When I was eight years old my mother and my stepfather married, my biological father having been dead since I was a baby. We moved temporarily to my stepfather’s mother’s home far out in the country, miles away from the home of my mother’s aunt where we had lived most of my life.
I adored my great aunt, Aunt Ethel, and moving away from her and my Uncle Billy was difficult for me, and everything about my new surroundings was challenging.
But my new step-grandmother was kind, and she tried to engage me in many of her activities to make me feel at home. One day she was letting me stand on a bench to help her knead bread. The sunlight streaming in the window was falling on the big old bread bowl she used, so she told me about the relation of the sun’s warmth and the bread’s yeast and other things. I was feeling a great warmth toward her and this experience.
Then I heard, suddenly, the sound of a car door, and the sound of my Aunt Ethel’s voice, calling out to me. She and Uncle Billy had come to visit us!
At that moment, perhaps for the first time in my life, I felt utterly torn between two important things—my love for Aunt Ethel that made me want to run to her, and my important warm new connection to my new stepmother that felt disappointed to break this new special moment of connection. I shall never forget the grief I felt at having to choose what to do in the next moment, stay where I was or run to meet Aunt Ethel.
It took half a lifetime for me to be able to work all that out into a philosophical stance and to proclaim, honestly, to any and all who cared to listen, that I am a “Yes, And” person, not an “Either-Or” person. As my daughter’s mother-in-law said to me once, after my first grandson was born and she came from Virginia to see him, when I lifted him out of the crib and handed him to her, she said, “There’s plenty of love and goodness, isn’t there? He’s lucky to have both of us!”
In these days of such polarization everywhere in our world, I stand by this notion. In every side of every argument, in every occasion, in every person, there is some goodness and some meaning. There’s enough love to go around, even toward those who hold differing opinions or who would be our enemies. Love will overcome fear and division. It will.
That day long ago in that kitchen, I jumped down off the bench and ran into Aunt Ethel’s arms. Today as I am kneading bread, I think of my step-grandmother with love and gratitude. And I raise a prayer for tolerance alongside discernment, peace alongside justice, hope alongside honesty, civility alongside freedom, integrity alongside open-mindedness.
In other words, I pray for the spread of “Yes, And!” ideas so that we may find compromises and new ways of thinking to heal the divisions in our world.