It is almost Easter weekend. This, and last weekend all together, make up one of my favorite parts of the year.
When I was a little girl, I remember clearly the day I discovered Palm Sunday. I was sitting in a new Sunday school class, in a new church, that we didn’t end up joining. I was wearing my sister’s gauzy dress, and I felt very pretty, and very twirly, which meant almost the same thing.
To the right was the biggest flannel board that I had ever seen. The teachers hands, lined and swollen with veins, moved swiftly as she placed the flannel graph figures onto the board. I thought, she must be a professional, she must do this for a living! She built the scene skillfully, in the same way that librarians are adept at reading, book upside down and showing the page the whole time they do so, so that you can really soak in the illustrations.
I sat, transfixed.
Before I knew it, a still life depiction of a road, a donkey, and children, all surrounded by random shrubs and palm trees, stood in front of a stone city wall. It was all so eighties technicolor and full of life. It. Was. Beautiful.
She talked about how the children followed Jesus, and actually made a way for him. How they picked up palm branches and waved them, yelling, Hosanna, Hosanna, glory to the King of Kings! I am sure that my heart sped up, that my blood pressure rose, as I dared to imagine living in a place where you could just pick up a palm branch and wave it, dancing in the streets. How strange, how exotic! How unlike our familiar streets, where I could only grab a pine branch and a fistful of sticky sap. And I definitely was not allowed to dance in the street, or walk in front of donkeys.
Now, she said, after wrapping her tidy story up. Now, we have a surprise for you. And the white door opened, and in walked a man in slacks and a button down. His arms were filled to the brim with giant palm leaves.
You guys, it was like Christmas. But Easter. Almost.
We were each given branches, and I don’t mean to brag, but I am sure that the one that they gave me was sprinkled with magic. It was perfectly green, and strong, with just the right amount of bend and wave.
We lined up with the other classes outside, facing each other. A white runner was unfurled between our feet and the feet of the person standing opposite us. I don’t remember if there was a donkey or not, because in my head there was, but by now I was in shock, and things looked like a dream sequence in a movie.
A man dressed up as Jesus, began to walk toward us. Some teachers and kids threw their fronds at his feet, making a green striped carpet for him to walk across. Our teacher gave us permission to shout and dance. Our 20 or so voices became a joyful mob, ushering in a revolution with one sentence. Hosanna, Hosanna, glory to the King of Kings!
I don’t remember what happened after that. By the time that my feet touched the earth again, I was walking towards our friend’s apartment, across a wide expanse of lawn. Giggling, and giddy, I waved my branch, recounting in ridiculous detail what had happened at church. Okay, I get it, my mom was saying, I’m glad you had fun. But you never told me, I accused, you never told me about Palm Sunday! I did, she said, when you were younger. Not like this, I said, watching the soft spear shaped leaves, twist and rustle, above my feet.
It’s funny now, to think about that day. To try to put the pieces back in place, a faded puzzle, that became part of what makes me, well, Me. That day laid the foundation for part of what I believe. I know that it’s silly, to be fangirling Palm Sunday, but just as real an experience as the throngs of girls screaming for the Beatles. I felt it. I still feel it, actually.
I have thirty years of mistakes between now and then. Three decades of going back and forth to where I never should have been. Shannan Martin wrote that, “We tether our bodies to our sons and daughters, and all of us to the shaking ground. We’re still here. Just watch us get through this. All will not be lost as long as we seek shelter in low places.”
I read that and I felt like someone had written my life. Perhaps that is why I love this time of year. I need the Spring after Winter. I need the sun after snow. I need forgiveness for what I have done. Most of all, I need Hope.
There is so much fighting. So much he said/she said, left and right. More you are like me or you are against me, one of us, or one of Them. It hurts my heart to check Facebook, and has for over a year and a half. People who have everything else in common, are waging a civil emotional war, over the one or two things that they don’t. I am not stupid, I just don’t understand how these methods are worth it. How we are letting kindness become a casualty in a battle worth deserting.
We are all hurting. We are all “Into each life, a little rain must fall.” Thank you, Mr. Longfellow. We are. And we really are all in this together. I think maybe, we just lose sight of that. Or maybe we have forgotten, that our courage grows, when we allow others to walk alongside of us, even if their pace is slower.
I read this morning that it was the same crowd shouting Hosanna, that within a week used their lips to shout Murder. We humans sure know how to divide and conquer.
Things change, times change, that is not lost on me. We rise, we fall, we get back up. Palm fronds are waved one minute, innocent palms are nailed to a cross the next. Tombs are filled with the dead, then left open and empty.
Not every rock was meant to stay in its place. But no rock was meant to be slung from my hand towards your face.
I don’t have all the answers, and I never will. But this week, I’ll be celebrating instead of tearing down. However small my life is, however inconsequential my voice, I’d rather shout Hosanna than hatred, when given the choice.