the compound interest of love
the arithmetic of love cannot be plotted, nor graphed. nor queued in a line. it explodes, scattershot. sometimes it leaks — drip, drip, drip. sometimes, like a mountain rivulet running hard against rock, it carves its own escape route.
at its most glorious, love multiplies with compound interest.
the email began: “Praying it forward haha.” it went on to explain:
Praying it forward haha – I gave a copy of the book to Lisa because I admire her so much as a Mother, friend, caregiver, person. After meeting her for lunch and giving her the book she shared that she was looking for work she could do at home – we were looking for someone to do our social media and not so surprisingly she had recently received a degree in that! Of course we hired her. She prayed it forward by giving 10 of her friends the book and now here you are – Found! Lets keep the movement.
the email was from my friend susie, who happens to be a saint. she’s opened two cafes for at-risk teens, one mostly for young men who’ve gotten in trouble and are trying now to stay out. the other for young women; teens who are pregnant, or already mothers. susie gave my book to lisa, who also happens to be a saint. lisa was a social worker who became a chicago cop who was so heartbroken by the homelessness she saw in uptown, a tough chicago neighborhood, she started pulling a sandwich-and-coffee-filled red wagon along the sidewalks to feed whomever she bumped into who might be hungry. then, she opened a cafe, inspiration cafe, to feed their spirits as well as their bellies. but then, two years ago, her then-23-year-old son suffered a still-unexplained anoxic brain injury, which means that a kid with a slight fever somehow collapsed, which stopped his heart long enough to cut off the oxygen to his brain. ever since, lisa has been his full-time, round-the-clock caregiver.
and yet, lisa, when given a single copy of motherprayer, and a work-from-home job for my friend susie, “prayed it forward” by buying and sending copies of motherprayer to 10 friends. one of those friends, a fairy-like sweetheart named wini, wrote to me a few weeks ago. in a breathtaking note, she explained that for some reason she’d not tucked motherprayer into her permanent stack of (mostly untouched) bedside books, but rather she’d picked it up and started to read. she said her friend lisa had sent it, and she figured if it came from lisa, there must be a reason to read it. she wondered a.) how i knew lisa (i didn’t, though i’d known of her cafe and her saintly status in this city of big shoulders), b.) if maybe we could meet, and c.) maybe would i consider coming to a spectacular space (opened by her friend amy, a famed chicago restaurateur) to talk to a circle of spectacular women. she was thinking, she said, of restarting a soulful speaker series she once ran for eight years. she was thinking she’d call this new series, “finding your heart at Found,” (Found is the name of the spectacular eatery, a place that feels like your favorite eccentric aunt’s quirkily appointed parlor). and then she wondered if maybe i’d consider following up that lunchtime talk with a soulful writing workshop at a heavenly place called tumbledown farm, owned by another one of her heavenly friends, yet another lisa.
if you’ve clicked on all of those links i’ve tucked up above, you can see quite clearly why i was and am pinching myself. kindness led to kindness led to miracle led to long-held-dream-finally-come-true.
i will soon be sitting in a farm kitchen, with the sounds of summer and barnyard blowing in through the windows, and i’ll be encircled by blessed women writing into their depths. we’ll punctuate the morning with walks through meadows, plop down against the trunks of trees, chase after chickens. partake of farm-fresh feasting.
sounds magical to me.
and until the email from susie arrived yesterday, the whole tumble of wonders was shrouded in mystery. how did saintly lisa know of motherprayer? how was it that she sent a copy to wini, a woman schooled in healing arts, a woman with the get-up-and-go to have shepherded eight years of soulful speakers (and we’re talking richard rohr here)? and how was it that after years and years of dreaming of somehow finding my way to the blessing of writing circles, and writing into the depths of the human heart, one door had opened into another, and a farm of my dreams — one with roosters and beehives and a cavernous milking barn — had fallen onto my path?
i looked back at the email from susie, i read and re-read that first line: “Praying it forward haha…”
i knew exactly how i wanted to do that, to pray it forward: i’m starting a writing circle for the teen mamas at susie’s cafe (the pictures above were taken there last night at their monthly community dinner, where susie treats everyone like a queen or a king), and i’m imagining a writing circle-slash-monthly-retreat for mothers who are full-time, round-the-clock caregivers for children with profound challenges. (susie, too, has a sister patty, who i love, and who loves writing, and who is the full-time, round-the-clock caregiver for her daughter who has cerebral palsy.) i am, in my imagination, upholstering the writing retreat with every imaginable pampering: fat bouquets of fresh-from-the-garden bunches of flowers, pitchers of waters swimming with slices of lemon and sprigs of fresh mint, sumptuous lunch. crisp, paper-wrapped journals and pens for writing from the heart. a few deep questions, questions meant to uncork all that’s waiting to pour. and more than anything, the holy communion of other mothers who shoulder the same unceasing load of worry and ache and innovation and unstoppable faith. and exhaustion. and a loneliness that’s unfathomable to anyone not bearing the load.
the wheels have already turned, plans are already in the works. because at the heart of this plot are women who heard the holy whisper and made the miracle happen, women who would not and will not be stopped. so neither will i.
it’s the compound interest of love.
“Praying it forward haha..”
there’s your challenge. no need to answer aloud, but maybe, just maybe, let that sweet question settle deep in your heart: how might you pray it forward?
because i know the chairs are soulful folk, i’m thinking that when the time comes i might put out a call for help. perhaps you’ve a few stems from your garden you’d like to share for a fat bouquet. perhaps you make a mean scone. or might dream up some other wonderful way to pamper the mamas for whom a break never comes. (we could make goodie bags, stuffed with pamper-y treats.) i’m thinking i’ll hold the first writing circle for caretaking mamas at my house, in my screened porch this summer. getting away is not easy for these mamas, and going too far is impossible. so we’ll make it short and sweet and close to home. if we wend our way into an irrestistable bond, maybe we’ll take our circle on the road, and tumble down to tumbledown farm, which is but 45 minutes away.
p.s. for the fun of it, and to make it easier to follow the trail of good hearts, i bolded the names of each someone who led to another someone in the equation of unbridled love up above. and be sure, while you’re at it, to click on the links (any words underlined and the color of cafe-au-lait) to read layers and layers of goodness from the very good souls up above.
p.s.s. happy blessed birthday tomorrow to slj, an old dear friend of the chair. may your day and your year be filled with compound love.
I just clicked on the link for your friend, Susie, and listened to the video on Curt’s Cafe from WTTW. Oh, man, what an amazing woman. I’m in awe of people like that. Happy to gather flowers, bake cookies or whatever you need for your summer workshop. Caregivers are just the best people and I know how desperately they need something like this.
God bless you!! I think the compound power of multiple contributors ups the love exponentially. And, yes, susie is a force of nature.
Thank you for your immediate stepping up!
Yes! I’m in. Just when I was thinking, “How can I help?” you put it out there! Just when I thought you couldn’t get any more amazing … silly me… xoxoxoxoxoxo (And Amy … you in, too? I’ll come get you!)
Ha! Of COURSE you wanted to leap right in! And as I just wrote to Mary, the more, the better!
And, smaller world, I got to hug connie tight and long last night when I was at curt’s for the mothering dinner!
I was soooo thrilled to discover you at OSP! And I too had wanted to send email yesterday, but the day escaped. Your yellow door and my blue door must meet each other in real time. Xox
To be continued….
I’m in too, if just for some Ben and Jerry’s for the table and some nice soaps from the farmers market for the goody bags.
there is nothing “JUST” about ben & jerry’s!!!! bless your heart! xoxoxo see you soon at the market. i look for someone loaded down with shopping bags of greens for her hard-shelled friends. xoxox
What an amazing and uplifting story! I firmly believe that our world would be a much better place with more “girl power.” I’m off to check out all the links. Please continue to let us know your plans. Many blessings to you and all the others who are paying it forward .
thank you, dear jack! pretty amazing all around……
Reblogged this on solo-travel.com and commented:
Friends – you must read this. Anyone who loves to travel will love the journey one kind act made and the tremendous results of that trip!
you’re an angel. sometimes the very best journeys take us not miles away but into the depths of the human heart. xoxo
Your words and this path of prayer brightened my sould today! All the goodness and care found living and breathing in this sacred space today…..and in the spaces created for others. Would love to provide something for your gathering to continue “praying it forward”.
bless your heart. blueprints on the drawing board. i PROMISE to circle back when we’re ready to roll. the cumulative effort is the most heavenly part. so many great good souls saying, we are here, and you are not alone.
l love your new book, a gift from Kathe. You are a treasure Barb. thank you for shaing your gifts.
thank you, dear ann!!! and hugs to kathe! i miss her!
This is the type of math I can get behind! I can only imagine what profound notes of the heart will be found in the writing circle.
Thanks for the birthday greetings. On this birthday eve in may, I am shockingly donning a, along with my daughter, Hanna Anderson candy cane striped pajamas, a gift from st. Nicholas, I didn’t think I would need in May. And now I am tucked in, ready to read a bit more of motherprayers.
Thanks for the ways you expand the circle one by one by one
oh, dear birthday girl!!! happy blessed day, day in which the heavens have decided to anoint you with shower-y blessings! may you find a million inside joys today! and maybe even a short dry interlude outside! (p.s. i have those same HA candy-cane-striped pjs. they are among my favorites. love picturing you and Miss L in your matching stripeys.)
sending love, always. xoxo
Retirement is just less a month away. New time frame, new life, and what could be better than new wordy paths to follow into the woods. I am in, in any way that is needed. What a beautiful web of silk you have presented. Happy weekend with sun provided by love.
so curious to see which paths into which woods you will follow. and more than thrilled for you to be able to deep breathe. and i know your school nurse heart will NEVER be retired, which is a beautiful thing for the world we love…..
What a wonderful, magical story of connection. And of strong and caring women. When the time comes, I hope there might be a way for your not-so-local chairs to offer support.
of COURSE not-so-local, blessedly-connected-from-afar chairs will have ways to dive in. there is an endless stream of goodness ever needed……happy birding along the chesapeake bay!
I am a firm believer in miracles. And I cannot wait to watch this miracle unfold. Haven’t the least clue how I can help, but I’m behind this magnificent undertaking one hundred percent! It’s a joy to witness the geometric capacity of love. Many blessings upon the many marvelous women mentioned in this post; you are an inspiration!
simply sending your pure thoughts to the mamas who might circle into the writing, that’s blessing aplenty. as i read their stories, i can barely fathom. all i’m offering is a sweet short slice of time that might bring a sense of company and care. and imagine the depths and capacities of the human heart that might be charted, put into words. we’ll all be richer for it, i hope and pray….xoxox
I just received my “Motherprayer” book from my Lisa, Inspiration Cafe. After I cry, hold the book close to my heart as I did my babies and grandbabies, I will read in peaceful solitude. My heart is already settling and desperately needs to do so. I will then send 10 copies to those I know who mother with all their heart and soul, even in the darkest and most difficult times of life. Still a mother love. Thank you and thank you, my dear and beloved Lisa. I am so blessed. Agnes
oh, my gracious, I am the one who is blessed beyond blessed. i barely can find the words for this multiplication of loving….thank you and thank you…..xoxox
Yes! I will help! I have volunteered at Inspiration Corporation for years & the situation with Lisa’s son is confusing & scary & difficult in a way I can’t fathom. I love to bake. Bread, cookies, scones, cupcakes. You name it. Please keep me in the loop. I would be honored to support women who are doing the seemingly impossible. Thank you for such an uplifting post. Reading it was a wonderful start to my day. I’ll be brainstorming how I might pray it forward.
you are so totally amazing, ms. liz! God bless YOU! you just started MY day with a rocket blast of joy. will keep you in the loop, i promise. xoxox