“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.” – Anne Lamott
Pepperdine hosted the 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball West Regional Final matchup between Florida State and Michigan on Saturday at the STAPLES Center, and I was most grateful to be in attendance to watch Michigan secure a berth in the Final Four. The fans in maize and blue dominated the arena but not the game and yet the Wolverines held off the scrappy Seminoles down the stretch for the victory and a trip to San Antonio this weekend.
This was not my first NCAA tournament experience, but it had been fifteen years since I sat with my daughter, Erica, in the rafters of the Louisiana Superdome to watch a teenager named Carmelo Anthony lead Syracuse to a thrilling victory over the Kansas Jayhawks in the last game Roy Williams coached for Kansas. This experience was quite different.
Fifteen years ago I won the right to purchase overpriced tickets in a lottery. On Saturday my ticket was the gift of a gracious friend.
Fifteen years ago I needed binoculars just to look down and see the Jumbotron. On Saturday I had to crane my neck and look up to see the big screen from my amazing seat.
Fifteen years ago I prepared for a nosebleed by stuffing napkins in my pocket. On Saturday I prepared for the game by stuffing my face with pizza.
Fifteen years ago I waited for the captain to turn off the seatbelt sign before safely moving about the stadium. On Saturday I leisurely wandered around Pepperdine’s suite prior to the game and sat among friends from upper administration.
Heck, this time my friend, Rmani, sang the national anthem! It was a great night from start to finish.
Truth be told, I still feel that my place and my people both hang out in the rafters, but I confess that it felt awfully nice to sit in prime stadium real estate. Once I got past the feeling that a security guard was going to kick me out that is, I had a really good time.
Grace is pretty cool on the receiving end once you give yourself permission to accept it. It might be what a few young men feel like this weekend when they look up and discover that they are in the Final Four.
The Airbnb concept is somehow both weird and intuitive. It is weird to spend the night in a perfect stranger’s home, but then again it makes sense to get some use out of something otherwise unused at a mutually beneficial price.
The service thrives on customer reviews, of course. For instance, any review with “there were creepy people playing with snakes” will pretty much guarantee that I will keep looking. On the other hand, “there were creepy people playing with snakes—and free churros” might persuade me to stay more than one night. So it is in the best interest of the host to provide a pleasant stay, which leads to good reviews, which leads to more business. You know, Economics 101.
What I did not know until recently is that the hosts can also review the guests. Makes sense, I guess, but I will admit to being a little nervous when I recently received my first review by an Airbnb host. Here is what I got: “Al is clean and kind.”
I am incredibly proud. Absolutely love it. Mark it down, when I check out of the Airbnb called Life, I believe that is headstone worthy.
It reminded me of a great Anne Lamott story (in Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith, 37-45) when she helped her friend with a dance class for adults with special needs. Several days later, Anne’s friend told her that after the class one of the students said, “I liked those old ladies! They were helpers, and they danced.” Those are the words Lamott wants on her gravestone.
I have had more opportunities to be around death so far than I remember requesting and each instance got me to thinking. After all the resume drafts, and after all the performance reviews, and after all the updating the LinkedIn profile—and even after the obituary is written, read, and recorded—a few numbers and a few words are engraved on a rock in an attempt to sum up one’s life. An entire life in just a few words.
What will your words be? I’m just saying, clean and kind ain’t bad.
Posted in Original Essays
Tagged airbnb, anne lamott, churros, clean, dance, death, grace, gravestone, headstone, helper, kind, life
Our 2008 move from Mississippi to Malibu sounds like a seismic culture shift, but moving from affluent, artsy, coastal Ocean Springs, Mississippi, to affluent, artsy, coastal Malibu was not as mind-blowing as you’d think. Okay, it was mind-blowing, just not as mind-blowing as you’d think.
One of the major differences is simply topographical. Ocean Springs sits on the super flat Mississippi Gulf Coast. Malibu officially sits at sea level, too, but that is only half the picture since the vast ocean spectacularly combines with equally stunning mountains. The views we are privileged to enjoy on the Pepperdine campus are ridiculous, and quite often we awaken to see that we are actually above the clouds. It is like a flight with adequate leg room and spacious bathroom facilities.
Recently, on such a morning, I drove from Sunshine Mountain down into the murky clouds for a beachside run along Malibu Road. It is one of my favorite runs because it is nearby, flat, quiet, and scenic, but it isn’t quite as scenic on mornings when the clouds decide to take a nap on the surface of the planet. Despite the cloud cover, I took off with eyes wide open since I have developed a habit of memorializing each morning run with a photograph. It was a challenge. The crashing waves were pretty great in the fog, but not so much for my increasingly outdated iPhone camera, and the horizon was simply nowhere to be seen.
And then I noticed the flowers. The reds and purples, the yellows and lavenders, all nestled in a setting of green and white, almost shy and hiding in the morning fog.
Life lessons exploded from the haze like the colorful flowers. For starters, when life descends into a fog, remember to look for the beauty that is ever present. But also, when life floats in the sunshine above the gray clouds, remember to go to the trouble of joining the world struggling through the smothering gloom. It would be tragic to miss out on the stunning grace that can be found in the obscurity.
Posted in Original Essays
Tagged beauty, clouds, flowers, fog, grace, gulf coast, life, malibu, mississippi, ocean springs, pepperdine
(Photo credit: Jeff Baker)
Spring starts today. Blues, greens, and yellows. Sunshine. Seeds. Awakening. Renewal. Fragrant flowers. Planting. Warm breezes. Imagination.
Unless you live in the Southern Hemisphere, of course, where autumn starts today. Browns, oranges, and yellows. Moonlight. Abundance. Rest. Crunchy leaves. Earthy haystacks. Harvest. Crisp air. Reflection.
We share the same planet and yet find ourselves at very different stages.
I once read of a particular culture, possibly a group of Eskimos, who believed that you died every cold, dark night when you succumbed to sleep and that each morning you awakened to a miraculous new life. What a concept: spring every morning and autumn every evening!
Instead, our world is, to put it precisely, polarized.
We share the same planet and yet find ourselves at very different stages. It will be the same with those you encounter today. Be sure to notice.