
a constant reminder of daily grace
the morrow has enough worries of its own
and the seeds of yesterday have already been sown
now all i have is this day
to wonder at what may come my way
the stuff of life its joy and pain
warm friend sunshine cool friend rain
Consider it pure joy when you face trials of every kind for those who sow in tears will reap songs of joy and the joy of the Lord is your strength, which is renewed when you wait on the Lord for strength and joy are in the Lord’s dwelling place.
(from James, Isaiah, 1 Chronicles, Psalms, and Nehemiah)
The remnants of festivity
are a reminder to me
that the joy of existence
need not be a victim of circumstance.
Within the fabric of living
run the threads of giving
even though sorrow
may dawn with the morrow.
To have a be-attitude
enfolded with gratitude
within what I cannot change
into what will rearrange.
A time of play awaits
if I choose to participate.
Take time out from the serious
and get totally delirious!
half of my face is numb
it’s been that way since the morning
tongue frozen like I’m dumb
a silent nerveless forewarning
a life of novacaine
can be a tempting adorning
but a leprous heart without pain
feels neither joy nor mourning
we are tired
the guests have come
the celebration has ended
the decorations put away
for another year
the smile on her face
is worth all of the time
we’ve spent and
The walls of this old farm house are paper thin like the chambers of a heart that tries to keep the laughter in.
Next door two girls giggle in whispered conversation.
Sometimes encounters from very different worlds result in joy for a little while.
I close my eyes and fall asleep with a grateful smile.