A Plate of Truth

You, no doubt, remember the story of the three little pigs and the big bad wolf. The wolf threatens to eat them, so each of the pigs sets off to build a house that will protect him from harm. Two of the pigs build insubstantial structures made of straw or sticks – the building of which can be accomplished quickly. The third pig takes his time and builds a solid house of bricks. Soon the wolf comes back and blows down the straw and stick houses. The pigs who are now homeless run for shelter with their brother in his house of bricks. The brick house saves the pigs’ lives.

I started thinking about this story today after my conversation with Skye’s counselor at her boarding school. She told me that Skye is working the “problem of lying.” We can probably all relate to that problem in one way or another. It is often so much easier to lie to get the object of our desires than it is to tell the god-awful truth. Whether it is lying about our work experience on a job application or rewriting personal history to attract the object of our affections, lies are so very seductive. They are the house of straw or sticks we build for our protection.

But there are “wolves” out there who can destroy our feeble houses. The wolves are not necessarily all bad. Skye has been thrown into a pack of wolves and her house is unlikely to stand for long. These wolves are asking her to take apart the house. But who wants to destroy their own house? Who wants to be homeless? I’m almost certain that Skye sees homelessness as the alternative to her house made of straw or sticks right now. Her carefully crafted house has been protection from the harms she deemed most powerful. It has given her independence, a place to stay, separate from some other house where her parents and siblings reside.

The wolves at school are blowing at Skye’s house with truth: Tell us the truth. Be truthful.

The truth, it is said, is supposed to set you free. What does that freedom look like? Independence? Separateness? I don’t think so. I think it is more like the story of the pigs. Once the straw and sticks are blown away, the pigs run to a different house where others live – a house built on something more substantial – the truth. It’s communal living here. Each brings his or her plate of truth to the table where it is shared. The truth isn’t always pretty. It can be riddled with real problems and difficulties.

I think about open adoption. Open adoption is certainly not problem or difficulty free. It contains stories of rape, infidelity, divorce, multiple marriages, full and half and step and adopted siblings, drug and alcohol use or abuse, unemployment or under-employment, grief over loss of one’s first parents, homelessness, mental illness, and the pain of infertility – just to name a few of the situations I have personally encountered.

But when one comes to the table with a big plate of truth, there are others there to share the bitter parts. This leaves more room on the plate for extra helpings of joy, peace, and love. Oh, I am just full of metaphor today!

Yesterday, Journey came home from a cross-country meet exhausted, but with several hours of homework ahead of her. She is accustomed to doing homework in the kitchen, and so there she sat to do her work. K.J. arrived a few minutes later, coming from a disappointing soccer game. He too was tired and hungry, with schoolwork yet to do. John called my cell phone and asked about the game. I handed the phone to K.J. who sat himself down in the kitchen to speak to his dad. Journey erupted, whining that K.J. was interrupting her work. K.J. shouted back: “You don’t own the kitchen. You ought to move somewhere else. I have a right to be here.” I tried to reason with them over the shouting: “Please, K.J., just take the phone into another room.” “Please, Journey, be patient. He will be done talking soon.” No one was listening.

Each child was trying to shove his/her bitter truth down the throat of the other. But what if each had brought the rest of the truth with him/her? What if the conversation had gone more like this?

Journey: “K.J., I am really tired and I still have a lot of work to do. I know you are tired too. But could you please move into another room to finish your conversation? My concentration is shot; and I really need as much quiet as possible. I know it’s not fair to ask because I could move somewhere else. But all my things are already set up here and I’d really like to stay and finish my work here.”

K.J.: “I’m so tired from the soccer game, Journey. Our seniors were away this week and we have nobody who is very talented on offense. It was such a frustrating game to me. We missed so many opportunities to score. My legs hurt. I feel like I can hardly move. If I could just sit here and finish the phone call, that would be great. I’ll be gone in just a minute. I know you have work to do.”

When Skye finally decides to deal with her “problem of lying” and to dismantle the house of straw and sticks, she will be welcome at our communal house of bricks and truth. The truth won’t always be pretty – riddled as it is with difficulties, pain, sadness, and more. In the meantime, the rest of us must practice bringing our full plates to the table. We must practice sharing the bitter and the sweet so that we will be able to receive and share Skye’s bounty as well. It may save all our lives.

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