Slices of Hope

Embracing life and all the journey holds

When You Hold the Difficult Pieces Together

We can choose to hold difficult pieces together,
And work toward fully living… for all.

Breathe when life feels full and hope seems impossible,
When the heaviness of life, of reality, becomes overwhelming, heartbreaking.
Breathe as you grieve and feel uncertain,
When you consider holding difficult pieces together,

Breathe as you discern
A delicate balance of knowing when and how to speak up
And when and how to listen and learn.

One awful situation after another.
People hurt.
Lives lost.
Families forever changed.
Trauma, loss, and fear injected into precious human beings.

All around, people process.
Some grieve.
Others go numb.
Some question.
Others deny.
Still others draw lines.

We’ve become such a people of either/or…
Dog person or cat person,
Democrat or Republican,
Pro-(you fill in the blank) or Anti- (you fill in the blank),
Faithful or unfaithful,
Of good means or without,
Able or unable,
All too often its one or the other.

I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable with either/or rhetoric that boxes, inflames, shuts down conversation, and paralyzes action.

After the events of last week, Trevor Noah from South Africa, spoke boldly how odd America is that the conversation gets framed as pro-black or pro-cop… as if we have to make a choice and cannot hold both as high values.

That is just one example, but
God have mercy!
May we strive for both/and.
Experiences are both difficult and important.
We can have good intentions and also hurt others.

Help us unpack the words and labels and attempts to draw greater understanding.
Can we determine the necessity of holding difficult pieces together,
Rather than stripping them down for convenience?
Can we say yes to investing in all parts that promote wholehearted living for all persons?
Can we place value on doing the hard work of having complicated and uncomfortable conversations,
Speaking up when rhetoric becomes hateful, hurtful, blaming, and dehumanizing in any way?

Brene Brown says, “Instead of feeling hurt we act out our hurt. Rather than acknowledging our pain, we inflict it on others.  Neither hate nor blame will lead to the justice and peace that we all want – it will only move us further apart.  But we can’t forget that hate and blame are seductive.  Anger is easier than grief.  Blame is easier than real accountability.  When we choose instant relief in the form of rage, we’re in many ways choosing permanent grief for the world.”

It’s all too easy to succumb to the negativity, fear, and blame.
YET, many people are doing the hard work of overcoming.
There are offerings of hope not despair.
There are surprising acts of kindness and gestures of togetherness happening.

This post provided a powerful example of moving beyond the either/or rhetoric, of acknowledging pain and choosing to move together versus apart:

Facebook story

The past several weeks held many moments to simply breathe and listen to people who are deeply hurting from the either/or mentality which is more convenient than healthy, more pious than empowering. I deliberately sought examples – those slices of hope – that represented something far different, that spoke of faith and belief and attitudes and efforts working toward truth, hope, safety, and love for self and neighbor and all.

And I heard slices of hope in young and old, persons of all walks of faith and life, people striving to break through and hold both/and even though it feels uncomfortable and complicated.

It was evident with…

The black woman who is both mother of two sons and cop on the street, reminding us that we can all do better to work toward justice.

Muslim friends reaching out to those so deeply hurting within their community and beyond.

Our children who listen and learn and sort through the rhetoric around them.

Our youngest son through adoption, Hispanic by birth, keenly aware of prejudice and unkindness yet remarkably compassionate to all he meets.

The friend from the LGBTQ community acknowledging she needs time to grieve all the hatred and hurt yet actively reaching out to the many who are hurting and offered hope, a call for peace and greater understanding.

The man who openly confessed his need to stop watching, digesting, breathing in the awfulness of faux news that frequently made him feel more angry, more eager to blame, more cynical, and more willing to paint a picture that was far from the truth.

A gracious family member who lives out his faith through kindness, truth-seeking, use of resources and energy to see the big picture, and sharing in the most generous ways with all who cross his path.

And then, I remembered a story that Richard Rohr shared about broken truth.  A little digging, drew me to the children’s book, Old Turtle and the Broken Truth by Douglas Wood.  It tells of “how the world came to be so fragmented when it is meant to be whole and how we might put it back together again.”  Here’s the summary provided by Richard Rohr…

In a far-away land that “is somehow not so far away,” one night a truth falls from the stars. And as it falls, it breaks into two pieces—one piece blazes off through the sky and the other falls straight to the ground. One day a man stumbles upon the gravity-drawn truth and finds carved on it the words, “You are loved.” It makes him feel good, so he keeps it and shares it with the people in his tribe. The thing sparkles and makes the people who have it feel warm and happy. It becomes their most prized possession, and they call it “The Truth.” Those who have the truth grow afraid of those who don’t have it, who are different than they are. And those who don’t have it covet it. Soon people are fighting wars over the small truth, trying to capture it for themselves.

A little girl who is troubled by the growing violence, greed, and destruction in her once peaceful world goes on a journey—through the Mountains of Imagining, the River of Wondering Why, and the Forest of Finding Out—to speak with Old Turtle, the wise counselor. Old Turtle tells her that the Truth is broken and missing a piece, a piece that shot off in the night sky so long ago. Together they search for it, and when they find it the little girl puts the jagged piece in her pocket and returns to her people. She tries to explain, but no one will listen or understand. Finally, a raven flies the broken truth to the top of a tower where the other piece has been ensconced for safety, and the rejoined pieces shine their full message: “You are loved / and so are they.” And the people begin to comprehend. And the earth begins to heal.

Perhaps you are trying to put the pieces together.
Perhaps you are pausing and listening.
Perhaps you are sorting and learning.
Perhaps you have been hurt or reaching out to those who have been hurt.
Perhaps you have heard or witnessed hopeful gestures or words.
Perhaps you have been a slice of hope to those around you.

How are you navigating this space?

For several years, I’ve had the following quote from the Talmud inside my journal:
“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly now. Love mercy now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”

Talmud quote - do our part

May we rejoin the pieces, and let the message shine their full message:
You are loved and so are they.
May we do our part.

May the earth begin to heal…

I shared here how we would navigate the awfulness and awesomeness of life and ask questions and process everyday lives.  Thank you to all who contribute to this in a positive way!


  1. Michelle Steffen

    July 16, 2016 at 11:06 am

    Thank you. These are words of healing.

  2. Once again, Heidi, you have written so beautifully. It is either or mentality that has broke my heart more than once. If we could only reach out more to try the both/and, I know we would find that truly listening to the other is not so scary and terrible.


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