“Cassidy Klein…hmmm. Now how did you end up with a German last name and an Irish first name?”
“Um, you know, that’s a great question. I don’t know, I guess I’m just multicultural!”
“Yes, interesting! Do you know what Klein means in German?”
“I can’t say that I do, sir. What does it mean?”
“Klein means small in German.”
“Really? That’s so fitting. Thank you for telling me! I don’t know why I didn’t know that before.”
I was carrying a very heavy (heavy on the very) tray of dirty dishes back to the kitchen at the retirement home I work at when a kind old man looked intently at my name tag. The residents where I work are very sweet, but many of them think Cassidy is a strange name (I didn’t think it was all that outrageous until I started working there). A lot of them ask me if I’m Hopalong, to which I reply of course, isn’t it obvious? I’m so far west it’s where the east begins!
Anyways, this particular man was on his way out when he stopped to tell me more about my name. I was feeling overwhelmed and incredibly assiduous during my shift, and he paused the craziness for a second and informed me of a fact that I definitely need in my Rose Encyclopedia (my brain).
Small. I know I’m small, and I usually feel pretty small, but now it was for sure. Engraved in me like a lumpy scar on a skeleton aspen tree. As I lugged my way back into the kitchen, I slammed down the grimy tray just as my muscles were giving up and started scraping half-eaten Tilapia into the trash. Small? Why can’t I be big? Powerful? Super important and invincible? The flawless girl you see flying in the clouds a thousand miles per hour, with a smile that thrives so brilliantly that people stop and wonder? Small can’t deliver that. I need to be someone who, when people see her, they hold their breaths until their lungs give out and become lumps in their gut. Only she can take their saggy lungs and knit them back into being, with an exhale so deep and refreshing it drowns them with ice-cold peace and purpose.
But, I’m a Klein. I’m not in the major-leagues, and I can’t actually fly yet. I’m not exactly a social butterfly either, although sometimes I wonder if social butterflies ever feel like their wings are tacked to a wall. My small mind contains enormous dreams, that I’ll be on the front page someday and that my words will swim into the hearts of people all over the world. And that somehow, through the words I braid into messy sentences, they will stumble upon a sea-glass glimmer of hope in the endlessly bleak gravel of a shallow promising society.
Sometimes I find myself wandering along this gravelly beach after darkness lead me there, and the vicious stones cut the bottoms of my feet and give me bloody footsteps. All around I notice souls who have bought the lie that they are too small and insignificant, and are doing anything they can to build themselves up and fortify their concrete walls for any battle they might need to fight. These walls look all different, but I’m surrounded. I walk by beautiful faces and see their eyes screaming from inside the concrete. They scrape their skin every time they move, but don’t even care, because they’re feeling something when they bleed. Who they are is never enough. They hate being trapped in concrete, and they hate being freed from it. It’s their bodies, their personalities, their talents. So much hate trapped inside the walls.
I know I’m small, smaller than the teensiest star in the barely visible fuzzy patch of them underneath the grand carpet of initial stars. Small, seemingly simple and ordinary, but underneath the surface my emotions and ambitions are blankets of tangled, intricate lace. When I look at my small hands, I see blue veins that remind me of the labyrinthine paths I’ve tried to take, only to wind up hopelessly lost. But every veiny path leads back to my heart, somehow. And though I’m small, I won’t drown in a sea of big and powerful faces. I will silently breathe and let my heart soak up more life than I can handle. The small writer inside of me is constantly working in her head, kneading moments and memories into something she can try to make sense of—words. Writing helps me in that way. I don’t always know what I think until I read what I say.
I want to look into the eyes of every hurting soul I see and cause the concrete walls to crumble. I want them to be free and fall in love with the privilege of running wildly. In our smallness we can stop seeking artificial love and discover a true love that never shouts, but whispers softly and makes us feel infinite.
Pure love is swelling inside our small souls. If we let it, it can fill us up so profoundly until we absolutely can’t hold it in and we burst open like Spongebob, leaving a beautiful, erratic mess of joy all over those around us. They’ll get stained with it and wonder where they can find this joy too. No matter how small we are, we can hold an immeasurable amount of love and life inside of us. Particles of God dwell in us and when we pray and laugh and sing and cry we retch up these bits. And then he replenishes us with many more, and these particles sink into every cell of our bodies and begin to radiate until we’re burning alive.
Love is a word that has become so cliche I almost can’t stand it. It’s overused, and too many people have a demented perception of what it really is. It’s such a real and fierce spirit that attacks us unexpectedly and provides us with a reason to live. My choir instructor (we call him “life lessons” teacher as well sometimes) tells us that love shouldn’t be big and loud. If someone is screaming at you that they love you, they probably don’t. If they whisper softly that they love you and humbly show affection, then it’s real. (He also tells us that saying “I’m sorry” comes with the implication that you will never let it happen again, which I think is golden. But that’s a whole other story. Choir is the one class that teaches me things I’ll actually need in life!)
Whispers are small. They don’t roar and explode and bite. They don’t usually draw a crowd, and sometimes they’re inaudible. Insignificant. But if the whisper is directed at you, it’s the biggest, most powerful force that can make you topple over. And that’s where God is. The small whisper. I think sometimes we (me especially) think we have to be these perfect, saintly people to feel close to God. I’m learning though, that if I listen to the small things, I can feel overwhelmed by the closeness I feel to him. He’s in the lyrics of our favorite songs (or weekly song obsessions if you’re Peyton), he’s in the late night conversations with your friends, he’s in the passenger seat of your car. He’s even in the frantic beating of your heart as you catch eyes with that one person who makes you feel like flying.
Tonight, it’s so late, and I feel comatose as I twirl in an ugly thrift store dress with my hair in a messy knot and guitars and drums and good lyrics bleeding from my stereo. And I feel in love. I know Jesus loves me in my smallness, and because of his small whispers I am the strong and fearless hopalong Cassidy. I might be a Klein, but I will stampede on my horse into tomorrow with a love so violently calm I’ll break any concrete walls with a whisper. And I know the beautiful people around me, my lovely, broken friends, are capable and strong and will do the same.
I know I’ll get lost. I’m a wayfaring dreamer and I might wind up in a scary and pressure-filled place, but all I have to do is remember to listen for the whispers in the dark and know how fleeting my time here is. I’ll listen to the music and my heartbeat will be the drums, beating and loving so loudly that my smallness will melt into the rich blanket of stars, and there I’ll stay; burning until I fizzle out and someone makes a wish.