Standing on the Side of Love

Mitzvahs at the March

When I see facial expressions or the way she pushes her hair from her face much like the way her birth mother does, I can sometimes grieve the the process of not passing on traits that biologically-related parents do.  (I have written a poem, New Same Grief, about this…)

Yet these are momentary and rare, as she often gifts me with other views into the ways she has picked up something clearly from my having raised her.

For instance, M. has taken whole-heartedly my fervent practice of photo mitzvahs.  This is the practice of noticing someone trying to take a photo of the rest of their group, but since someone has to take the picture, that person is not in it.  The mitzvah – the Jewish term for any of the 613 commandments by God of the Jewish people to be faithful, or more colloquially, a worthy deed – comes in when a stranger offers to take the photo so that the original picture-taker can be with his or her peeps.  It’s something I have done consistently and when my kids were little, I would explicitly narrate as a value I held and hoped that they would hold, too.

M., who attended the UU Youth Seminary just a few weeks ago, has taken it a step further.  She has no problem seeking out strangers to take photos of the groups she is a part of, so that the photo will include all.  She does not this because she feels entitled to getting whatever she wants or someone else’s time, but because she cannot imagine that anyone wouldn’t want to feel the blessing of facilitating simple joy for others.  It’s how we got this photo of our group yesterday at the March on Washington:

ImageAs we were at the March, M. and I engaged in two other mitzvahs.  Actually, one is better termed a ministry.  As I have recounted elsewhere, I tend to travel with toys for random young ones.  To the March I brought an assortment of mini-bottles of bubbles, breaking them out as the whim carried me, blowing them in hopes of creating unexpected surprise and joy, then handing the bottles to startled (and thankful) little ones or their parents.

courtesy of fir0002/
courtesy of fir0002/

At least two melty-down toddlers and their at-the-end-of-their-patience parents received a few minutes of reprieve, with thanks to  M., myself, and our little ministry.

The other mitzvah, totally of M’s own making, was the t.p. mitzvah.

ImageYes: toilet paper.  The list of recommended items we received from the organizer of our busload included a packet of tissues “(these come in handy if the porta-potties run out!).”  In M.’s typical exuberance, she brought an entire roll of bathroom tissue and stuck it in her backpack.  I thought this was a bit over-the-top but if she wanted to, why stop her?

Mid-morning, as we listened to the speeches, we sat for a while out of the sun.  We were near one of the many porta-potty set-ups that were swarmed by long lines of people waiting to “do their duty.”  At one point, a woman exited the john nearest to us and announced that there was no more toilet paper (she was clearly none too pleased).  Disgust and dismay murmured through those in line, many of whom I’d estimate had been in line for twenty minutes or more.

M. then popped up from our resting place, dug into her backpack, pulled out the soft white saving roll and shouted like a jubilant prophet, “I have some you can have!”  She then proceeded to work the line, more genuine than any politician ever, handing out to some 12-15 women (none of the men showed much interest) who were overjoyed.

Sometimes I get confused and think Standing on the Side of Love is all capitol-lettery.   That it’s supposed to be flashy and branding-savy, sophisticated and explicit about connecting dots that others see as unrelated.  That if it can’t be tweeted, it is lost.

There was no getting arrested in Arizona, no mellow-yellow banner proclaiming our intentions, and probably nobody who connected our t-shirts with our actions.  This was small, lower-case, and simple: gestures across and among humanity that keep us coming back to one another, across chasms of distrust, betrayal, and pain.  Chasms we wish were not there, but to which we are committed, using to bridge all that we have at our disposal…like bottles of bubbles and some extra toilet paper you just happen to have in your bag.

7 thoughts on “Mitzvahs at the March

  1. I rarely comment but I do want you to know how much I enjoy your writing. You are quite gifted in painting emotional pictures. Thank you.

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