This has been my summer theme. It started back about a month ago when Rachel on the phone pointed out that one of my strengths was that I just let people be. I feel like I micromanage a lot in my life, but after I let the comment sink in a bit I realized she was right. I micromanage the cleaning of the house. I nag about laundry. I am the only one who can load the dishwasher right (in my mind). I'm like this in the classroom, too--I don't have classroom jobs except stacking chairs at the end of the day. I want to be the one who cleans the boards and wipes down handles and light switches. It is my classroom and all of those folks are welcome guests.
But when it comes to people, I do sort of just let them be. My kids kind of live their own lives and they are somewhat mysterious to me. I like them and talk with them and engage, but I'm not forcing anybody into anything (except piano). I have rules, but they don't have to share my opinions. In fact, it's good that they don't. They do their own homework, they make their own friends, they play their own games.
This young man living in my house, that's the one Rachel was referring to most of all, that the only reason this works as well as it does is because I just let people be. As she put it, and as I have adopted from her again because I love the phrase, I don't get all up in his kitchen about things that don't affect me. He knows what he needs to do. If he needs help, I help him. If not, I just don't nag. I don't pester, I don't assume that my life and his life have to be seamlessly connected. I try to let him be.
He has a room and a laundry basket and a drawer in the bathroom. Just like my kids, frankly. I take care of some physical needs, like meals and clean towels and such, and I'm helping a lot with the parenting skills he is still learning. And this is something I had to figure out, how much letting be he required and how much support was appropriate. I learned pretty quickly that he wanted to talk to me, but he wanted to run his own life. And that was perfect for me, that level of letting be.
It's been 7 1/2 weeks and we get it. His routines, my routines, Mike's routines. The kids, all four of them, and their routines. School has started and we've hit some snags this first week, but they are problems to be fixed and tweaked until they work. We're all hustling now to get done what we need to get done. Everyone goes to bed tired. It's good.
I was in church today for Sunday mass. I attend a parish known for its immigrant population, as different waves of ethnic groups come to St. Louis and until they disperse (they all seem to disperse to Affton, a southern suburb, for some reason). Right now the wave is from Burma. We have enough Burmese here that a bishop from Burma visits our parish now. The choir has invited the Burmese choir to sing after communion about once a month, and today was one of those Sundays.
They sing in Burmese. I have no idea what the words are and they don't give us anything on paper to look at. They sing. They sing for us, and they sing for God, and they sing for themselves. I don't know what it is like to be from Burma and now live in St. Louis. But I know what it's like to not feel like I can just be who I am where I am. And I realized that my parish got it. We weren't putting these people on display, they weren't there as an oddity or showpiece. They were there to sing, in their native language, a song that praised God. They sang beautifully together, not at all Western in style but sung to a guitar. I sat and listened and knew we were letting the Burmese be. Supporting them, welcoming them, but letting them BE in our parish as members of our parish who might want to bring something of themselves to our parish. We don't make them conform, we don't micromanage them. We don't tell them, "you can sing with us, but only in our choir." We let them be. We're all Catholic and that connects us. Where we differ, we either celebrate or accept.
I thought about this while those voices combined into this lovely mix I've never heard in other settings. I have, essentially, a stranger and his son living with me. In some ways, he's like the Burmese or Vietnamese or Sudanese or Eritreans. He needs space and support and skills and essentials. And he needs some letting be. Do I like everything he does? Not really. Does he need to work on a bunch of stuff? Of course he does. Can I fix all of it? No. Can't even fix any of it, really. But I can make sure there is food on the table and clean sheets once a week and someone to talk to, someone to listen. Someone to be there, but someone who lets him just be there too. He's not my project. He's my houseguest. Let your life proceed by its own design.