When I got home at 11pm tonight, there were flowers on my porch.
Let me back up a minute: it's been a rough couple of weeks, y'all. Both of my parents have just undergone surgeries (both now mending well, thank goodness). I am facing an ethical challenge in one of my professional roles, which has me treading in some pretty murky waters. Several loved ones are seriously struggling - with their parents' health, with finances, with life. On and on, stresses both big and little in my own circles are dampening all sorts of spirits. And then there's Mississippi.
My love-hate relationship with this freakin' state is always a roller coaster. But this week? Have mercy. It's been a banner week for Backwards, MS.
There was the Baptist church that wouldn't allow a couple to get married there... because they were black.
Known to be the state with pretty much the crappiest health stats across the board, the New York Times posited that, when it comes to health care, maybe Mississippi could learn something from Iran.
And then there was the fact that traffic had to be re-routed around all the metro area Chick-Fil-As due to folks coming out in droves to show their support for the company's "good Christian values" - specifically, taking an actively anti-equality stance.
It was all getting to be too much. So, not for the first time, I chimed in.
I spoke up more publicly, this time - not simply via social media but out there in the open on the Clarion-Ledger website. The hot topic for yesterday was Chick-Fil-A appreciation day, and I actually know (and heartily respect) the author who wrote an explanatory piece about why some folks are upset about the issue. He was being attacked, pretty basely. So I weighed in with a reasonably moderate post primarily calling for civility. And within minutes, I was being called an idiot, a lying liberal, a queer-lover. I was referred to condescendingly as "sweetie" and "little girl" by strangers who claimed gay marriage was as bad as terrorism. I will say that again: they really said gay marriage is as bad as terrorism.
I could care less about being called those names. (Anyway, half of them are true, I'd just spin them a little more positively.) But being directly confronted with so much angry hatred, that was not only surfaced but seemed to be a source of pride and glee, really crushed me. Here were strangers, who had never met me, happy to make assumptions, call me names, berate me... for asking that we speak civilly even when we disagree. And yeah, it's comments on a news story. I understand expecting level-headedness in those comment threads is like expecting kittens to be skilled basket-weavers.
But it's local people! Who all had to sign in with their real, verified Facebook accounts! And yet ... had no problem being totally cruel.
It can't be this bad everywhere, I thought. I shared my frustration in a social media post of my own. I said that in this moment, I wanted to move.
I received a flood of responses, which almost made me feel guilty. I hadn't meant to whine. I was looking for community and some virtual hugs, yes, but my intention was not to garner sympathy. I fully understand that it's not nearly as hard for me as it is for many others.
In fact, some of the most meaningful messages I received, sent privately and not posted as public comments, were from folks thanking me for speaking out because they, for various reasons, can't.
The flowers are from an angel of a friend, who is also a neighbor, and is also dealing with plenty of her own stress, and yet brought flowers because she knew I was struggling. For about the sixteenth time today, I got a little weepy.
I also remembered another bouquet of flowers - one from almost exactly three years ago. This was a bouquet I delivered to Senator Lydia Chassaniol, along with a card signed by dozens of Mississippians.
I had delivered those flowers to Sen. Chassaniol not because she was having a rough week, but because many of us were ticked at her connection with a white supremacist group, and I thought that rather than sending an angry message, maybe trying a wholly different tactic would get her attention. I thought that perhaps delivering some lovely flowers with a note asking her to embrace all citizens of Mississippi, a bouquet as beautiful and diverse as these flowers, would make our state a better and brighter place.
It was another week that I hated being here. Thought about moving. And then, somehow, aided by friends, flowers, and a little faith, frustration was fought. I didn't pick up and move to a new place - and maybe, just maybe, holding hands with plenty of others, that week helped move us all forward, just a little.
So tonight, I filled a vase with water, and carefully placed my beautiful flowers in the vase. I breathed deeply. And I said a little prayer of thanks, because even on my worst week, I have the best people in my life - far away, and also right here in Mississippi.
What a blessing it is that every time I wrestle with demons, I am reminded that I am surrounded by angels.