The term 'lean in' has taken on a life of its own for me after I read Sheryl Sandberg's book, Lean In: Women, Work, And The Will To Lead, which came out earlier in the year. The words “lean in” are becoming a buzz term and part of the business speak of today's world. I like it. I like the concept of how it invokes a full body engagement and response to something.

I think life is better when you lean in. That being said, I may venture off track a bit from some of the premises in Sandberg’s book since it's been a few months since I finished it. I have two littles that work a lot like the magic pen in the Men in Black movies – total mind erase on a semi-regular basis. None the less, the concept of leaning in will stick in mind and make itself known (despite my little mind erasers) for a long time, and here is why.

I decided to write about this after perusing Facebook and seeing some beautiful new pottery posted by MudCrush Pottery. There was one bowl in particular that caught my eye, so I commented online about how beautiful it was. Immediately, I got a 'Thank you' back from the artist. Now, maybe that didn't mean a whole lot to her. Maybe she is one of those uber-confident people who needs the approval of no one (I secretly think that no one needs approval, quite like I need approval). But maybe she did need to hear something that day. Maybe my small compliment brightened her day just a bit more than it would have been otherwise. And I thought, “That's a kind of leaning in, too.”

Whenever we take the time out of our day to recognize the beauty of someone else, we are leaning in to life. We are practicing being present for someone else. I see art every day that takes my breath away, but I comment on about 1% of it. I'm going to try to do better.

Anne Lamott is a writer whom I love so much. And I have so enjoyed peeking into her mind and life on Facebook. I appreciate hearing about her daily struggles to write. “Just write badly every day,” she says. This quirky encouragement is a balm to all of us who were made with this burning desire to write, to record, to respond in this way to all life has thrown at us. Anne's writing, to me, is a great leaning in to all of us. A pouring out and leaning in to each life that may read her words.

Goodness knows we need for others to lean toward us. Life throws a lot at us. Many of you read my nervous and teary musings about my first child starting kindergarten this year. I didn't tell many people, but my overwhelming fear about kindergarten really had to do with the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings. I was almost debilitated the night before school started just thinking of the risks that are out there. I got through it because I realized that many of the mom's and dads from Sandy Hook were sending their other children off to school this year, and if they could carry on, I certainly must. I decided to lean in to life when all I wanted to do was back out, resign, and move to an island.

And then I turn on the news this week to learn of a shooter in an elementary school in a town with people I know. The next day brings the horrifying story of a couple of teenagers killing a young man because they were bored…and I had to decide, again. Lean in, or check out?

Everything screams check out, doesn't it? The random violence, the anger we see in one another, the lack of simple manners and common decency – they all seem to scream that it is time to check out. But maybe, just maybe, things are like this because we already checked out long ago. Maybe this mindset of 'mind our own business' was just a big mass exodus and a means of leaning out.

That's what we do when we are scared, right? We lean away from the unknown and hunker down. It takes courage to lean in. It takes courage to stay engaged when you feel like walking away. But that's what all the big problems take – courage. The choice to lean in.

Leaning into your career can yield great results; just imagine what leaning into life could do. If we all just responded to this ache for community that is within each of us, we could win over the violence and apathy. If we all just leaned in a bit – sometimes it is as simple as acknowledging the beauty of a piece of pottery, sometimes it may be finding a way to address social injustice – we would realized how very missed our participation in the lives around us has been. It is your participation that would add to the beauty of life. You are the missing ingredient. Sometimes we think that it is difficult to hear God. I believe God whispers to us so that we will lean in.


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