Strong enough to care.
Strong enough to respect others.
Strong enough to listen.
Strong enough to change one’s mind.
Strong enough to rely on another.
Strong enough to learn.
Strong enough to say “I’m sorry.”
Strong enough to say “Thank you.”
Strong enough to let another go first.
Strong enough to practice compassion.
Strong enough to be gracious.
Strong enough to be kind.
Strong enough to help others.
Strong enough to let others take the credit.
Strong enough to sacrifice.
Strong enough to bear disappointment.
Strong enough to risk.
Strong enough to be empathetic.
Strong enough to kneel down in order to look a child in the eye.
Strong enough to extend a hand.
Strong enough for tears.
Strong enough to forgive.
Strong enough to share.
Strong enough to lift another up.
Strong enough to be generous.
As I stepped into retirement, a friend sent me an email with these lines from T.S. Eliot’s poem “Ash Wednesday.”
Teach us to care and not to care.
Teach us to sit still.
While I still have much to learn about the second line, it is the first line I have found myself thinking about. And, as is often the case for me, I think in lingering questions rather than definitive statements.
Today, what am I going to care about?
Care enough about to do something with or about?
Care enough to move beyond lip service to real service?
Today, what am I not going to care about?
Intentionally not care about?
Because, in the end, it doesn’t matter.
Or, is less important today than yesterday.
What am I not going to care about so I have the time and energy and vision to care?
The figuring out process I am going through is similar to what I experienced this morning as we unpacked more boxes. Even though everything was moved, not everything can be kept. We opened the next box filled with treasures from some part and time of our lives. Each one wrapped in layers and layers of paper. One at a time each is lifted out. Unwrapped to see what it is. Then the hard part. Stay or go. Because of space only a certain number of things can stay. Less than will have to go. All are important, but which matter the most?
Part of the task before me is to unwrap my life.
And, to hold each part for a moment.
And, then to decide.
Teach us to care and not to care.
We went to church again last Sunday.
It was nice.
The people around us were welcoming.
The pastor was honest and thoughtful with what she said.
In a variety of different ways we were reminded of the communities around us.
From those down the street to those across the world.
But, what I left with was this.
For one hour
Out of the 168 hours in my week
I was reminded of goodness.
Those words were said out loud.
Both to me and for me.
And, more than that, I said those words out loud.
To me and for me.
And also to and for you.
I was reminded of the larger circles around my life.
And, that we are made for each other.
And, are to care for each other.
And, that I am not (and neither are you) the center of that circle.
I was also reminded I was not perfect.
(Something I already know all too well.)
But in the next breath,
I was reminded that, even though I am far from perfect,
I am valued.
And, have the ability and the opportunity
In the moment before me
To make myself better.
And the world around me better.
All of that in one hour.
Only one hour.
Out of the 168 hours in my week.
In the other 167 hours of my week
Between the news
And the social media posts
And the grocery store checkout lines
I am reminded how petty we can be.
And, how thoughtless and uncaring we can be.
And, how inhuman we, too often, are.
For 167 hours each week we are bombarded by the reminders of our worst selves.
But for that one hour….
We dare not forget the horror and the heartbreak with which so many people live.
But, we should not forget the goodness either.
And, in each other.
I, for one, need the reminder.
I have been having a hard time wishing others a Happy New Year.
So much both around me and ahead of us feels so unsettled.
I feel like I am holding my breath.
And, even in the best of circumstances, what I wish for others in the days ahead is so much more than happy.
One way others have told me they are dealing with a similar feeling is by turning off or turning inward. Not paying attention to what is happening in the world around them or focusing only on their own household. I can’t go there. Even though much of it is heartbreaking, what happens out there is important. And, it is important that I see it and know about it and grapple with it, because to ignore it is disaster.
Today, I realized part of what I need is some counter-balance to the headlines in the news. In my heart of hearts, I believe there is more goodness in the world than hatred. More kindness and caring than indifference and prejudice. But it takes intentionality and discipline to see it. So, beginning today each day I am going to write down three things which turn my eyes and my heart and my mind in that direction.
Here are my three for today.
- The folks at Antioch Baptist Church who, each year, plan and host a Martin Luther King Banquet whose theme this year is Honoring the Past, Shaping the Future. Their witness is inspiring.
- I spent some time today writing Thank you notes to several people who sent cards and a donation to the church at Christmas. One donation was in honor of an older woman who passed away last year. Each year she would send me a Christmas card and a note and a check for $100.00. This year her daughter sent a card on her mother’s behalf.
- I put the Christmas gifts we bought for my Mom in the basket where our high school students are collecting clothes for a Midnight Run this Friday evening. My Mom who is 87 doesn’t need much so for Christmas I bought her a sweatshirt and a winter hat and a pair of gloves. Someone who needs those items will receive them this Friday night.
In the days ahead there will certainly be more things to do, but for today I will do my best to pay attention.
Remind us of grace, O God.
A grace which heals.
A grace which opens us to hope.
A grace which meets us in the midst of each day
And turns our lives in new directions.
Remind us of Your dream, O God.
A dream of swords into plowshares.
A dream of a table large enough for all.
A dream of a time and a place where all are named and welcomed
As sisters and brothers.
And recognized as children of God.
Remind us of gratitude, O God.
For love which sustains.
For food enough.
For who we are called to be.
Remind us, O God, that Thank you is our first and our best prayer.
Remind us, O God.
May I strive…
To listen carefully before I speak.
Pause long enough that I might see clearly.
Look closely enough that I might understand.
May what I do and what I say…
Create some space for grace to slip in.