If you are not ___________ (fill in the blank) you are not paying attention.
All that stuff out there is all those things.
At least to me.
And, all that stuff out there matters.
And makes a difference.
And demands our attention even if and when we are all of the above.
But today, I also offer this reminder.
Somewhere someone provided food for someone who was hungry.
Somewhere someone went the extra mile to help a stranger.
Somewhere someone called on someone who was sick.
Somewhere someone spent the day helping to make a home safer.
Somewhere someone stopped what they were doing to listen.
Somewhere someone looked another person in the eye.
Somewhere someone said Thank you and meant it.
Somewhere someone promised to love another.
Somewhere someone rocked a baby who was crying.
Somewhere someone read a book to a child.
Somewhere someone took a step towards their dream.
Somewhere someone got back up off the ground.
Somewhere someone spoke up for what is right.
Somewhere someone stood up for what is right.
Somewhere someone broke their silence.
Somewhere someone overcame their fear.
Maybe it was you.
And that matters.
And makes a difference.
And world of difference.
I am doing my best to keep my balance.
I am doing my best to keep in front of me the values which have given shape to my life.
Treating others…the other…the way I would like to be treated.
Values which I think build stronger relationships and better communities and a better tomorrow.
And, I am doing my best to create communities in which those values have a place.
But, the world around me is crazy.
And, I am afraid about to get crazier.
The politics and lies and silence and excuses of Washington are spilling out onto your street and my street and Main Street, and onto our dining room tables. Neighborhoods are feeling the strain. Families are feeling the strain. The fault lines under our feet are deep and getting deeper.
I don’t have any easy answers.
I don’t have any hard answers either.
I worry about our tomorrow.
Because the day is going to come, whether sooner or later, when all that we have broken is going to have to be put back together. And, I wonder…
Am I going to be ready for that task?
And, are we going to remember how?
Today, I am trying to keep my balance.
And to do my best to hold onto those values which have given shape to my life.
The above picture showed up on my social media feed a couple days ago. If you don’t recognize her name, Greta Thunberg is the Swedish student who has been credited with raising global awareness of the risks posed by greenhouse gases and climate change, and with holding politicians and business leaders accountable for their lack of action on what she calls the “climate crisis.” Seeing this picture reminded me of a quote credited to the community organizer Saul Alinsky. He asked, “Do we think our way to new ways of acting or do we act our way to new ways of thinking?” On one level the answer is, of course, both, but in my experience it is when we take action…when we do something new or do something to make a difference…we find ourselves thinking differently.
Thunberg and Alinsky are both pointing us in the same direction.
Hope is not just there.
Waiting for us to notice it or tap into it.
Hope is created.
Hope is called into being…
Each time we take a stand for what we know to be right.
Each time we act with integrity and compassion.
Each time we look at another and recognize a sister or brother and understand our responsibility to each other.
Thunberg is right.
Once we start to act, hope is everywhere.
And, we begin to think and see differently.
It seems like only yesterday there was snow
And the ground so soggy
You were forced to pick your way.
But today the trees
Which long ago
Had shrugged off the beauty of the early winter snows
To stand bare and brown against the sky
Begin to show their true colors.
The willows, yellow.
The white birch, brown
The maple, red and burnt yellow.
Sometime in the last couple weeks I read an article about the power of stories. I should have bookmarked it to save it, but I didn’t. Now that I am retired I no longer bookmark or save articles like this in the file folders which I used for so many years. But what I remember and why I remember it is this. The thesis of the article was that the stories we remember and the stories we tell and retell ourselves shape who we are and how we act, particularly in times of difficulty and decision. I found myself thinking about this not just in terms of my own life, but also, given the deep divide in our country, how the stories we remember and tell shape our public perception and discourse. In the stories we tell…
Is their enough?
Does goodness prevail?
Is life about survival of the fittest?
Is there hope?
Do we pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps?
Who is our neighbor?
Who should we be afraid of?
Does that long arc of history really bend in the direction of justice?
Then yesterday I read this interview with Reza Aslan by Daniel Jose Camacho of Sojourners. On of the things he says in that interview is that religion is storytelling. Aslan’s insight resonated with me because the part of Christian and Hebrew scriptures which resonate with me are the stories.
Moses at the burning bush.
Do bushes around us also burn inviting us to something new?
Jesus feeding the 5000.
What does it take for us to feed those around us who are hungry?
The accounts of the resurrection of Jesus.
Is new life possible when we find ourselves surrounded by darkness and despair?
I could go on.
In light of these articles I have found myself thinking about several questions.
- At this age and stage of my life what stories am I telling myself about responsibility and courage and learning new things and growing older?
- How do I begin to let go of stories which are not helpful?
- How do I begin to learn new stories which are?
- So many of the stories that have meaning for me are rooted in the Bible. For that I am grateful. But, for those who have never heard those stories in a meaningful, life-giving way, what stories do they draw on?
- What stories which I/we have forgotten which would be helpful if we remembered again?
I am sure there are more…questions that is.
I have loved good stories for as long as I can remember.
And, I agree with the author of the first article.
The stories we tell ourselves and each other are powerful.
Which leads me to this…
What are the stories you tell yourself about who you are and and what you value and our place and role in and relationship to the world around us?
A friend sent me the above picture.
Taken from inside the ring of lights which tonight will shine from lower Manhattan.
A reminder of where the twin towers of the World Trade Center stood.
Lit again as we remember the horrific events of that day.
And the heartbreak and anguish of the days which followed.
For many those lights will shine as a sign of defiance.
Representing our strength and resolve.
And, that despite the hatred and horror of that event we will not be crushed.
My heart tugs me in a different direction.
Instead of defiance, I long for those lights to be for us and for all a beacon of hope.
A sign of welcome and promise.
A sign of the best of the American dream.
A sign that pushes back against the darkness of terrorism and fear and hatred and bigotry.
A sign that violence is not the way to solve/resolve the world’’s problems.
A sign to the world that that is who we are and this is what we value and this is what we will stand for.
Right now in our country, we are a long way from that.
But I can still hope.
And, long for the day when America will live up to its creed of liberty and justice for all.