My friend–a pastor in Seattle–told me the story about a remarkable woman in his church. She was licensed by the state to be a foster-care home for children with special needs. This requires fortitude and resilience, not knowing how long the children will be with you (maybe days or perhaps weeks), or how many children you may have at one time (as many as six).
One year, at Christmas time, money was short. Not just for presents, but also for food. There was a knock at the door. The children answered. Standing outside were three men wearing red bandannas–as “masks”–on their face. At first the children were uneasy, but saw that all three were carrying sacks of groceries. And even they knew that people who rob you, usually don’t bring groceries.
They went to get their “mother,” and when she arrived at the door, on the stoop sat 13 sacks of groceries. At the curb, a 1959 Cadillac convertible, the top down, with two of the men sitting up on the back–as if they were in a parade–while at the wheel the third, all of them still wearing their red bandannas and doing the “queen’s wave,” shouting, “Hi-yo. Silver, away!“
On each one of the sacks of groceries was written in big black calligraphy, “God’s desperadoes have been here.” The children asked their mom if they could sleep with some of the sacks in their room, never having seen that much food before.
Can I tell you the rest of the story? To this day, no one knows who those three men are. The children don’t know. The mother doesn’t know. The pastor doesn’t know. However, when he began to tell the story, the people who heard realized, “I am one of God’s desperadoes.”
Yes, I suppose it is that simple.
Easy? Probably not.
But we sure do make it complicated. The best way to kill a desperado endeavor is to send around “sign-up sheet.” “Who wants to be one of God’s desperadoes? First you have to go to desperado training, and then be certified, and maybe even serve on the desperado committee.”
We’re so focused on the wrong measurement or motivation or reward.
In a previous Sabbath Moment I referenced the documentary, From Mao to Mozart. It is about Isaac Stern’s visit to China after the Cultural Revolution. With openness to western influence, Stern was invited to teach music. In China, he comes face to face with the clash between technical skill and artistic interpretation.
The soul of the documentary is the time Stern spends with young Chinese students, coaching, coaxing, teaching and encouraging. The level of their skill is exceptional, and. . .well, astonishing. A consummate teacher, Stern’s task seems to be to inspire them to stop being merely technical masters, and to put their heart and emotion into their playing.
Oddly, we all get it.
We know that the power of life is wrapped in small gestures of compassion, and in the gifts that spill from the heart.
The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little. Jon Kabat-Zinn