Badge in one hand, Breastpump in the Other ...

This morning I listened to this interview, with Kate Braestrom, on Speaking of Faith, one of my favorite radio shows—it almost always moves, inspires and intrigues me. Kate, a UU chaplain with the game wardens in Maine, ministers both to the wardens in their often difficult job and to the people the wardens serve, most often families in a moment of loss.

Kate tells a story, in this interview and in her book, Here if You Need Me, about a young woman who was abducted, raped, murdered and left in the woods. The wardens were involved, along with numerous other agencies, in the recovery of the body and investigation of the case. During the telling of this tragic story, Kate talks about miracles and the nature of providence, and our tendency to only see God's hand at work in situations that turn out well.

She says, “A miracle to me can't just be something that was providential, that everything had to line up just right in order for it to happen because bad things happen that way too. Really bad things happen that way too. And evil people have uncanny luck sometimes... If I look at it from another perspective, I don't look for God or God's work in magic or in tricks or in saying 'this is what I want' and then I get it. I look for God's work always in how people love each other, in just the acts of love that I see around me.” 

Kate goes on to describe that in this situation, the place to look for love was in the hearts of the officers and wardens who did their best to find the young woman and make things right for her family, knowing, of course, that they really couldn't ever make things right, that they couldn't undo what had happened. In particular, the primary detective on this case was a young woman named Anna Love. She combed through the information, found a suspect, interviewed him repeatedly, interviewed witnesses, and eventually closed the case, all within just three days.

Meanwhile, she had a newborn baby at home and so was ducking into the lieutenant's office periodically, pumping and sending bottles of breastmilk home to her husband to feed the baby. Kate wrote, "If ours were a sensible culture, little girls would play with Anna Love action figures, badge in one hand, breast pump in the other."  

She goes on to say, “There are these paradoxes that you can't fix or make fit together. You can't shave away the edges so that they match. You just have to let them sit there as separate things. And one of them was here. On one hand you had this terrible event that was not right and not just and was cruel ... And on the other hand, you have all of these guys responding. All of these guys motivated by love. And one of them is Anna Love, who is a breastfeeding mother.  And she's the one who nails this guy. And, you know, it's not as if all of that fixes Christina's death; it doesn't. It's just that they both exist in the same time and the same space. Which, I guess, it isn't enough and it is enough.”

I'm sure that for Christina's mother, all the love and help in the world isn't enough and can never be enough. But for the rest of us, who also have to live in this world where things like Christina's death happen, it may just have to be enough. I'm posting this story because it continues the thoughts I've shared lately about the importance of presence, of offering our presence as at least one aspect of a response to poverty and need.  It may seem ludicrous to claim that a moment's full attention is worth offering a beggar, is maybe as important as offering money or food. But in this first week of Advent--the days leading up to Christmas, when Christians celebrate the Incarnation--we have to take seriously the idea of presence. If the Incarnation teaches us nothing else, it reminds us that God came to be with us, is still with us. And we, in turn, are to be with others, badge in one hand, breastpump in the other.


Unkle David said...

Hi there! I love "Speaking of Faith" as well. Krista finds the most interesting guests to interview. I'm often moved to find thier works or books. She turned me on to John Plokinghorne, who is I think one of the more interesting Christian Scientists of our time. I'm glad that you are able to keep up with the show.

Howard be thy name … « Notes from an Escalator said...

[...] think that God answered our prayers, and I’m thankful for that. But I’m mindful of the Speaking of Faith interview with Kate Braestrom in which she says, “A miracle to me can’t just be something that was [...]