Finn, hydrangeas and Peter…with real connections we are more bloomy & less thorny.



Two stories collided for me this week. Hang with me as I weave them together.  My mind mostly feels like a hamster running through a maze but hopefully, I can bring you to the piece of cereal at the end.

I oddly bounced to this metaphor because we have Finn living with us now. His little cage in the den, he is a part of the family. Maggie trained Finn, a Syrian hamster bred specifically for this purpose, in a psychology class this spring.  He is fluffy and fat and happy and darling and loves climbing along our arms and snuggling in the creases of an elbow. I love little Finn!



He was going to be euthanized unless he found a home, which, I guess is typical of lab rodents so of course Maggie had to bring him to Charlotte!

Finn was trained to climb up the cage walls, across the top upside down like a monkey to reach the opening and climb out for a piece of cereal. Unless you leave the top open, which I have done, all is well. One night we were watching TV and Matt, who is also living with us for the summer, casually said Finn is out.

I love Finn and I really love him the best in the confines of his cage.



Anyway, my mind is like Finn’s I think, always climbing upside down and looking for cereal. So bear with me and we’ll get there.

The hydrangeas in my yard are exquisite this year. I don’t know why. Neighbors ask what I fed them over the winter. My typical response is I wouldn’t even know how to feed a flower. That would be Mother Nature and the way she nurtured and nourished them this year was picture perfect.

Sometimes I grow pathetic flowers and kill as many as not. I forget to water them or plant them in the wrong place without full shade or part shade or part sun or full sun. It is all so complicated and I really shouldn’t be given such life or death responsibilities. That should be left to real grown-ups. Most days I’m not sure I fit that profile.

I was looking at these flowers today and it reminded me of the story told in church Sunday.  It was of Peter coming upon a lame man at the temple door. This man and his cot were brought to the temple every day by his family to beg.

I am going to interject something here. In the story, the man is referred to as the “beggar”.  I can’t do that – I can’t call him a beggar. He is a man that begs. Begging doesn’t define him.  That word says to the world he only begs and has no other value. So, for the sake of giving this man some form of dignity, he is now cot man.

First off, can you imagine your family taking your cot to the temple door and leaving you there to beg, everyday? That is your lot in life?

I was thinking about that man and so many of the rumpled invisible beings on the street corners and sidewalks begging in our towns. Who sees them as fully human? I’ll admit, I pass by many routinely and hardly notice and sometimes, and this is really hard to share, if I am going into Starbucks to buy a $5 cup of coffee, I feel guilty and don’t make eye contact on purpose. Just as I am sure a multitude passed this man on his cot as they hurried into the temple to pray. Did they see him lying on his blankets? His skin coated with red road dust?

Peter did. Peter noticed. He commanded cot man to look at him. Peter looked into the man’s eyes. I wonder how that felt, to be seen?  Someone for whom life is passing by. Peter held out his hand as an invitation and the crumbled man took it. He was touched.

Have you reached out and touched one of the folks sitting on the sidewalk? How often do strangers touch them, I wonder?

Cot man got up and walked. It seems that many folks who read this think walking was the miracle. And it was no small feat, for sure.  The way it was it was shared with us, the fact that human connection created healing was the miracle. I’m not a biblical scholar AT ALL but that seems credible.

Acknowledging shared humanity and the power of being seen and warmth of being touched are miraculous.

Connection made the man whole.

So goes our wholeness.

These two pieces in my world, days apart, the flowers and the cot man, found their way into my thoughts as I fell asleep. What am I doing in my world to form connections with value placed on another simply because we are both human?

At Maggie’s graduation, a remarkable man, Dr. Bob Bryant, gave the commencement speech.   He shared,

Humans are relational beings. They are so relational that they can relate to everything in creation, from mosquitoes to elephants, from quarks to galaxies. No other organism in creation can relate like humans can to creation. So the fundamental question here is not “whether or not you will relate to others.” The question, rather, is “what kind of relationships will you have?”

No other organism in creation can relate like humans.  A statement and a challenge, What kind of relationships will you have?

It would make sense then that a touch or another intentionally looking you in the eye could be life giving and life changing.  I know for me, it catches me off guard a little when a stranger meets my eyes and says something kind. I feel it deep in a syrupy place in my chest. There are times it can bring me to tears.  A stranger’s kindness can be a day changer.  Obviously, for cot man, it was a life changer.

I think we are supposed to love on each other and create miracles in our little corner of the world.  Release the judgement and lift each other up for the simple fact that we are all here struggling and crawling and doing our best, right? Longing to be liked.  That sounds glorious and wonderful and obvious but what is the reality?

I am checking myself. What am I doing for the people I encounter, the gaggle of folks living in my house or the grocery store clerk or indeed, the woman with all her possessions in a bag sitting on the sidewalk near the Starbucks?

Am I nurturing their soil and doing my part to create full bushes of hydrangea blooms?

These few days of introspection have been a fabulous reminder of how hungry we all are to be in relationship. With the country in its current state of rancor, I think realizing we are humans first and all have a basic need for connection, love and acceptance might help us be a little more bloomy and little less thorny, creating wholeness and daily miracles.

Bloom on, brave ones!