For thirty spins around the sun, these nine old nanas kept a secret from their men.
They did it in the middle of the night.
When that old ball of sun sunk down low and pulled a cover of dark up over the backside of the world, those nine nanas creaked open their back doors and made a their way through the cracked dark.
They called them Drive-Bys.
They did it because of MaMaw Ruth. I had my own Grandma Ruth; I knew about women named Ruth who make clandestine meetings with grace.
“MaMaw Ruth would read in the paper that someone had died and she didn’t have to know the family,” is what one of the Nine Nanas, Mary Ellen said. “She’d send off one of her special pound cakes. She just wanted to put a little smile on their faces.”
It was a girl’s night for Mary Ellen and her four sisters and their three girlfriends, sitting around a table reminiscing and laughing loud over old times.
“We started thinking about what we could do to make a difference like that. What if we had a million dollars? How would we spend it?’ she said.
Those nine women knew it: we’re not here to make an impression —- we’re here to make a difference.
The size of our houses, our wallets, our closets, our trophy case and our cheerleading squad doesn’t make any difference compared to the size of our hearts.
And frankly: The opinions that we have don’t make a difference like the love that we give. We may be known for many things but we will be remembered only by one thing: our giving love.
Anyone can have any size of heart they want.
Those Nine Nanas began brainstorming around a kitchen table, and it was one of the sisters who came up with the idea: start doing their own laundry instead of using the dry cleaner. They sat there and came up with a list of scrimping and saving and shaving their lives clean.
“So among the nine of us, we’d put aside about $400 a month. Our husbands never noticed a thing.”
Then came part two of the Nine Nana Plan: How do you make a difference? You make a difference — by doing things different.
You can’t make a difference by climbing the exact same ladder everyone else, by living exactly the same as everyone else, by consuming the same, buying the same, striving the same, dreaming the same.
You can’t make a difference until you listen to the world differently than everyone else does.
That’s what those Nine Nanas did — they started leaning in and listening at the local beauty shop or where they picked up their groceries.
And when they heard about a widow or a single mother who was in need, guess who would anonymously pay a utility bill or buy new clothes for the children?
Those Nanas would ferret out where that hurting person lived and send a package with a note that simply read, ‘Somebody loves you’ —- and the love they sent always had to come with one of MaMaw Ruth’s special pound cakes.
In the middle of the darkest night, love is always coming for you.
In the middle of the pitch black night, those Nine Nanas drove slow through neighbourhoods looking for fans stuck in windows.
“That told us that the people who live there? Don’t have air-conditioning,” Mary Ellen said.
‘Or we see that there are no lights on at night, which means there is a good chance their utilities have been turned off. Then we return before the sun came up, like cat burglars, and drop off a little care package.’
For 35 years, these love stealthers have been breaking the dark.
35 years. 9 women. 4 am pitch black. Whipping up MaMaw Ruth’s pound cakes. Sending pound cakes all across the country to people making a difference in their community. Opening up the phone book and sending pound cakes to complete strangers.
35 years of hundreds of pound cakes delivered in the dead of night — and not one husband being none the wiser.
There are women who do not need to be noticed out on the street corners to have their backs patted — because there are women who know those who work in the dark are the ones shattering the dark in ways those in the spotlights never can.
There are women who work in secret because they know you always make real love in secret.
There are women who don’t let the right hand know what the left hand is doing because hands that move unbeknownst are most known by the Beloved.
That which is done in secret, that which is broken and given in secret, is a practicing communion.
Live eucharist. Practice communion. Taste koinonia.
Mary Ellen didn’t know when her husband started puzzling over the extra mileage on the car. Didn’t know when he started scratching his head over withdrawals from their savings account of not small amounts of cash. Pulled out his highlighter and started charting a path through their confounding bank statements.
Mary Ellen and those Nine Nanas just knew they had to gather their men and ‘fess up’ to what was suspected: an affair of the heart.
It could start a revolution and change the way this world revolves: What if the world focused on affairs of the heart instead of spending our one life on business affairs?
Kiss open wounds. Caress the bruised back of the broken. Embrace suffering because this is how you embrace the broken-hearted Christ.
Frankly, though, the husbands had had it — they wanted in on the eavesdropping and the drive-bys and the night gift-blitzing the town.
They wanted in on writing down addresses and anonymously paying utility bills.
They wanted to deliver a pound cake and press beauty out of the world.
They wanted in on the giving and the getting joy, they wanted in on breaking a thread or two of themselves to weave strength and hope into where the fabric of society was weak and torn, they wanted in on breaking out of the emptiness of themselves and breaking into the fullness of koinonia and community.
Those 9 husbands looked at how their wives were breaking and giving themselves away — and they wanted to break into the happy abundance of all that.
Small gifts of kindness are contagious. Start a joy epidemic.
Sometimes you just want to break out of yourself and break into the sacred space of the other. And that Sacred Space of the Other you seek is found when you give to the Other.
The Nine Nanas said that:
“This is our way of giving forward.” Mary Ellen nodded. “We want to make sure that happiness happens.”
The way forward —- is always to give forward.
Life happens. And grace happens. Gifts happen. Happiness can happen. Love gives. Live given.
I do this: bake pound cake.
Bake a pound cake and pound out of hopelessness.
Bake a pound cake made in any old kitchen — and bring it out into the dark and pound out of your pitch black and out of yourself and break the isolation.
Taste Koinonia in the middle of the dark.
The sun will rise.
Take the dare? We could all together kinda start a little movement of Giving It Forward Today, choosing to #BeTheGIFT, living broken & given like bread out into a world down right hungry for love right now.