Thursday, January 28, 2010

Why is Everyone so Angry?

They were being obvious about it. And in Starbucks of all places. Not to everyone of course, but to a trained observer like me it was clear that they weren't happy. (Him: I thought you wanted to order something light. Her: I did. I married you. Him: Why would you say that? Her: Because I'm so happy.) They were about forty five, him in a blue suit, and her wearing a dark skirt and white blouse and a glittering necklace that appeared to be made up of tiny disco balls. They continued their sniping in front of the barista, who was pointedly ignoring their little war. When they were finished I stepped forward and ordered in a friendly, responsible manner. I asked about the price increase. Wasn't the coffee expensive enough already? The barista was polite and said she didn't drink coffee. How can you work at Starbucks and not drink coffee I asked her. She seemed uncomfortable, but I reassured her there were many things on the menu. I still felt sorry for the girl having to deal with the rude couple in front of me, who were clearly very angry and taking it out on others. The barista handed me my coffee, but I asked her to fill it up a bit more. What were they teaching these young people nowadays? Couldn't they make a simple coffee? I smiled and told her that the coffee wasn't worth the new price, but the free refills meant that it was still affordable. She looked kind of sick as I said goodbye and I frowned at the couple now sitting at a table. Look what they'd done. Idiots.

I spent the next hour trying to write, but every time I looked up, the angry couple was either exchanging silent glares or condescending looks at some of the other patrons. The nerve. I packed up my laptop, and shot them a look as I left, just to make sure they knew that I knew what it was they were doing and that I didn't approve. On my way home, a blue civic crossed in front of me, and I laid on the horn to let them know I didn't appreciate it. I waited anxiously at the light on the final turn, waiting to turn left and still upset about being cut off. Thankfully, I was at the front of the line. There were so many bad drivers! What were they doing, just handing out driver's licenses now? Was it possible to have just a single, peaceful day filled with people raised properly. With manners? A horn sounded and I looked up, realizing too late that my advance green arrow had flashed a few seconds ago and was already turning yellow. I slammed my Yaris into gear and turned the corner, surprised when the driver behind me whipped past me as I straightened out, giving me the finger. I glared at him, but didn't respond. I was too polite for that kind of garbage. What was he doing, anyway? I'd made a simple mistake. It wasn't a big deal. I shook my head as I pulled into our underground parking. It was like an epidemic, I thought. So many angry people.

When I walked in, my wife greeted me with a hug and then stepped back.

"What's wrong?"

"Oh, just people. The usual." I said.

"No. Not that. Why are you so angry?"


When I was young it was easy to spot people who were angry. They were the ones with the red faces and loud voices. The people who were quiet and respectful were the ones in control. I always wanted to be one of the quiet people, someone able to withstand anything without losing control, but I was never really good at it. Controlling my emotions was a kind of pipe dream, and I'd be laughing hysterically one moment, and a few minutes later, shaking with anger. Sometimes it was directed at other people. Sometimes at myself. When I was fifteen I pulled myself from basketball practice because I wasn't playing as well as I thought I should. The coach forced me to go back in because we only had nine guys, and you needed ten to scrimmage. I was mad at him for about a week.

I used to look up to the leaders at school, the tall, cool guys who wore double earrings and always had girls around them, and tried to imitate them. I got pretty good at it, too. I'd swear and curse and try not to let anything touch my emotions.

Everything was cool.


No worries.

All good.

By not caring, I raised my stock, and more important, my level of control. But then something would happen. I'd notice the way the football guys were ignoring one of the bench guys on the team, or spend some time with the 'un-cool' members of the school band, and my façade would falter. Liking people sucked. When I exposed the part of me that cared, it inevitably got stomped on. It was as if my anger was a shield. Not a good shield though, because after a while being 'cool' kind of sucked, too. I had this kind of empty thing going on inside that was okay when people were around, but when I was alone, it was really lonely.


I was never a big fan of the news when I was a kid. It was so boring. In fact, it seemed impossible to make it more boring. A pretty head looking into the camera and talking with pictures over their shoulder. I could never figure out why so many adults watched that stuff. It wasn't like the news changed. Someone died. Someone stole something. Someone missing. Comments from government people about why the other government people were jerks and totally wrong and why they were great people and patriotic and completely right. Someone else dying. Someone else missing. A squirrel or a dog on water skis. Weather. And then sports, which they put last to make sure that everyone heard all of the boring stuff first.

But since I'm an adult now, at least according to my birth certificate, I try to watch the news. Fortunately, it's much more exciting these days. Sometimes they have the news readers sit in a semi circle. Or they put them behind the desk or a couch. The big change though, is how often they argue. My favorite is Fox News because whenever I flip to it someone is accusing someone else of something horrible and it's all very dramatic. The past year I've been following the story about the whole Boston Tea Party thing. These people keep gathering outside the White House and accusing the President of being Hitler and everyone moving to Germany or something. I'm not sure why they keep gathering, but from what I can tell there are thirty million Americans who want to go to the hospital and these people don't think they should go. Fox keeps interviewing these people who get red and spit into the camera and shake their fist. They're angry, and I guess that's not good, but it sure makes exciting television. The problem is that even the people who aren't on television are angry. According to my wife though, some days I'm angry too, and what I can't figure out, is why.


I'd been in ministry for about four months when my senior pastor first used the word 'potential.' "You have great potential, Steve. The most I've ever seen." Since he'd been a pastor for about a hundred and seventy years (he was pretty old) and worked in twenty different countries, I took it as high praise. All I had to do now, I remember thinking, was fulfill my potential. I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do exactly, but if I worked hard enough, I knew that I could do it. Back then, I was young and all about changing the world. I was serious about it, too. If someone asked me what I was doing, I told them that I was changing the world. Sometimes people frowned when I said it, but I figured they were lazy and not as talented as I was, so I ignored them. Most of the people in my congregation clapped when I said I was changing the world. They encouraged me and told me I had great potential.

The thing about changing the world is that while it's a really good idea, it's a lot of work. I mean, wow, it's tiring. And people who know you're changing the world and who are supposed to be on your side never seem to realize that they have to do their part. I remember this time we were supposed to have a board meeting for the so-called church leaders, but two of them couldn't make it so they cancelled THE ENTIRE MEETING. What? I was furious, and I stormed into my senior pastor's office to question him about it. No big deal, he said. Well, what about punishment? Should these people even be leaders? He smiled and said that I needed to be patient. Patient? How could we be patient? The world was dying and everyone was going to burn for all eternity and the world would never ever change if we kept up at this glacial pace! We were trying to change the world! Wasn't that God's plan, the one you preached every Sunday? That we were God's only option to save humanity? He smiled and told me to go home, but I was really mad.

For the next year and a half, I worked harder than ever, but eventually I left the church because changing the world was too hard. Some people tried to reassure me that the church wasn't all about numbers, but everyone knew that was what the losers always said. If "you weren't growing, you were dying". That's why the best selling books for ministers were always written by winners with massive congregations and wives that looked like movie stars. I wasn't even sure that I'd helped the members of my small group, let alone the world. What I did know was that I hadn't fulfilled a single bit of my great potential. I was a failure. A lot of people were going to burn and stink like ash and be in pain for all eternity because I hadn't done my part.

After that it became tough to do any kind of ministry. I had all of this potential, so many people had told me so, and yet I didn't know what to do with it and was terrified to waste it. I was still excited about changing the world, but less then I had been. I'd start a new ministry or a new venture and then watch helplessly while other people dismantled it because they couldn't commit or didn't want to commit or thought there were better ideas worth pursuing. Sometimes I shot the idea down myself because I didn't want to do anything less than fulfilling my great potential or got busy or changed my mind. It was pretty frustrating to watch the world reject your attempt to change it, so I just kind of stopped.


Not everybody wants to change the world. Some people think that the world is perfect the way it is now. I don't know any of these people, but I'm sure they exist. Most of us though, are uncomfortable sometimes, whether it's the government or relationships or race relations or gender prejudice or something else. If you listen to talk shows, which I only recommend if you're inebriated or super mellow, most listeners are interested in going back. You know, back to when things were really different. Of course, no one ever wants to go forward. Going forward means stuff will change, and most of us don't want that. So we're kind of stuck. Can't go back. Don't want to go forward. And we all want our lives to change.

I think being human often feels like you're wearing the wrong clothes. Either they're too small or too big or belong to someone else. And for all the solutions that we offer one another, it always comes down to how much we're willing to spend. Even then, the Gucci life is just as uncomfortable as the Goodwill life, because the sizes they offer are all the same.

And none of them fit.


A couple of years ago I had to go this retreat for one of my courses at Seminary. It was a Catholic retreat center, but our school rented it out and they didn't ask us what we believed, which was fortunate because we didn't really agree with the Catholics about anything important. Talk about a church that was irrelevant. And boring. They still sang hymns from a hymnbook, and expected you to say the same stuff every week. Going to Mass was like watching a newscast from the 1970's. If they could sign up Will Ferrell to be a priest, then they'd have something, but as it was, completely irrelevant.

Still, the place was nice. Quiet. No TV or radio or internet. No buzz on the latest news or movie updates or celebrity arrests. On the Sunday, they even scheduled a five hour segment where we supposed to go five hours without speaking. Some of the other students, many of whom were already pastors, saw how ridiculous this idea was and brought their cell phones, using the quiet time effectively to catch up on their Facebook and call their work and text their friends. I hadn't brought my cell phone, so I ended up walking around with a couple of my friends quietly by the lake. Like I said, I wasn't thinking. I had a lot more catching up to do the next day when we got back.


Sometimes I'm amazed that Christianity exists. By any account, Jesus was a total failure. He only had twelve guys following him, and pretty much everyone abandoned him when the Romans killed him. That all turned around when he came back to life and showed them the holes in his hands from the nails. That kind of story spreads pretty quick. I think about that sometimes because I think it would be cool if I could be like Jesus. I'm pretty sure that I could help twelve people. Unfortunately, I'm not the Son of God so I've been adding as many friends as I can on my Facebook and working hard to expand my influence. It kind of sucks though, because every time I open my email or MySpace or Facebook, I think of so many people I haven't written in a while and feel guilty about it. I really want to help more people, do a better job caring about people, but most of the time – between work and writing and my wife – I don't seem to have much time. All this great potential that God gave me is wasting away, and now that I'm older I can't just say that it will happen in the future. Today is the future. When I think about it too much I get upset and don't want to help anyone.


Andy Crouch is this writer I really like. He says a lot of smart things in a way that's easy for someone like me to understand. Anyway, he says that part of the reason we're so angry is that we're always looking for more power. He says that when we say we want to change the world, what we're really saying is that we want to change the culture. He compares Mother Theresa and Princess Diana, who died the same week. He says that both of them had cultural power, but that most of us want Diana's power. We all want to be a beautiful and rich princess, but for most of us that will never happen. He also says that anyone can have Mother Theresa's power, which would be much less frustrating, but that most of us don't want it because it means we have to be servants and give up late night television and eating out.


"I guess I'm just frustrated." I said to my wife, trying to answer her question honestly.

"But why?"

"Because I feel…" My voice trailed off as I thought about why I was so angry. Unlike my younger days, I have a great deal of control now when I'm upset. Instead of lashing out, I swallow the anger and do my best to bury it. I don't want to hurt people, and I don't want to take it out on anyone either. But anger always seems to find a way out if we don't face it. If we are unwilling to hold it up and examine where it comes from and why it's there, it will come out, whether we like it or not.

I've spent a great deal of time lately looking at the source of my anger, and doing my best to reconcile some of my beliefs with the realities and tragedies of life. I'll be honest; I'm not sure how I'm doing. The self help books talk a lot about the "source" of our anger, which I think is a bit of hooey because most of us know why we're angry, we're just too scared or too worried about the consequences to admit it. When I think about what people go through each day and why we act the way we do, I'm not convinced that finding the source of our anger is about blame. About who put it there. This is true whether it was an institution, like a school or a church, or something more personal like our parents or a bad romantic relationship. I think that's only part of it. Instead, I'm inclined towards the notion that our anger must be understood as a blend of cultural and personal expectations, both failed and achieved, along with the ridiculous amount of personal tragedies that make up the human experience. I also believe that it's something of a lifelong process, which, no matter how you look at it, totally sucks.


I know I've mentioned this before, but I'm aware that my faith is ridiculous. It's absolutely absurd to believe that a Jewish Rabbi who was executed by the Romans is somehow the Savior of the world. Especially when you look at a lot of his followers, including me. And yet, his story, more than any other, strikes me as true. Or at least too absurd to be easily dismissed. It isn't the books or TV shows or get-better-now church slogans that do it either. More, I think it is this strange notion that with only twelve followers, a bit of support from a few others, and a three year ministry cut short by a tortured execution, if Jesus was raised from the dead, he would have every reason to behave in a vindictive manner. (Like I said, a lot of times his followers seem angrier about it than everyone else. I don't know, maybe those people were told a different story.) Instead, he offered forgiveness. And grace. In a world that not only feels angry, but uses that anger to rape and steal and kill and make life miserable for others, there is something striking in the offer of genuine forgiveness, something that just won't let me go.

I think we all have angry moments. The world is an upsetting place to be caught in, and life as a human, no matter where you are, is hard. But understanding where that anger comes from can make a difference, along with a sturdy notion of hope about a God who loves us, one that refuses to be constrained by cheap cliches, harsh rhetoric and smarmy marketing slogans.

These days I'm learning my limitations. Trying to be a little more Mother Theresa and a little less the beautiful princess. I may not be able to change the world, but as today breathes into tomorrow, I'll work on myself, and from there, see what I can do to help.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Is Change Really Possible?


    I used to believe that change was possible for everyone. That for someone going through hard times it wasn't that difficult to make their lives better. All they had to do was, well, change it. I was younger then, and the world was a very different place. I didn't know about relationships or loyalties, addictions or abuse, finances or psychology or personality types. What I knew was that we all had choices; we just had to make good ones. At the time, I was a twenty-one year old pastor who believed that Jesus could change anyone's story. (Come to church and see what God can do in your life!) I was so excited by this possibility that it consumed me. I spent every waking minute devising ways to communicate this life-altering message to people. I handed out tracts and knocked on doors. I held youth events and youth meetings. I spoke to old friends and made new ones. People came and went. Some bought into what I was saying and came to church and good things happened. Others came to church and heard mean things about who they were and why they weren't good enough and left. Through it all, I was steadfast in my principles. There was no such thing as being inappropriate when it came to sharing my beliefs, because I knew it could change a person's life.

I remember meeting an old high school acquaintance in the parking lot of our local shopping mall. He was sitting in his car with his girlfriend, and he smiled when I stopped by to say hello. Within minutes I'd handed him a pamphlet explaining my life-changing message. His face wrinkled up as if he'd tasted something sour, and his girlfriend rolled her eyes. "Uh, that's great, Steve." He quickly put his car in gear and drove away. I hoped he would listen to what I'd said, but it didn't really matter. Whether he accepted it or not, at least now he knew how he could change his life.

The thing about preaching change is that sometimes you forget your own life. You get so intent on changing other people's lives that you start to think your life is perfect. That you are perfect. I don't think it's intentional, I think it's human and inevitable. The result however, isn't pretty, because with everyone you meet you start to think how they need change and what they can do to be better. You never say it, or even think it, maybe, but what you're really wondering is how they can be more like you.


    My friend Naomi is studying to be a counselor. She's tall and pretty and when you tell her about your life her eyes get really big and she listens so well you feel good about yourself. She's studying emotional narrative and story as her counseling major; how changing someone's story can change their life. Sometimes I don't understand what she's saying because she's smart and uses words that make me squint, but when she talks about it I am reminded of my own time when I was in ministry. A time when I used to believe that people could change if they'd only accept my story for them.

    Last week we were talking on her balcony, sipping wine and ignoring the cold wind like we were real Canadians.

    "Do you think people change?" I asked her.

    "Well," She said. "Personalities don't change, but people can. It is, however, a slow process."

    "So how do you help people change?" I asked.

    "Mostly I listen. Then I try to help them deal with the emotional narrative they find themselves in, and change it."

    I thought about that for a while, because it seemed a different answer than the one I'd used to hand out with cartoons on the backs of little papers to friends and strangers. I was also worried that I didn't believe people could change anymore, which scared me, because if people couldn't change I wasn't sure why we existed.


    During the three years I worked as a full time pastor, I never considered changing my life. Not really. Oh, I made promises to God to be less angry and more humble and be more regular with my giving, but mostly I felt like I had things under control. Everyone told me what a great pastor I was going to be and how much potential I had. I figured I was a dynamic personality because I wasn't afraid of public speaking and occasionally made people laugh. So the day my wife left me, after only eleven months of marriage, was not only unexpected, it was earth shattering. Though I didn't know it, I was about to change, and it wasn't because I wanted to or thought I needed it or sensed God's voice. I was about to inherit a new story, one that didn't make sense to me at all, but it was impossible for me to walk away from it because that new story was my life.


    My best friend Mark has a great life. I love his story. Whenever I tell him something like that he tells me not to glamorize it. I try not to, but his story is infinitely more interesting than mine. He also happens to be Naomi's husband. I go to their apartment every Monday night for football and some important male bonding, but most of the time I end up talking to Naomi on the balcony about God and change and her clients and my clients. Mark and I talk about those things too, but on Monday nights he thinks we should be watching the game and usually he yells at us to come in and tells us that we should be watching the game. But that's easy for him to say, his life is more exciting than mine.

    Three weeks ago he told me that he noticed a homeless woman outside Food Basics, a low end grocery store in the north end of the city that my friends and I frequent quite often. He told her to come inside with him, gave her an empty basket, and told her to fill it up. She followed him around for a while, until he gently pushed her towards doing her own shopping. Mark downplayed it when he mentioned it to me, although he and Naomi are both students and don't have very much money. As a rule, I have to practically drag these stories out of him, but I do it because nothing like that ever happens to me. For a time last year I did a few Mark-offs, (which shouldn't be confused with Mad-offs) talking to homeless people and strangers and even helping a few of them. I felt alive and strange and new, but then I forgot to think about it before my day started and began realizing how little I had in my bank account and how I would never get ahead and stopped doing it. Nothing like it has happened to me since. Most days I do not feel alive or new, and I find that I think about the past a lot.


    For a time my ex-wife and I put our marriage back together. I realized how much I'd acted like a jerk and started writing columns about how men shouldn't act like jerks. I even got a few letters from people in different countries asking me for marital advice and felt good and important. I started teaching them how they needed to change. I'd done it. They could do it. All they needed to do was listen to what I said.

    It didn't last though, and when my wife and I decided that the marriage was not going to work we talked about it and cried together for a long time. I cried because I'd miss her and felt bad about the whole thing. I cried because I felt relief and felt guilty that I felt relieved. And I cried because I knew that whatever hope I had of being a Christian 'star' who'd put his marriage back together (a VERY good story), was over, and suddenly I didn't have a story to tell. I had nothing to say, especially when I looked in the mirror and realized that if the best stories involved change and character transformation, I was a pretty terrible character. And my story sucked.


    I met Bethany about a year and a half ago. She is the daughter of two missionaries and grew up in Ethiopia. When I met her I didn't know that. I saw a beautiful girl walk past me on my break outside the Starbucks where I was working and somehow made her smile. She gave me her phone number. Three weeks later we had the God talk and she told me part of her story. I fell in love pretty quick, and for some reason she did too, and we were married this past year.

    Bethany has a great story, although she doesn't think so. She is finishing the second year of her program to be a paramedic. It is the toughest medic program in the country, and most days she is very tired. But she goes on the ambulance now, and takes calls and helps people. Twice she has come home and told me that she did CPR to help bring someone back to life. On those days her eyes glow and she bounces on her toes when she walks. Other days she comes home sad because she sees suffering and death and the bereavement of family members. On those days I hold her and she is quiet. Most days though, she loves what she does and tells me about it. She tells me about people who throw up on her or the other medics, the problems they have with certain medical conditions, and the rich people who call the ambulance for a ride. She tells me and her eyes glow. When people ask me how I'm doing, I usually tell them about Bethany because I love her story, or I'll tell them about Mark and Naomi because I love their story too.


    Being divorced and trained to be a minister is not fun. There are some things you can do as a pastor, some things that can happen to you for you to still be accepted as a church leader, but divorce is not one of them. If your marriage breaks down, people are not that interested in what you're saying about change, because it doesn't seem like you have it all together. Why would I want to change and be like you? You screwed up your marriage! So I stopped being a minister. I worked in group homes for a while, though I spent most of my time at Masconi's, a small pub down the street. I would bring my huge writing binder and set it on the bar and work on my latest novel. Sometimes the other regulars would 'contribute' to my book, and the next day I would find a page or two of swearing and sex slipped between the pages. The guys thought it was hilarious, and I pretended to be a good sport though I was usually annoyed. I would sip my beer with them and try to explain that I was creating art. That craft was important. That to be lost in the whirls of thematic difficulty meant nothing if the reader was somehow wakened from the unconscious dream. They would pretend to listen for a few minutes before changing the subject to the Raptors and what I thought about Vince Carter.

    For a long time I'd believed that Jesus could change people, but when my marriage ended I realized that he hadn't changed me at all and that maybe it was all a bunch of goop. Maybe people couldn't change. Maybe God didn't care. Maybe I'd always be the jerk I felt like when I thought about how I'd been with my wife and how I'd been at church. If I couldn't be a pastor, I needed a new story, so I decided to be a writer. Even if I couldn't change, I still needed something to do. Something to embrace. I'd started writing years before, but now I tried to live the life that I thought a writer was supposed to live. I wrote every day, and drank coffee and liquor and smoked cigarettes because all writers did those things, or so I thought. Even then I realized it was only partly about the actual writing, and that my life – what gave it meaning – was what mattered. I figured that if I could just get published, my life would change and it would be okay. Eventually I did get published, though I never sold any of my books, but nothing really changed, and I only managed to sell a couple of articles.


    The novel I'm writing now is about a young boy who is awkward and doesn't think too highly of himself. He is tall and shy and can't read or fight. His parents were both very important, but his father is dead and his mother is missing. He thinks he is slow and dumb because that's what he's been called his whole life and doesn't know that it isn't true. I call him Josh.

    I like Josh a lot, and even though I'm creating the story I find myself cheering for him. Cheering for him to find a new story. To find his story. And no, he's not like me. He's quiet while I talk a lot, although I guess we respond that way for the same reason. I like that his life is one filled with adventure, though I don't envy some of the things he's gone through, because they seem so sad to me. I like it that he is making new friends even as he escapes a group that is trying to kill him, but I feel sorry for him because he is young and is often lonely. His story is exciting and fresh. Mine isn't.


    I never went back into ministry, although I still read about Jesus a lot. I like how he reaches out people around him, how he makes them feel welcome and how he loves them despite their faults. I like it because I hope that's how God sees me, because I don't have a very good story and sometimes I worry that I will never change.

I have a web site where I write about spiritual things and the church. A few weeks ago, one of my readers commented, at length, how I'd grown increasingly cynical and narrow minded the past two years. I thought about what he said for a long time because I thought he was right.

On my web site I complain a lot about the suffering and injustice of the world, and I expel a lot of righteous indignation at men who think they're better than women and people who think they're better than other people. What I don't say is that there is hope or that everything will be okay. I don't say it because I don't know it, and I think I complain because I wish I was better, or at least had a better story. Instead, I spend most of my time writing my novel about Joshua and training people in the gym who want to be fit. I prepare my wife's lunches and try to do most of the cleaning in our apartment because her schedule is so busy. She's grateful and warm and there isn't much I wouldn't do just to see her smile. I like being helpful, and often I feel guilty because I don't make very much money. I don't hang out in bars anymore, although I spend an inordinate amount of time at Starbucks because I like to write there and it isn't as lonely as writing at home. I still find people fascinating and wish I could do more to help them. But every time I've tried to build my life around changing others, it's ended up in the toilet. I get proud and arrogant and end up talking down to people who seem more like Jesus than I do.



    Can people change? Can people change their story? Naomi says people can, and I believe her because she knows more about that than I do. Can Jesus change our story? Mark says that he can, and I believe him because he knows more about that than I do. As for me, I'm not sure, exactly. I no longer think that I am destined for 'great things', because the things that I now think are great don't get a lot of publicity. Feeding a homeless person and reasserting their dignity is great. Counseling and listening to someone to help change their emotional narrative is great. Studying seventy hours a week so you can save someone's life is great. And teaching people to love one another regardless of what they do to you, and then dying to save everyone, is the greatest story of them all.

    So the answer, I guess, is that people can change. I'm not sure how we change exactly, but I know it's not as easy as I used to think. And I know we can't do it on our own.

Most change, in my life at least, has come through mistakes and tragedy and sadness. I'm a better husband because I was lousy before and the woman I'm with somehow understands me. I'm more understanding because I know what it's like to feel judged. I'm a better friend and more accepting of others because I know what it's like to be lonely. (I remember the nights I spent staring at my coffee table in a darkened apartment with no one to call.) The more I think about it the more I realize that Naomi is right. People can change, and while choice matters, it isn't just about the choices we make. It's about me. It's about you. It's a magical thing and sort of a silly cliché, but it all starts with this crazy idea that we're all God's children, as if we're one big family. We'll probably never be a happy family, because there are too many kids and someone will always feel left out or better or worse or not enough. But sometimes that's us, and that's okay too. Somehow, I think, so long as we remember the basics, that God created us and loves us, that we're going to screw up and make mistakes and that other people will too, I think we have a chance to change our story. And when our story changes, so does our life. I'm not sure I can explain it, but I've seen it happen, and if it can happen to the other kids, it can happen to us too.