Dear Tom Hanks,

As a long time fan of basically anything that has Tom Hanks associated with it, I appreciate how he has made the world a far brighter place.

tom hanks hello GIF

And I’m not talking about his acting, directing, or producing skills.

Nope.  Not at all.

Those things help.

I was far too young when I first watched Big (though I still absolutely loved it).  And Turner and Hooch will hold a special place in my heart.  Though Cheese the dog is banned from ever watching the movie.  And then as I got older, the movies just kept getting better and better and better.  Where he and Meg Ryan had a continued love affair through Sleepless in Seattle to You’ve Got Mail.  And then let’s just not even go in depth and my love and appreciate for the uber nerd (from one nerd to another) with how focused and meticulous any war movie ends up being.  Band of Brothers was the first movie(ish) thing that made me ugly cry.  And continues to do so to this day.

think tom hanks GIF by The Late Show With Stephen Colbert

So basically, I will just willingly throw all of my money at anything that has Tom Hanks involved.

ready tom hanks GIF

But do you know much about the man (the myth, the legend)?

Tom Hanks is notoriously kind and generous.  From a seemingly infinite set of stories of fans that have met him.  Or people who he has worked with.  Kind and generous are always paramount.

He recently read a series of tweets where he commented on how kind and generous other people had been.  Highlighting that there is, in fact, kindness in our cruel world.

Because, in our world, in our country, in our communities, in our schools, we have a problem.  We have a problem of the heart.  Yes, you can blame it on guns, or violence, or the Democrats, or the Republicans.  You can blame it on the fact that I love the color pink, but you don’t.  On the fact that I believe something that you don’t.  And because we have different beliefs, I have to hate you, because you’re different.

What all of that boils down to is one thing.  One thing only.

The heart.

At some point in history, and everyone is probably going to have a different opinion on this.  And because everyone is going to have a different opinion on this, I’m not going to pinpoint one specific thing.  Because that isn’t the point here.  What is the point is that at some point in our history we decided that hate was going to win.

Ok, maybe it was less of a cognitive decision and more of a we knuckle under because the overwhelming amount of hate that was being thrown in our direction could only be combated with even more hatred.

Right?

Wrong.

That isn’t going to solve anything.  That’s going to exponentially make matters much worse.

But somewhere along the line, we decided that if someone was going to be evil and ugly to me, we would respond in kind.

Dear friends, there is a solution to this awful situation that we are ensconced in.  Is it easy?  Absolutely not.  Is it worth it?  Absolutely yes.

Yes!

Be a little bit more like Tom Hanks.

Do you want to stop school shootings?  Do you want to stop domestic violence?  Do you want to stop the social media based civil war that this country is in the middle of?

Fix the heart issue.

If you fix the heart issue, all of the other issues just cease to exist.  Because instead of spewing negativity and hatred towards one another, we send out love and generosity and kindness and open mindedness.

Does this mean that we all need to agree on, well, everything?

Absolutely not.

But guess what?

THAT’S OK!

Because we don’t have to agree on every single thing to be kind to one another.

It’s as simple as that.

Be.  Kind.

Always.

I Went Wrong

I went wrong.

I fully admit that I went wrong.

But I definitely went wrong.

I grew up going to church.  Every Sunday. Every Wednesday.  I was in church. I was one of the (rare) non-Catholic, non-Lutheran “Church Kids” in town.  

Every summer I spent a week at church camp.

I was a good kid.

And I still went wrong.

I have known this for many years.  I have known that I willingly stepped away from God.  Claimed for many years that I didn’t even believe that God existed.  

But I never dared to ask myself why.

Why did I go wrong?

It’s a dangerous question.  And a painful question.  

Painful, because, I know without question, without any hesitation, that I was at fault.

I finally asked myself the question.  Sitting in church, listening to a sermon, the main topic of which currently escapes me.  But sitting there, I knew that I needed to answer that question. And I finally came up with two separate, yet connected, answers.

I was insecure of my identity in God.  And I was insecure in the identity of God.

First, my identity in God.  Who am I? Who does God want me to be?  Who does God need me to be? Growing up insecure in who I was made me feel unloved.  And it led me to look for love in places that I was absolutely never going to find it.  I know that now. But it led me down a path where I still hoped and dreamed I would find all of the things that I wanted in life.  But instead, that path took me further and further away from the things I wanted and needed.

Second, the identity of God.  Though I thought I knew who God was, in reality, I didn’t.  I thought that having a relationship with God would give me sunshine and puppy dogs and roses and life would be happy forever and ever more.  

Wow, how wrong could I be??? 

Yes, God is absolutely loving, caring, generous, gracious, merciful, and a whole lot of other adjectives.  He is absolutely all of those things. But that doesn’t mean that we will never struggle. That we will never experience hardship.  That we get a pass from all of the bad things that can and do happen in this world. It doesn’t work that way.

Of course, I thought it should work that way.  

But it doesn’t.

So when life got really hard, instead of turning to God, I turned away from God.  Because how could a God that claimed to love me let me go through all of this???  How dare God not give me everything that I wanted?  

It took a long time for me to get over myself.  It took many, MANY humbling experiences. Time, and time, and time again, I have been stubborn, and completely unworthy of God’s love.  

And guess what?  

God still loves me.  He does.  

I have given him a million reasons not to love me, yet he still does.  He still loves me.

How awesome is that?

And guess what?

Life still isn’t sunshine and puppy dogs and roses.  

I still struggle.

Bad things still happen.

But now, instead of turning away from God, I turn to God.  Because I know that I absolutely cannot get through this life without Him.  

Yes, I went wrong.  I went VERY wrong.  

And God didn’t take me back.  Because, that would mean that there was a time that God left me.  So no, God didn’t take me back.

He reminded me that He’s had me all along, whether I acknowledged that or not.

Ok, God…I Get It

“What comes out of your mouth is an overflow of what is in your heart.”
-Jeff Michael

“It is because of the hurt we have experienced that we are capable of showing great love towards others.”
-Me

I have a name that has been mispronounced so many times, I’m not even sure I pronounce it correctly any more.  Honestly, it shouldn’t be that difficult to pronounce.  But clearly it is.

As a result, I intentionally make sure I try to pronounce other people’s names correctly.

I have a digestive system that is high maintenance.  Which often leads to feeling left out.

As a result, when I know someone else has issues, I make the appropriate accommodations, and make them something they can have.

I have a birthday that is difficult to celebrate.

As a result, I try to make sure I am joyous over other people’s birthday.

I have been having a long talk with God this morning, because I feel the hurt this week.  I feel the hurt today.  I feel the hurt right now.

But in life, hurt will happen.  We will be both the recipients and the deliverers of the hurts.  I’m not perfect.  I know that I have hurt people in the past.  Not that I’m a horrible person and purposefully hurt other people.  But I’m human.  And it happens.

And when that hurt happens, we have to choices.  Two polar opposite choices we can make.

1. We can let that hurt and hatred settle in our hearts, lash out at others, and try to make others hurt as badly as we do.

OR…

2. We can let that hurt and hatred settle in our hearts, and try to make sure no one else ever has to feel that way ever again.

Both choices define you.

I can’t say that I am grateful to have gone through the things that I have.  But I also know that experiencing and surviving some of the things that I have have defined my character.  It was a conscious choice to choose the God path in my life, and realize that the only way to combat hate is with great love towards others.  The only way to combat violence is with great love towards others.

When asked about what the greatest of the commandments were, Jesus answered quite simply “Love God, and love other people.”

He didn’t say to love them when they loved you.

He didn’t say to love them only when they were worthy.

He didn’t say to love them only when they agree with you.

He didn’t say to love them only when they were the same race as you, the same gender as you, the same belief system as you.

He just said to love them.

Love them all.

Love them fiercely.

Love them without condition.

Just love them all.

You may be struggling today.  You may feel like no one cares.  Like you’re no one special.  Like you’re the only one that feels this way.

You’re not.

Read that again.

You.  Are.  Not.

You ARE special.

You ARE loved.

Want to know what you are not?

You are NOT alone.

Take a deep breath.  Take a step forward.  Then take another step forward.  Use the hurt you feel.  Use it for good.

Because the benefits you receive from that will change your world.  Change it for the better.