Humans all start out so charming.
No matter what we grow up to be, we all start out as sweet, squishy bundles with big eyes and those tiny, curled-up fingers. Charming.
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Sometimes I look at the sea of grown-up-people around me and try to imagine their stressed-out selves as chubby little babies, to remember the softness inside them. It makes the day more fun, for one thing.
A couple of weeks ago, we had a baby-and-kiddo dedication at our church. Families stand up in front of all the folding chairs, and Kate, who is one of our pastors, tells those little people true things about who they are.
Then she asks us if we will remind them, too.
She asks us if—when the world tells them they’re too much and not enough—if we will remind them that they are loved and they are love. If we will show them how to be brave and be kind.
We say yes, of course, and I cry. I always cry.
They’re just so beautiful, those babies who stare back at our ragamuffin congregation more than a little bewildered, like they’re still wondering, How did I get here?
“Here” might mean up there in front under the fluorescent lights, but it might also mean “on this cold and curious planet.” I still feel like that every day. How did I get here? And what is up with this place?
And then there are the families—the parents and brothers and sisters and grandparents and other assorted humans, so brave and so sleep-deprived. (I don’t care how old their kids are, the parents are sleep-deprived. Parenting is a forever kind of sleep deprivation because you are always on call and just a little bit alert, even if you go to bed at reasonable hours.)
They can’t do this alone, this lifelong work of pointing their babies toward goodness and light. It’s too big of a job, and they are too tired.
They need all of us.
She wrote about a quote from The West Wing: Trust the captain, trust the crew.
Anne’s captain, she says, is “God, Goodness, Love with a capital L,” and the crew, of course, is us: “my pit crew of beloved family and friends, my recovery community, our dogs and cats, you, me, our best selves, our scared selves, our sacred selves.”
Trust the captain, trust the crew.
If you aren’t the captain, you don’t have to control the universe, so that is good news right there.
I am not the captain. I sometimes think I would like to be, but every time I try it, I remember very quickly why I should not be the captain. (I do not have that skill set. It does not end well.)
So my job is not to be the captain of the world. And my job is not to be the whole crew, either. My task is to do my one little crew job, which inevitably looks less glamorous than all the other crew jobs, but I trust it’s somehow necessary, or at least mildly helpful.
One of my tiny crew jobs is gratitude.
I am thankful that we are together on this ship, even if I don’t really understand it. And I am thankful that I am not the captain, or the whole crew.
One of my jobs is to remind the other crew members that they are loved, because love is the fuel that keeps the whole ship sailing.
One of my jobs is to actually love the crew, and not just the cute ones, either.
And one of my jobs is what Anne said in the first place: to trust.
To trust that we’re all doing our best, on this great floating bathtub of a ship. To be kind, because I trust that everyone else is having the same difficulty I am having: the difficulty of not being the captain, and not being too sure about this whole ship, and having to trust the rest of the crew along the way. These are not insignificant difficulties.
But when I really look closely—when I quit imagining everyone else is doing something more exciting than me—it seems that most of the crew is doing more or less the same thing I’m doing, which looks like trying our best to be helpful, in our own ways.
(When they’re not being helpful, I remember their little baby selves. Cute. Colicky. In need of a diaper change, maybe. There might be an explanation for their behavior, is all I’m saying.)
And if I let them, the rest of the crew always does what I need most, which is to point my charming little self back toward goodness and light. I know I can’t do that alone.
It’s too big of a job, and I am too tired.
I need all of us.
We all need all of us.
Trust the captain. Trust the crew. We don’t have to do this alone.