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The On Being Project

In Sharing Our Grief and Discontent We Find Redemption

While my colleagues and I are rounding out the final days of our holiday, I share these three marvelous essays from three superb writers: Kao Kalia Yang, Kaya Oakes, and Lori Lakin Hutcherson.

(Emily Moy / Flickr / © All Rights Reserved)

Kao Kalia Yang | When Relatives Die They Became Ancestors
I rarely sob anymore. But I found myself, somewhat embarrassingly, sitting in my office in the early morning hours and weeping while editing Kalia’s essay about her aunt dying:

“I heard the crack in my own mother’s voice, felt her love reaching out to me from the warm cell phone in my hands, and I carried with my heart the knowledge that Auntie was dying, surrounded by love and sadness, for these things were inseparable; they were the strings that tied us to each other and to life.

My little girl, three going on four, was with me in the car, tucked in her car seat in the back of the minivan, feet dangling in her pink crocs. She saw that I was weeping after the call.”

Kalia’s words softened my heart that day. I hold a deep appreciation for her Hmong culture’s expansive sense of family and ancestors connecting us to the ones we most cherish in perpetuity:

“I could fall into rest, knowing that I was not alone, had never been alone, and would never be alone, for I was the product of at least a thousand people’s work, their lives and their legacies. I was a vision child, born from their perspective, armed with their histories, out to create our shared future.

In the remembering, I found the strength to turn off the engine of my car, wipe away my tears, go to the back of the car, unbuckle my daughter from her seat, and pull her close, feel the warmth of her arms around me, the beat of her bird’s heart against my chest. I found the love I’ve always known was there in a world that turns and turns so fast that sometimes it leaves us reeling. My world steadied.”

We’re never alone.

(Omar Prestwich / Unsplash / Public Domain Dedication (CC0))

Kaya Oakes | Complaining Is a Necessary Part of Spiritual Life
The rabbit hole of comment threads delivers one to unexpected places, and that’s how we learned about Kaya’s ideas about the spirituality of complaint. To her, kvetching is an absolutely vital part of her spiritual practice as a Catholic — and as a reader of Russian literature and the Book of Job. So we invited her to expound on this theme for our Public Theology Reimagined initiative:

“Aside from Russian literature and the Bible, however, I find an outlet for my spiritual complaints in a group of friends. A decade ago, some older women from my former parish invited me to join their prayer group, but with a caveat: I had to come prepared to hear complaints. My friend Paula refers to it as ‘pray and bitch.’ We pray together, and we complain together, usually about some issue in the Catholic Church.”

(Atsushi Nishijima / © All Rights Reserved)

Lori Lakin Hutcherson | What I Said When My White Friend Asked for My Black Opinion on White Privilege
Lori’s letter captured the imagination of hundreds of thousands of readers this past week and is generating vigorous discussion in the comments section. Well worth reading, engaging, and sharing at a time when we need it most.

I may be on the open road, but I still like like to connect! Send me a message at [email protected] or via Twitter at @trentgilliss.

May the wind always be at your back,

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