We have had the privilege of doing work and life with Lucy Orr as a company and a family over the last couple of years. She has helped us with so many things at Horizon Point and MatchFIT. She performs each task with excellence, professionalism, and a joyful spirit. She brings this same sense of self when keeping our children. She brings sparks of joy and excitement into their lives. We will be forever grateful for Lucy and for all she has done for us.
In reflecting on all Lucy has taught us (and as I still try to selfishly and actively plot ways to keep her from leaving us in the fall to study at the University of Virginia), I want to share the hope we have for her. This hope I have for myself and my team at home and at work and for the people in my community.
That hope is living in the AND.
A couple of weeks ago while you were in the throes of AP exams to wrap up your high school career, I walked into a beautiful room, with a beautiful view for a meeting about education in our community. Your uncle called the meeting. Your dad was there. I hugged a few of the men around the table and one – in all forms of the gentleman I’ve always known him to be – pulls out a seat for me.
I’m the only female in the room. I’m the only one under the age of 40 in the room.
Although this dynamic is not uncommon in my professional life, I wonder: Why am I here? Why was I invited to sit around this beautiful table with this beautiful view with these wildly successful men?
It’s not that I’m intimidated to be around the table, just perplexed by the invitation. I’ve got a little over an hour to do what I think is to sit and listen before I need to get in the carline to pick up the kids from school.
The school system leader is invited to share with the group the good and bad of what is going on. As your uncle states, our community can only be as strong as our public schools, and so begins a conversation about test scores and demographic makeup and what things can be done to move the needle in the right direction.
These men talk about ideas, big ideas. These men talk about solutions, big solutions. Novel solutions. And my God, I’m so glad to be around this table with people who think, and think big, and have resources at their disposal to deploy big. I’ve needed a conversation like this. One that isn’t mired in the logistics of getting shoes on kids in the morning and invoicing clients and making sure all the ships run exactly on time so we can all make it to the next thing. A conversation that is about making an impact.
I respect these men around this table, and maybe I’m here because they respect me and my voice, or at least my voice when it comes to education. As we dive deeper into what has been done wrong in the past that has caused some of the problems the school system faces now, I question whether or not we need to play on a different board all together when it comes to moving forward in a positive direction. What would we do if we broke the “rules” and what results would that achieve? They all seem to listen. I also question what I don’t understand, and as your dad states, sometimes progress isn’t happening quite simply and literally because a left turn is too dangerous.
Our conversation is interwoven with demographic trends and the questions that these trends seem to invoke. How do Hispanic kids perform compared to white kids? How do white kids perform compared to black kids? Why do black and Hispanic kids perform worse than white kids? How is parental involvement different based on demographics? Why aren’t there many middle-class black kids in our district? What does that mean? I sit and listen more, but I can feel myself getting agitated by the nuances of the conversation.
I’m also, like the gentleman sitting next to me, realizing we’ve gone overtime on this meeting. “What time is it,” he asks me. I flash the time on my phone clock to him while I think I’ve got about four and a half minutes before I have to leave to make it to the carline in time. The ships have to run on time.
To try to wrap the meeting up, the gentleman beside me thanks the school leader for his time and gives his word that he will support what is necessary to make a difference in the district. He’s done it before and I know he and his peers around the table will do it again.
But the conversation seems to be ending on a note of hopelessness, in particular about kids in the district on the margins – the Hispanic kids and the black kids if we want to make it easy and lump everything into demographic subgroups. As the school leader said earlier in the meeting, the district performs on par or better than surrounding districts when it comes to white kids. It doesn’t with the minority subgroups.
As the gentleman beside me closes with a story to illustrate this, particularly with black students, I feel the need to speak up again.
“Well, if all of us around this table would help one black kid, maybe the story would be different. It’s hard. But it’s worth it.”
I also want to say, this isn’t a black or white or Hispanic issue so much as it is a socio-economic issue and the conditions that have created a society of haves and have nots that largely fall along racial and ethnic lines. We all want to boil things down to the metaphorical and literal black or white because it is so much easier. Our brains can draw easier conclusions this way. The school district’s charts are so much easier to understand this way. OR is easier than AND. AND is gray.
The school leader looks back at me and says nothing. I think he knows I’m being for real because he’s seen my husband literally help one black kid through their mutual involvement in youth baseball. Not just once, but for years over years.
And with that, the meeting is over. People rise from their chairs and I dart out the door for carline. I can do this meeting AND make carline in time.
School pick-up for us includes picking up one black kid on the “other” side of town from the bus so he can eat a meal with us, do homework with us, and play ball with us. This is the routine three or four days a week in the spring.
After this meeting and school pick-up, we run by your home to drop off fresh strawberries and notes of encouragement from the kids about your AP Exams. One of my kids’ fondest memories from the previous summer is picking strawberries with you.
“Lucy needs some fresh strawberries,” Andrew says after I tell him that you can’t babysit this week because of your tests, so we go get strawberries.
Our black boy- that you of course know as Cortez- asks if he can go to the door too in order to deliver the strawberries.
“Sure,” I say.
Your precious mother smiles the smile so unique to her. It is the purest expression of her giving spirit. I realize you get the spirit of excellence and joy both from her AND your dad as the boys bound out of the car towards your door with the strawberries.
She thanks them profusely as your brother waves from inside. I can see Andrew swell with pride as your brother speaks to him, and I think again, man if my kids could just turn out to be half the kind of people you and your siblings are, I’d count us as beyond blessed.
The boys bound back into the car and Cortez says, “Man, I love that house.”
He didn’t even walk inside.
“Yeah,” Andrew says, “It’s the best, even the backyard.”
And we drive on towards homework and dinner and baseball. Cortez drives on with us with a little bit more exposure than he came with when he got in the car. To your mother’s smile, your brother waving, and to a home that he “loves” not just because of the looks of it, but because of the way the people that live there made him feel.
A couple of months ago, I traveled to Turkey with my dad. The trip was exhausting and invigorating all at once. I learned a lot, met a lot of neat people, and quite honestly experienced a ton of anxiety about being gone from my family and work for that long. I worried about not being present at the baseball and soccer games, about not being there to put shoes on in the morning before school, and about making sure everyone was picked up from the carline and the bus stop on time. About leaving a work project that had dragged on forever thrown on my staff with a “Good luck, figure it out.” And all this hit me in the middle of the night in Turkey.
“Why am I here?” was something I asked on that trip over and over again too.
The journey through Turkey followed some of Paul’s missionary journeys. So as I sat on a bus through the country, I read Galatians and Ephesians as I was traveling through what was the region of Galatia in the first century while heading towards Ephesus.
I read, “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control….If we live by the spirit, let’s follow the spirit.” (Galatians 5:22, 25) and I think of you. You display these fruits through and through.
I continue to the book of Ephesians and find Paul in Chapter 5 talking about how wives should submit to their husbands and in Chapter 6, he goes on to talk about how slaves should obey their human masters.
As we drive through the countryside, I stand in awe of how Paul traveled this route that will take us about three hours by charter bus on foot. How long did it take him with just his legs? I stand in awe of his commitment to spreading the gospel, to encouraging people to live by the fruits of the spirit, AND I can reflect that the words in Ephesians are a product of Paul’s time and culture and to the audience in which he was writing. And while most of what he wrote here is quite likely progressive at the time of his writing, I can realize that the fruits of the spirit if we listen to them would tell us owning another human being isn’t living them. I can realize that the standard that governs my marriage is and will be different for me and my husband then what Paul instructs. Submission isn’t necessary for either one of us if we seek to live in love through the fruits of the spirit.
I can appreciate AND question. I can apply within context AND still stand in awe of a person’s journey and message.
AND so can you.
You can stand in awe of the material you get to learn in college AND question it and the people that present it at the same time. You can take your studies seriously AND immerse yourself fully in the college experience that isn’t academic and learn quite a lot as well.
You can rest AND you can work hard. You can work hard AND play hard.
You can respect me AND disagree with anything I’ve said before or now.
In a time when everyone and everything seems to be so divisive, we can all realize that not everything- or really anything- has to be polarizing. We can choose AND instead of OR.
You’ll also be here one day, in your mid-thirties wondering at times, Why am I here? Why am I at this beautiful table?
As I think about the anxiety I experienced on the trip to Turkey, I know it is because the notion of AND is being challenged in my mind, in particular in this stage of my life.
You can’t be a good daughter traveling with your dad for over a week AND be a good mother and wife. You can’t experience the world in all its fullness by visiting far off places AND be respected as a responsible mom. You can’t be a good mom and wife AND run two businesses.
You can’t be a good Christian AND question Paul’s words to the Ephesians. You can’t sit at the table with a bunch of men talking about big picture things and be excited about how this impacts community outcomes AND make it to carline in time.
You can’t respect these men AND question things around their table. You can’t raise good kids of your own AND try to help raise a child that isn’t biologically yours, that has experienced a world that you can’t even imagine.
But a blog post you wrote last summer hangs in my office to remind me that I can live in the AND. As you said:
The last relationship that I noticed this summer impacted me the most deeply was the significance of family in work. I babysat for Mary Ila’s two older children regularly throughout the summer to give her a few hours at a time to focus on work, so I was able to learn from the intentionality with which she balanced these two things: work and family. This experience has shown me the blessing of valuing family. By constantly thinking of fun things we could do that her kids would enjoy or clearing entire days to spend time with them, she showed me that it is possible to work hard while prioritizing family. This balance definitely looks different for everyone, but it was so helpful for me to see such a wonderful example of this aspect of pursuing a career.
You’ll never know how much these words meant to me. So I want to remind you of them too.
You will go to the University of Virginia soon, and I’ll have to admit, I’m a little jealous. My dad took my family there when I was in middle school and I stood in awe at what Thomas Jefferson created in Charlottesville.
When I heard you were headed there, my thoughts drifted to Andrew who gravitates towards activities that involve his strong spatial abilities. Like building things and drawing things and playing chess. And I think: we must go there so my kids can visit you and stand in awe too. And even though this child who is still struggling mightily to read on grade level- who thinks in numbers instead of words- I wonder, maybe he will be able to attend school there one day too, architecture school maybe.
When we do visit you, my kids will stand in awe of what Thomas Jefferson built AND they will learn about how much of his wealth- and quite honestly much of his pleasure it seems- was built on the backs of people he owned, people who look like our friend who comes to do homework with us, and play ball with us, and see your sweet mama smiling on the porch with us.
What if he lived during this time instead of today, I wonder? What would have become of him? What will become of him now? A child who does not have a problem with reading cognitively, but who did not know most of his letters halfway through kindergarten because kindergarten was the first time he was exposed to the alphabet. A product of a situation where no one sang the ABCs to him and all the men in his life except my husband are in jail or dead.
AND maybe he will go to the University of Virginia one day too. My boys from two different worlds could go together.
Like me, an opportunity for a seat at beautiful tables will come more easily to you than it will for others because of your privilege. Because of where and who you were born to and the opportunities that it provided you to succeed before you even made all the right choices to do so.
But I can’t help but think that it’s also the AND that puts us in the room, at the beautiful tables, with the beautiful views. With the best people and the best opportunities.
It’s that I am a female AND a mother AND a strategic thinker AND someone who has great respect for the gentlemen sitting around me so I can challenge some thinking in the room. I’m in the room too and as I’m challenging others’ thinking, I’m challenging my own at the very same time.
It’s the realization that Paul and Thomas Jefferson and all of us around beautiful tables are AND. We can be generous and kind, impactful and well-intentioned while at the same time also a little flawed in our thinking. We can stand in awe of those around the best tables and AND question at the same time.
AND may not be what gets you a seat at the beautiful tables, but choosing AND will keep you there.
Choosing AND instead of OR doesn’t mean you won’t need to find your no. And it doesn’t mean compromising your values.
It may mean saying no to the people that tell you you can’t choose AND, even when these people are the ones who love you the most. It may be saying no to the voice in your head that tells you OR would just be so much easier than AND.
Study OR go have a good time? No, that doesn’t have to be a black or white choice. You can choose the AND by planning accordingly to do so.
It will one day likely mean saying no to the commitment you are expected to take because you are a mom to be able to say yes to the commitment that you know God designed you to take because He lit a fire inside you about it. Like saying no to working a booth at field day so you can spend that morning providing leadership coaching to four budding entrepreneurs. And it may be about saying no to a person you highly respect that wants you to take on a commitment you know you just can’t because your family needs you.
AND the beauty of the true kingdom is that your NO is and will be someone else’s AND.
It will take constant discernment and prayer to figure out the difference between OR and NO for you. It will take the guiding of the spirit. It’s hard. But it’s worth it.
Lucy, I can’t wait to see the far-reaching impact you will have on this world. Don’t let anyone tell you that you have to live an OR life. Live in the AND. Listen to the Holy Spirit AND let love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control continue to lead you to the AND instead of the OR.
We love you!