All posts tagged Waco

You Can Get There From Here

Published February 14, 2014 by mssprinkle

I live in a town that is jokingly rumored to have been laid out by drunk Indians.

<quick glance around for the politically correct police> GASP Now, I want to say right quick that I am very respectful of Native American culture, and I have a lot of compassion for folks dealing with drinking problems… that’s not really what this post is about, and it IS something Waco people joke about, but not in a mean or hurtful way… sheesh – I know the expression came from back in the day when it wasn’t such a big deal to say stuff like that…)

The truth is there’s no direct way to get anywhere here.  Kind of like there was no clear, concise way to say what I wanted to say in that paragraph right there.  You know what I meant, I know what I meant, there’s just no easy way to actually SAY what I meant without making it worse.

In Waco, you may know exactly where you want to go and not be really certain of the best way to get there.  The former pastor of my church seriously believed that to get ANYWHERE in this town, you simply had to go down Valley Mills Drive.  We have more than 250,000 people!  We are not a two-red-lights kind of place.  Valley Mills is a lovely, big street, but its not really on the way to EVERYWHERE.

My but there are a lot of things in our society that suffer from the same concept – if you want to get ANYWHERE in this life, you simply have to _______________ (fill in the blank here:  maintain this BMI, attain this level of education, make this amount of money, drink this!).  And you know what, nobody is going to try to discourage most folks from a little exercise or going to college.  The problem is when it begins to seem like that’s the ONLY way to get where you want to go.  Chubby girls are worthwhile human beings most of the time.  “Middle” income people wake up happy pretty often.  There are several grocery stores in Waco that aren’t on Valley Mills Drive!  Wow!

Another feature of my fair city is what we call the “spiral.”  We don’t have a loop, we have a spiral, and you kind of have to know how to do it if you want to drive around the outer edges here.  You will not wind up back where you started unless you make a couple of turns and cross back over the river.

Once again, I draw an analogy to life planning.  Your path from where you are to where you want to be may not be a nice, neat little circle.  It may very well be that you have to make a couple of turns and cross the river.  You may have really expected the road you were on to come out at a certain place – marriage, family, job – and there’s a train crossing in front of you with a sign that says “No Outlet” just beyond that.  It’s okay.  Make a turn, look for a landmark, and keep going.

I’ve been reading Barbara Brown Taylor’s book An Altar in the World.  She talks about the potential for finding spiritual practice in a bit of wandering around.  I think she would like Waco.  There are lots of ways to get anyplace in this town.  Maybe not always one BEST way, and you may find yourself off the path you planned, but there are lots and lots of hidden good surprises (We have the best small zoo in the country!  Who knew?!?).  You may run across a few of the odd surprises (don’t act like your town doesn’t have one of those odd old gentlemen who wave to everybody while they just walk all over town smiling and making folks uncomfortable.  You’ve got something like that and you know it).

You can think about the path your life is taking.  Where do you want to go?  You can get there from here.


Being Safe

Published January 22, 2014 by mssprinkle

Image credit: “safe” – © 2007 Paul Keller – made available under Attribution 2.0 Generic

On May 11, 1953, a horrible F5 tornado destroyed downtown Waco.  Have I mentioned that I live in Waco?  This tornado was long before I came here, even before I was born.  But I look at that safe and it instantly takes me into the collective memory of this community which says, “Nothing is safe.  But we care about each other and we will make ourselves as safe as possible.”

On the 50th anniversary of the tornado, I invited a guest speaker for my fifth graders.  Her father owned a store in downtown Waco that was open on the afternoon that the tornado struck.  She remembered the the day quite vividly.  Her talk was mesmerizing, and focused on the clean-up and rebuilding.  One tidbit that really stuck with me had to do with an unidentified desk that was deposited in her father’s shoe store by the tornado.  It was battered, but intact, and completely empty.  They never found out where it came from, but they kept it and used it.

Let that sit in your brain for a few minutes – what kinds of things have big disasters thrown through the front windows of your life that turned out to be usable?

Everybody faces disasters.  Stuff goes wrong.  Sometimes it’s the fault of the people involved, and sometimes it’s more like a a tornado – nobody’s fault, but you sure can see some ways to handle the next one better.

What matters most is what happens next.  The Waco tornado was a catalyst for the national system for storm warnings.  After the sudden death of my mom, I learned to value older people in my life and found some of my very best friends among the folks I had never noticed.  A bout with depression sent me scrambling for coping skills and self-awareness.  Divorce taught me to put bandaids on myself.

Now in Waco we have the Alico building, which looks kind of weird to new folks because it’s the single really tall thing downtown.  Waco folks learn to navigate by finding that building (which is good because our town is laid out in a really stupid spiral to make dummies go away).  We at First Presbyterian appreciate the beautiful windows in our 100 year old sanctuary, keenly aware that our windows did not blow out that day, though many did.

What has disaster left to you?

Even a safe isn’t “safe.”  But survival happens, and it’s amazing.