Doing my best to find my way.
“I can do it myself!”
I can eat my lunch without your helping me.
I can walk along the wall without your holding my hand.
I can solve the math problem without your giving me hints.
I can make this decision without calling my parents.
I can figure this out without talking to my boss.
I can do it myself.
Self reliance is important.
As is the courage and the willingness to put in the work to gain a new skill or to deepen your understanding or to acquire a new insight.
But the downside of self reliance is arrogance.
I know how to do it.
I know how to do it better than you know how to do it.
I don’t need you.
I don’t need your help.
I don’t need your support or suggestions or back up.
Because I can do it myself.
Or, if not “I” we.
We can do it ourselves.
We don’t need you.
This past week, during record breaking and heart breaking cold, the Texas energy grid collapsed. Along with all the other reasons, arrogance played a part. We can manage it on our own. We don’t need you.
Racism continues to tear at the fabric of our communities and our country. My skin color makes me better, smarter, more deserving than you. I don’t need you to tell me what to do to understand it or to face it or to fix it.
America love it or leave it.
At least that is what they told me years ago when I was challenging our nation’s involvement in the Vietnam War. I don’t hear the words spoken aloud anymore, but the attitude remains. Ours is the best. We are the best. We are number one even when we are not.
As I said as I began
Self reliance is a strength.
Until it is not.
Until that moment when I need you.
And you need me.
If arrogance is not include on that list of deadly sins
It should be.
For years, in my desk drawer, I kept a file folder filled with pages torn out of magazines and newspaper articles I read or which someone dropped off for me to read. Scraps of paper each with some tidbit of wisdom I did not want to forget or an idea which deserved more time to think about than I had when I added it to the file. And, the front and back of the manila file filled as well. Covered with quotes from something I was reading or something I had heard. My writing them down helped me file them away not only in my desk drawer, but also somewhere within the recesses of my mind where they would occasionally push their way outward to my remembering which is what happened on my walk today.
One of the quotes on that file folder is this:
“If they get you asking the wrong questions they don’t have to worry about the answers.”
I don’t know where I read it.
I think it was written or said by Saul Alinsky, but I am not sure.
I only scribbled down the quote and nothing more.
But, given where we are
In the midst of a pandemic
I began thinking about what the “right questions” might be that we should be asking.
Should we open up?
Or, when and how should we open up?
Or, when will this be over?
Or, when will we get back to normal?
What is the balance between rights and responsibility?
How will we define “community?”
And, how will we support and sustain that “community” in the new normal which will emerge?
How do we value tomorrow the jobs and service which we rely on so heavily today?
I don’t know the answers.
But these feel like the “right: questions.
Ones we should begin thinking and talking about.
I no longer remember what prompted the call.
Whether it was a question that had been asked of me.
Or a sermon I was working on.
Or, maybe, just my own pondering.
Anyway, I called a friend who is a Jewish Rabbi and asked…
“The you in the 10 commandments…
As, you shall love the Lord your God…
As, you shall not kill…
As, you shall not covet…
Is that you singular or plural?”
(I was hoping he would say plural.)
“It is singular,” he said.
“But, it is addressed to the community.
The community is singular.”
I found myself thinking about that conversation again yesterday as I went for a walk.
Maybe the importance of the 10 Commandments…
The wisdom of the 10 Commandments…
Is not the commandments themselves, but in the use of the singular you.
Daring to declare that we are singular.
That we are one.
That we are in this together.
And the moment we recognize that and begin to live that way we begin to follow the commandments and to fulfill the Law and to step towards the Kingdom of God which has the chance of being right here. Right now.
And, maybe this is also true.
If I follow all the commandments…
To the nth degree…
To the letter of the law..
Thinking it is only about me
Or, primarily about me
About what I believe and how I act
I have missed the point completely.
It was raining a year ago.
Like it is raining now.
Only a year ago it was colder.
The moving van arrived about 9:00 AM to unload.
And suddenly we were “home.”
From one house and community where we had lived for nearly 30 years
To a new house and a new community.
And a new chapter in our lives.
It has been quite a year.
Trying to figure out how to use these next years in ways which are meaningful.
Something I am still trying to do.
I realize now how tired I was.
In some ways I still am.
There is an unwinding and loosening which takes time.
Longer than I thought it would.
A prying open of space so something new can begin to take root.
I have tried to be patient with the process.
Patient with myself.
Tried is the operative word.
Maybe I am not as patient a person as I thought I was.
When I retired I had a list of what I wanted to do.
I thought I would be able to plunge in and check off my retirement list like I checked off my daily To Do list when I was working.
I still have that list.
Pretty much the same today as it was then.
What have I learned?
It takes time to learn new things.
I just have to try it.
And, it’s okay if it doesn’t work out or doesn’t work out the way I imagined.
It’s okay not to be busy all the time.
Walks in the woods or along the lake restores a balance in my life.
Community is important.
I miss the community I had.
Church folks/People of Faith are important to me.
We, including/especially me, are FAR from perfect, but for a few moments, on some sort of regular basis, we risk putting ourselves in a position/place to be confronted and challenged by ideals and dreams and possibilities larger than what fills our lives the rest of the week.
I am grateful for the time and the opportunities I have. Even when it feels hard.
One year in.
On to year two.
The most critical religious question of our day is how we will answer the question "Who is my neighbor?"
That which we know and name as God is more about the connections between us than something above us.
And this, from the poet Maya Angelou...
"Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better."