Wrangling (as in to round up; to take charge of). I’ve been doing that with an idea — trying to articulate the point of this post — in my mind the majority of this short but beautiful summer.

My point is a somewhat long-ish, but I hope thought-provoking-ish, story involving a wedding, a happy couple named Lindsay and Brad (right), some former gang-members (not pictured), a priest, a high school gymnasium, a few tattoos, fancy french fries, kindness, some donuts, gentleness …  and … well … here goes.

In early June I attended the graduation ceremonies of one of my favorite organizations in the twin cities: Cristo Rey High School. I believe I’ve written about them before; they’ve touched my heart in a way that I won’t even try again to articulate (always sounds trite). But, fact is: Cristo Rey is an innovative college-prep HS (it’s a network of schools, actually, nation-wide – SO FAB!) serving some of our most under-served youth. Not at all trite, they have a very cool concept and are demonstrating very real results. As I have many other Junes since they opened, I showed up to cheer on this year’s superstar set of seniors pass over the stage, and on into their next stage of life.

Their commencement speaker was Fr. Greg Boyle, author of Tattoos On The Heart and founder of Homeboy Industries. If either of the above are new to you, google them. As in now. Because you’ll commence being wildly inspired. Homeboy and its social enterprises work with thousands of high-risk, formerly gang-involved men and women, giving them a chance for job training, tattoo removal and a new life. (E.g., Homeboy Bakery. What a concept! I need a donut.) Fr. Boyle is the mastermind.

You didn’t have to share the faith beliefs of Fr. Boyle to nod in agreement with his primary message that warm summer day in CR’s large gymnasium in S. Minneapolis: “Cristo Rey is not a place you come to, but a place you go from.” 

Indeed, the 100+ graduating students enrolled and worked incredibly hard. For four years. Learning more than 4 years worth of material and facts and social skills and college-readiness. Each is beating the odds society set up for him/her. But who cares, basically? (Of course we do). But Fr. Boyle was saying: it’s now what you do with what you’ve been given, and where you go from here.

His point, made many times over with mind-blowing stories of gang members turned successful leaders, and of former prison inmates turned highly-competent parents, partners and community members, was clear: you are just beginning! And what a beginning you have. You will make good, if you choose. And now go on and show us. And while you do, be sure to give generously and with goodness to the world. And to yourselves. And always to others. (My interpretations, not his exact words.)

Not a single person in that large high school gymnasium (my husband and I among them) didn’t walk out feeling ultra-inspired. 

In contrast (but not really): the very next week I found myself (lucky me!) at the wedding of the loveliest and most adorable couple. Set in a most gracious and historic of downtown St. Paul landmarks, Lindsay and Brad were married. And I was thrilled to be witness. They are two of the kindest people — the most authentically and beautifully gentle and gracious couples — I’ve met in a long-ish time.

Basically, in 10 words or less, their wow-worthy wedding was [don’t count inside parentheses]: Simple, elegant, gentle, meaningful, understated, stylish, warm (in the loving sense) and (gosh darn it, it must be said), plain old FUN. Oh, and absolutely lovely. It’s worth saying twice: pure lovely!

Their celebration had an authenticity – a beauty from within – that so many lack. And believe me, I’ve been to a LOT of weddings. Over my short 43 years. In many states. Wearing a lot of LBD’s and/or taffeta (80’s – cringe). Listening to a lot of hefty and holy hymns. And soloists. And trumpets. Plus a few organs (okay, a gaggle of organs if we could collect in one space). And generic vows. And chicken dances (not that there’s anything wrong with that. Nor is there anything wrong with a cold Bud Light in a plastic cup. I’m just sayin’).

Lindsay and Brad’s celebration was signature Lindsay and Brad, who have an admirable, loving and gentle (also, perfectly stylish – without trying too hard) way of being in the world. And it instilled in me a sense that, no question, they didn’t just plan their wedding as the big event to which they came. Rather, they seem to know exactly where they are going from that day forward and where they were going to: into a healthy, loving and kind life-long partnership.

From the perfectly appointed invitation to the contemporary and supra-fabulous french fry buffet, their celebration oozed simplicity and beauty … a thoughtful but relaxed, classy, not-trying-to-impress sensibility … one I felt deep in my happy-couple-core is going to serve them perfectly (and everyone they meet) as they go from that day, into the life of the hard-won, yet totally worth it, shared-existence of a happy, respectful, and uber-cool (in the “we are enough” sense) couple.  

The point of this lenghty-ish, summer-long-conceived, but hopefully worth it post? If you haven’t figured it out already:

We’re all on a journey from what was or is to what is next. What will you choose to do and be (especially in your relationships)? Of course, I invite you to select, wherever you’re headed, kindness and gentleness. And pure authenticity – whatever that looks like in your soul. Like Fr. Boyle. Like Lindsay and Brad. And like the gang members making donuts and fluffy iced cakes. The other choice is, well, not so attractive. I’m committing (not always succeeding, but at least trying) to choose as much. Join me?