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A Place for Sanctuary. Daily Dose (Feb 22 – 25)

Tuesday — This week we’re talking about the soldier’s little daughter’s observation to a woman who worried she was without a home, “But we do have a home ma’am,” she answers. “We just don’t have a house to put it in.”
When I see only scarcity (or see only what I don’t have), I miss the fact that every single one of us has been gifted with creativity, heart, love, passion, gentleness, helpfulness, caring, kindness, tenderness and a shoulder to lean on (for crying or for dancing, depending on the mood at the time).
This is the paradigm of Sufficiency.
In other words, the absence of a “house” doesn’t mean that the home is diminished.
Sufficiency is the fuel, forming the ingredients and gifts that make up our home. Maybe the “house” we put these gifts in, is not a building, but an encounter, a gesture, a conversation, a helping hand, a smile or a hug.
The bottom line is this: carrying the little girl’s paradigm, we change—meaning that we choose to honor—what really “counts.” What a reminder (and gift) for the world in which we live.
Our invitation to see, measure, value and honor differently…

This week we lost another bright light in our world, Paul Farmer.
I was inspired and buoyed reading Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains. Kidder tells the true story of a gifted man who is in love with the world and has set out to do all he can to cure it. Farmer (Doctor, Harvard professor, renowned infectious-disease specialist, anthropologist, the recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant, world-class Robin Hood) was brought up in a bus and on a boat, and in medical school found his life’s calling: to diagnose and cure infectious diseases and to bring the lifesaving tools of modern medicine to those who need them most.
And here’s one of the part of the story that stayed with me. Many, here in the United States, openly criticized and questioned Farmer’s decision to spend time in places like Haiti (you know, because he could accomplish “so much more here”, why waste it there), where he gave all of his time to seeing so few patients (travel, difficult terrain etc.). Time to Farmer where each, and every, patient mattered.
You see, Paul wasn’t keeping score.
“And I can imagine Farmer saying he doesn’t care if no one else is willing to follow their example,” Tracy Kidder writes. “He’s still going to make these hikes, he’d insist, because if you say that seven hours is too long to walk for two families of patients, you’re saying that their lives matter less than some others’, and the idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that’s wrong with the world.”
Yes… Our invitation to see, measure, value and honor differently…

I would be remiss if I didn’t notice that 2/22/22 is palindromic… which means something I am told… but until I know, I like the way it looks when I type it. Just sayin’.

Wednesday — Sufficiency is the fuel, energizing the ingredients and gifts (creativity, heart, love, passion, gentleness, helpfulness, caring, kindness, tenderness) that make up “our home” (where we are grounded, whether or not we have a “house”). And maybe, the “house” we put these gifts in, is not a building, but an encounter, a gesture, a conversation, a helping hand, a smile or a hug.
The bottom line is this: carrying the little girl’s paradigm, we change—meaning that we choose to honor—what really “counts.” What a reminder (and gift) for the world in which we live.
Our invitation to see, measure, value and honor differently…

So. This is our invitation: to live this day grounded in the reality that the ordinary is the hiding place for the holy. The sacrament of this present moment. You know… the one it is so easy to miss.
Or walk by… for whatever reason (hurry, distraction, stress, our plates are full, focused on “if only”). And we convince ourselves that whatever we seek in the sacred, or miraculous, or in intervention of the divine, is not in a place where we are right now (this moment).
In other words, we don’t look at the world around us as a place where God lives. But what if we did? What would that look like?

Oliver Sacks (who died in 2015) had a way of paying attention to and writing about things that matter. Just this summer he did an essay for the New York Times. In it he writes, “A few weeks ago, in the country, far from the lights of the city, I saw the entire sky “powdered with stars” (in Milton’s words); such a sky, I imagined, could be seen only on high, dry plateaus like that of Atacama in Chile (where some of the world’s most powerful telescopes are). It was this celestial splendor that suddenly made me realize how little time, how little life, I had left. My sense of the heavens’ beauty, of eternity, was inseparably mixed for me with a sense of transience — and death.
I told my friends Kate and Allen, “I would like to see such a sky again when I am dying.”
“We’ll wheel you outside,” they said.
I have been comforted, since I wrote in February about having metastatic cancer, by the hundreds of letters I have received, the expressions of love and appreciation, and the sense that (despite everything) I may have lived a good and useful life. I remain very glad and grateful for all this — yet none of it hits me as did that night sky full of stars.”

Our invitation to see, measure, value and honor differently…
The sacrament of the present moment…
I can tell you that the serenity calms me, and I feel at home, even with the parts of me that are still unresolved.
I’ll give Rabbi Abraham Heschel the final word. “Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement… get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.” 

Thursday — We are invited to see, measure, value and honor differently…
Paul Farmer, who died this week, embodied that invitation. This story, by Tracy Kidder in the New Yorker (July 2000)—The Good Doctor: Paul Farmer set out twenty years ago to heal the world. He still thinks he can—comforts, heals and inspires.
And it does my heart good.

Zanmi Lasante is famous in the Central Plateau, in part for its medical director, Dr. Paul Farmer, known as Doktè Paul, or Polo, or, occasionally, Blan Paul…
One peasant told me, “God gives everyone a gift, and his gift is healing…”
On an evening last January, Farmer sat in his office at Zanmi Lasante, dressed in his usual Haiti clothes, black pants and a T-shirt. He was holding aloft a large white plastic bottle. It contained indinavir, one of the new protease inhibitors for treating aids—the kind of magic he believes in. A sad-faced young man sat in the chair beside him. Patients never sat on the other side of his desk. He seemed bound to get as close to them as possible.
Farmer is an inch or two over six feet and thin, unusually long-legged and long-armed, and he has an agile way of folding himself into a chair and arranging himself around a patient he is examining that made me think of a grasshopper. He is about forty. There is a vigorous quality about his thinness. He has a narrow face and a delicate nose, which comes almost to a point. He peered at his patient through the little round lenses of wire-rimmed glasses.
The young man was looking at his feet. He wore ragged sneakers. They were probably Kennedys. Back in the nineteen-sixties, Farmer explained to me, J.F.K. had sponsored a program that sent industrial-grade oil to Haiti. The Haitians considered it of inferior quality, and the President’s name ever since has been synonymous with shoddy or hand-me-down goods. The young man had aids. Farmer had been treating him with antibacterials, but his condition had worsened. The young man said he was ashamed.
“Anybody can catch this—I told you that already,” Farmer said in Creole. He shook the bottle, and the pills inside rattled. He asked the young man if he’d heard of this drug and the other new ones for aids. The man hadn’t.
Well, Farmer said, the drugs didn’t cure aids, but they would take away his symptoms and, if he was lucky, let him live for many years as if he’d never caught the virus. Farmer would begin treating him soon. He had only to promise that he would never miss a dose. The young man was still looking at his shoes. Farmer leaned closer to him. “I don’t want you to be discouraged.”
The young man looked up. “Just talking to you makes me feel better. Now I know I’ll sleep tonight.” Clearly, he wanted to speak to Farmer some more, and just as clearly he was welcome to do so. Farmer likes to tell medical students that to be a good clinician you must never let a patient know that you have problems or that you’re in a hurry. “And the rewards are so great for just those simple things!” Of course, this means that some patients wait most of a day to see him, and that he rarely leaves his office before stars shiver in the louvred windows. There is a price for everything, especially virtue.
“My situation is so bad,” the young man said. “I keep injuring my head, because I’m living in such a crowded house. We have only one bed, and I let my children sleep on it, so I have to sleep under the bed, and I forget, and I hit my head when I sit up.” He went on, “I don’t forget what you did for me, Doktè Paul. When I was sick and no one would touch me, you used to sit on my bed with your hand on my head. I would like to give you a chicken or a pig.”
When Farmer is relaxed, his skin is pale, with a suggestion of freckles underneath. Now it reddened instantly, from the base of his neck to his forehead. “You’ve already given me a lot. Stop it!”
The young man was smiling. “I am going to sleep well tonight.”
“O.K., neg pa” (“my man”).

Thank you Paul Farmer… for inviting us to see, measure, value and honor differently…

Friday — At my computer early this morning, bomb blasts and explosions and people fleeing their homes, fill my screen. And I close my eyes.
The earth shakes.
I take a deep breath. And my spirit wavers (looking for a sanctuary), from “please no” to “why?” to “this can’t be happening.”
When I see pain and suffering… a part of me shuts down and feels helplessness.
After all, what can I do?

And then I hear the invitation. To refocus my paradigm; from the bigger world, to the smaller world.
How do I make this shift? For starters, when I see only the “bigger world” I tend to focus only (and see only) the muddled and topsy-turvy and chaotic and hopeless, first and foremost. And it is no surprise, that is where my well-being parks itself. (No wonder I close my eyes and feel helpless.)
But here’s the deal: The “small world” paradigm—seeing and engaging with the world right in front of me—doesn’t deny pain or cruelty or injustice. What is does do, is to remind me that there is a world (right in front of me) where I can bring myself, to choose, and to give, and to try, and to care.

And yes, this is the gift Paul Farmer gave us. Even in the face of what (in the bigger unraveling world) feels so very overwhelming, I can still bring my whole self to what is in front of me, now.
When I see only scarcity (or see only what I can’t do, or choose, or influence), I miss the fact that every single one of us still carries the gifts of creativity, heart, love, passion, gentleness, helpfulness, healing, caring, kindness, tenderness and a shoulder to lean on (for crying or for dancing, depending on the mood at the time). So yes, the small world paradigm is one of Sufficiency.
And there are people, in our smaller worlds, who need these gifts. Now. Including ourselves.

“I’m not cynical at all,” Paul Farmer once said. “Cynicism is a dead end.”
Over the years, he kept in touch with many of his patients, as well as their children and grandchildren. He was godfather to more than 100 children, most of them in Haiti, said Laurie Nuell, a close friend and board director at Partners in Health.
Over the weekend, Dr. Farmer sent her a photo of a colorful bouquet of flowers he had put together for one of his terminally ill patients in Rwanda. “Not my best work,” the accompanying text said.
“He had a very tender heart,” she said. “Seeing pain and suffering was very hard for him. It just hurt him. I’m a social worker by training. One thing I learned is about detachment. He wasn’t detached from anyone. That’s the beauty of it.” (Thank you Ellen Barry and Alex Traub, New York Times)

The calamities of our bigger world—while less than pleasant, and at times downright unnerving—can never rob us of what is within. Or necessitate detachment.
When Jesus reminded us that we are the “light of the world,” he didn’t add, “But only after you have your house in order.” So, let’s start with our smaller world.
I am so grateful for those who bring their whole heart and self to our smaller worlds…
Today, in my little world. I will find a way to choose peace.
And kindness.
And healing.

And, our prayers for Ukraine. 

Here’s our Prayer Blessing…
We pray for an end to the injustices
that become breeding grounds of war.
We pray for the restoration of fellowship
and the building of integrity.
We pray for commitment
to the unending struggle against selfish ways
and violation of human dignity.
We pray for that peace
which is the full blossoming
of our life together.
Ray Simpson

Here’s our Prayer Blessing…
A Time to Be Silent
There must be a time when we cease speaking
to be fully present with ourselves.
There must be a time when we exclude clamor
by listening to nothing whatsoever.
There must be a time when we forgo our plans
as if we had no plans at all.
There must be a time when we abandon conceits
and tap into a deeper wisdom.
There must be a time when we stop striving
and find the peace within.
David O. Rankin 

Photo… “Hi Terry, I’m in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, on my way to Antarctica, one of my bucket trips items, this is from today at Tierra del Fuego National Park… the snow capped mountains are Chile. I’m living this life to the fullest, breathing today Earth’s cleanest air!” Ina Strickland… 

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