Never Step Into a “Staff Only” Elevator

Image Description: An elevator with a sign that clearly reads, “Staff Only.”

Today, I share a repost from April 2018 — you know, back in the days of yore when we used to be able to go to meetings. I was thinking about this moment earlier this week, and I thought it would be enjoyable for some reason to make fun of myself again.

Have you ever left a City Council meeting, walked toward an elevator, read a sign that said “Staff Only,” pushed the button anyway, walked inside, watched the doors close, traveled down, then realized you’re completely stuck, then Tweeted your way out of it?

I have.

Move over, POTUS. I too can use Twitter for purposes for which it was never designed.

Yes, this really happened to me! Yes, it was embarrassing. And it has turned into a good story. (If you know me, surprise. I like that part).

Last month in Ann Arbor, I attended a very important City Council meeting. Despite some frustrating moments and comments, overall, the meeting moved in the direction we desired. This was certainly good news.

When that portion was over, I decided to leave. The meeting was still in session, and the City Council members had moved onto other business. So I decided to take the elevator down and walk back to my car. Now. . . which way did I come into the chambers. . .?

Here is a unique factoid about me: It’s mostly endearing, but on rare occasions, it can get in my way. That is, if I have things on my mind — especially if I’m anxious, but also, simply, if I’m pondering possibilities, as I was when I entered this City Council meeting — I don’t adequately pay attention to my surroundings.

In other words, when it was time to leave, I didn’t remember how I had come into the chambers. But never fear, here is an elevator! I remember coming up on an elevator!

It says, “Staff Only Elevator.”

“Surely, that means only during work hours,” I fatefully assume. “I mean, I came up on an elevator.”

I push the button, step inside, and choose the first floor.

I go down, and the doors swing open just as they should, and I step out. But. . . I immediately recognize this isn’t where I’m supposed to be. Hmm. . . I suppose this was the wrong elevator after all. . . So I push the button, requesting that the doors open so I can head back upstairs and try a different way.

The doors indeed open.

I step inside.

The doors close.


That is, NOTHING HAPPENS. Because the doors are now irrevocably shut on the first floor, and no buttons are working. “Oh my goodness,” I realize, “This requires a badge.”

This just in: I have no badge.

I am the fool who stepped into a “Staff Only Elevator.”

I keep trying to push floor buttons to no avail. I see the red, EMERGENCY ONLY button, and with utter embarrassment, I begin to ponder what will happen if I push that. Will there be an alarm? Will I disrupt the City Council meeting that is still underway? Will emergency vehicles come? Will tomorrow’s MLive article talk about this very important vote, then mention that the rest of the business was cut short when a firetruck arrived to save a person who took the wrong elevator?

I imagine people saying to me compassionately, “Oh, you must not have seen the sign that said ‘Staff only.’” And I ponder the truth, wondering if I would ever dare to say it aloud:

“Well, actually, I did see it, but due to my very poor spacial reasoning skills, I didn’t adequately remember the direction from which I entered the chamber. I only remembered coming up on an elevator, and here was an elevator, so. . .”

All of this felt mortifying to me.


That’s when I remembered Twitter.

You see, friends, this very foolish error aside, I have a strong skill. I am an outside-the-box thinker! I remember, there is an entire community of people that uses a Twitter hashtag to hash out City Council meetings. #A2CityCouncil will be my saving day!

So I dare to craft an embarrassing, necessary tweet. I say,

“Okay, so this is hella embarrassing because I took an elevator that was for employees only, and now I’m on the first floor with an elevator door that won’t open. Can someone go push the elevator button on floor two so it sends me back up? #A2council”

And yes, to my further embarrassment, but even more to the necessity, people start retweeting this foolishness. And it works. The community makes a plan to collectively save me from my error (and just a little less dramatically than an emergency button) . In fact, a particular human was chosen by the community-at-large to push that button and send me back to the land of the living.

He was on his way when. . . oh, my goodness, I hear someone! An employee (you know, actual staff) was cleaning and talking on her phone. I started pounding on the elevator doors in an attempt to be just loud enough without scaring her. And that worked too.

She pushes the button to open the door, and as soon as I tell her what happened, she laughs and laughs.

I tweet again that I am free.

I walk out of that place, quite aware that I will never take a “Staff Only Elevator” again. And I tell you this tale, so that you will never follow in my not-able-to-go-anywhere footsteps.

We have a City Council meeting tonight. And God bless it it all, I’m  going to pay attention to my entry point.

Renee Roederer

Shifting Burdens

Image Description: Two people carrying a chest of drawers into a moving truck.

In these days we’re living, do you feel overwhelmed by the news cycle?

Yes, me too. Of course. Who doesn’t?

Behind the news cycle, there are real, raw, human stories of suffering. And so often, we feel helpless to prevent that suffering and powerless to change it.

It’s incredibly understandable to fall into those feelings. In such times, we need the solidarity of one another – that is,

. . . the sense that we are in each other’s view, that we encounter each other’s pain with empathy,

. . . the sense that we have each other’s commitment, that we are in each other’s corner for the long haul,

. . . the sense that we have each other’s action, that we covenant to act on behalf of one another, especially and most readily for the vulnerable.

In my Christian tradition, scripture speaks to a calling of bearing each other’s burdens. Lately, within that calling, I find myself encouraging people to shift each other’s burdens. 

We can easily become incapacitated once we realize we cannot instantly fix the systems that are causing burdens. But our empathy, and most importantly, our committed action can change these systems and these burdens. Do not underestimate what these can do.

When we see pain for what it is, we add our validation, and it shifts burdens.

When we add our resources of money, time, or skills, it shifts burdens.

When we use our voices to name wrongs for what they are, it shifts burdens.

When we use our minds to create solutions, it shifts burdens.

When we put our bodies in places that disrupt harm, it shifts burdens.

When we honor the humanity of people who are being dehumanized, it shifts burdens.

When we take direct action and demand justice for the oppressed and vulnerable, it shifts burdens.

If we want to change the large-scale systems that cause harm, we have to disrupt and dismantle them. But alongside that commitment, we have to live and model our lives with a different rhythm – with different commitments and ways of relating to one another.

We practice solidarity.

And within that way of living, we share and lighten the loads that people are carrying. We assign energy and responsibility to where they really belong.

We shift each other’s burdens.

Renee Roederer

You are valuable.

nice to see you
Image Description: In white, stenciled letters, there is a graffiti message on the pavement which reads, “Nice to see you.” Fallen leaves surround it.

It’s that simple.
It’s that profound.

It is Truer than True.
You have worth that cannot be diminished.

No matter
any of the words that have stung in the past,

No matter
any of the dismissals people have thrown your way,

No matter
any of the failings that keep you up at night,

No matter
any of the items left unchecked on your to-do list,

No matter
any of the unkind comments said to your own reflection,

No matter
any of the the stigma people associate with the diagnosis,

No matter
any of the “gaps” on your resume,

No matter
any of the things pundits have said about you,

No matter
any of the fears you carry inside your living cells.

No matter

You are valuable.
Full stop.

With a love that can’t be lost.
With a life that can be lived.

– Renee Roederer



Image Description: A spoonful of soil.

Here’s a mind-blowing fact: There are more living organisms found in a single teaspoon of soil than there are people on the earth. (Yes! Mind blown!)

More than 7 billion living organisms. In just one spoon-full.

That’s incredible. 

And like us, every organism in the soil is supported by the sun, a burning sphere of hot gas, fusing its energy 93 million miles away from us. This means our lives are sustained by an

enormous, far-away source of heat and light


tiny, nearby creatures, so numerous that we could barely begin to count them.

There are always more forces sustaining us than we can easily see. 

So how much more? 

In the earth? In the Spirit? In the dreams? In the relationships?

– Renee Roederer

More Than We Know


Image Description: A bee collecting nectar from a pink flower.

Bees bumble from flower to flower, using the navigation of bright colors to bring them to life-giving nectar. They collect it and covert it to honey to care for their young, and by extension, the whole hive.

But they have no idea about something else. . .

They have no idea they are pollinating the world’s food supply.

It helps me to remember that. The lives of bees are already so intricate and complex even in what they do intend, but beyond that, their work yields more life and complexity than they know.

Maybe this can remind us:

Individually, and especially collectively, our best intentions, our best connections, our best work, our best loves, and our best visions may yield more life and complexity than we know too.

– Renee Roederer



Image Description: Yellow wildflowers in my backyard. The buds are open to collect sunlight.

I was moving about my business inside the house when from the window, the yellow wildflowers outside caught my attention. For the last ten minutes or so, I’ve been on a Google search trail to try to figure out their name. They’re pretty common at this time of year, so I shouldn’t have to search much longer.

I’ve been noticing and appreciating these flowers over the last few weeks, and the bees certainly notice and appreciate them too. They caught my attention in a particular way at this morning because their buds were stretched open far more expansively than they are in the afternoon and evening.

This isn’t surprising, of course. That’s how many flowers operate.

But it was a lovely image at the start of a day to see these flowers so open — so receptive to the sun.

What makes us most receptive?

When do we feel most receptive?

What do we want to receive?

Renee Roederer

When Language Carries Our Names

israel, hebrew, tanakh, torah, bible, old testament, christianity, church,  languages, judaism, religion | Pikist

Image Description: Words of the Torah in Hebrew text.

From my vantage point, looking at a screen as I sat at my dining room table, names emerged within the Zoom chat window. But I had not read them yet with my eyes.

Instead, gathered virtually with the Beth Israel Congregation in Ann Arbor, I listened to my dear friend and colleague, Rabbi Rob Dobrusin, pray in Hebrew. The sounds flowed meaningfully, though most of the words were unknown to me. Here and there, I would hear, Adonai, a name for God. In a language unknown to me, definitions, grammar, and syntax all fell away. Instead, I heard spoken, melodic sounds.

Then I began to hear our names.

In the midst of words I didn’t understand, I opened my eyes suddenly and looked up at the screen in recognition when the name of another colleague alerted me to understanding. This language of prayer was carrying names. Then I began to hear more names interspersed within these sounds. Then I heard the names of the people I had placed in that chat window.

I felt language itself lifting us up, knowing that our words are intentions, knowing that our melodic speaking is often filled with love for people.

Renee Roederer

If You Want to Treat a Writer

Image Description: A Ben Montero cartoon, which can be found here. 4 slides: This yellow bird really loves treats! “Do we get treats?” he asks, as a newborn, as a kiddo walking into school for the first time, on the first day on the job and… well, popping out of the casket. 🙂

If you’d like to treat this writer, there are ways to provide yummy, treat-y foods to supplement her daily writing!

At the end of the month, I like to take a moment and thank people for visiting Smuggling Grace and reading my daily posts here. I appreciate that so much and the ways that people contribute their own thoughts through comments. Thank you! I’m committed to sharing my written content free of charge, and I hope that these pieces provide some hope and encouragement during challenging times. Once per month, for those who would like to support this work, I offer some opportunities to do that.

If you would like to become a monthly patron, I have a Patreon Page. Feel free to check it out. Or, if you’d like to give a one-time gift, you can do so here.

Imagine… with a small donation, you can provide the funds for a highly isolated, pandemic person to have tacos delivered joyfully to her house this weekend. Do you know how much this writer loves tacos? Or really, any kind of treats?

Thanks for reading and commenting! You are appreciated. To borrow the words from the tip jar at my local Panera Bread, “Never expected, always appreciated.”

Renee Roederer