Marilyn is a dear presence on the internet, full of wisdom and calm and yet a heart that is always searching for more. I adore her for her heart for cross-cultural relationships and her literary approach to life. Marilyn is totally somebody I want to grow up to be like. Fighting for beauty is definitely an everyday part of life over here (some days it is a battle, other days it is easy as pie). And the fight for love, truth, and beauty is always worth it.
A Fight For Beauty
Guest post by Marilyn Gardner
It’s 5:30 in the morning and I’m looking out my window at a blanket of white snow. It is soft and pristine in its beauty. The snow has covered up cars, streets, sidewalks. It has also covered up garbage bins and garbage.
My Greek neighbor has already been out shoveling and I hear the sound of his metal shovel against the concrete. He puts the rest of us, who wait until we have no choice, to shame with his disciplined shoveling and keeping of the sidewalk in front of his apartment snow-free.
The snow is beautiful. But I know in an hour, two hours tops, it will have turned from fluffy white to squishy brown. Because this is the city.
There are times when living in the city is not about downward mobility, when it’s not about relationships or intentional living.
Instead, there are times when living in the city is about a fight for beauty.
This was true in Egypt. It was true in Pakistan. And it’s true where I now live.
We live in the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts, not the Cambridge of the Harvard elite or the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) nerd. Rather, the Cambridge of the other 80%. The Cambridge that is middle class, refugee, immigrant, or single mom.
The ‘real’ Cambridge, we like to call it. The Cambridge where high school students refer to areas as Coast and Port and where teen moms bring their babies to the day care center at the high school. The Cambridge where cars are broken into and neighborhoods work hard to become safer. The Cambridge where the homeless gather in raucous community at Central Square, oblivious to any great minds that may have walked their path. The Cambridge where Jahar Tamarlaen, the alleged Boston bomber lived and played sports and went to prom and knew my daughter.
And in this real Cambridge I realize that for me it becomes a fight for beauty, a fight to see redemptive beauty in daily life.
In the spring, it’s a fight to find the crocus that has worked its way through hard, city soil and blooms, brilliant blue or yellow. A fight to see beyond city problems to forsythia, that first reminder that spring has come.
In the summer, it’s a conscious effort to see the rose peaking through the rusted chain-link fence; to see sun flowers raise their giant heads tall to the sky against a concrete back drop. It’s a fight to see beyond the cigarette butts crumpled on the ground with last night’s garbage, made worse by the summer rain, and see instead dew drops on sparse grass.
In the fall, it’s a fight to look up and not down – up at towering trees glowing in Autumn glory, taking me away from broken bottles and ugly, barred windows.
In the winter, it’s a fight to see beyond the bitter cold mornings and homeless huddled under thin blankets, grey and worn. A fight to take the extra step and buy that cup of blueberry coffee with 8 packets of the artificial sweetener – because that’s the way he likes his coffee. A fight to find out names and see Sheryl and Valerie and Donald as real people, not homeless numbers. A fight to witness Imago Dei in the eyes of those who walk these streets.
So I walk and I put on my armor so I can fight for beauty. So I can walk with lenses cleaned, eye-sight restored to see beauty in the ordinary, everyday ugly.
A fight for beauty – a prayer that the Beautiful One who restores and redeems will give me eyes to see beauty.
Marilyn Gardner was raised in Pakistan and as an adult lived, worked, and raised a family first in Pakistan and then in Cairo, Egypt. She now lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts where she works as a public health nurse with underserved communities and vulnerable populations. She wrestles through life, faith, and third culture kid issues through blogging at Communicating Across Boundaries.
For all posts in the Downward Mobility series, please click here.