Some days, I wish I was made of stronger stuff. And I don’t want to admit it, as it feels like a defect to be concealed. Some days, I don’t have the words.
Some years ago, a homesick dog made news headlines here in Seattle. He negotiated traffic, eluded Washington State Police, and crossed a bridge. (Yes, it sounds like a Far Side Cartoon.) But this was not just any bridge.
Zeb, an Australian shepherd, crossed the “520 Bridge,” spanning Lake Washington. (For those keeping notes, the “520,” the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, is the longest floating bridge on earth, almost one and one-half miles in length.)
And what was Zeb doing on the bridge? He was just trying to find his way home.
His owners had gone on vacation, and left him with friends (in “Eastlake,” maybe a half mile or so from their Madrona neighborhood, near Seattle). Homesick, Zeb set out, ending up on a major Seattle freeway. Notices on social networking sites reported him crossing the 520 Bridge, weaving across the eastbound and westbound lanes. Drivers drove defensively on Zeb’s behalf, slowing down to help the wayward pooch.
Owner Megan Ferestien told the Seattle Times, “He sort of vaguely knows the area and I think somehow he just made some bad decisions and ended up in the wrong place. Luckily, he had so many guardian angels on 520 who were helping him across. People, who were in rush hour traffic, were slowing down to keep him safe, which was just really, well, extraordinary.” She added, “He should have taken the Arboretum exit, but he missed it.”
From all the social network chatter, the search area was narrowed and Zeb was found, two days later, hiding in Hunt’s Point (on the opposite side of the lake from where he lived). Zeb heard his owner talking on a cell phone, came out of his hiding spot and did lots of tail wagging, and crying, and rolling on his back to have his belly rubbed.
I’m glad Zeb made it home. His caper-filled journey captured our attention, and tugged at something in our hearts. I’m more stirred by the fact that he had the pluck and courage and hopefulness to set out in the first place, having no idea whatsoever of the outcome. It was as simple as this: something in Zeb told him he needed to go home.
We live in a world where, more than ever, it’s easy to lose our way. To feel derailed, disenfranchised, exasperated. Or just plain lost. Bottom line, we are not at home.
I’ll personalize this; when I give way to any narrative of small-mindedness (differences are weaponized), I am not at home.
When I stay mute in the face of intolerance or contempt, I am not at home.
When shame is my mantra, I am not at home.
And we want someone to show us the way, or at least, the GPS coordinates.
Another pet story comes to mind. A magazine ad sponsored by the Humane Society, looking for homes for homeless pets. A photo of a puppy and kitten–looking up at you from the page–catches your eye and your heart. But it’s the affirmation on the top of the ad that sticks, “It’s who owns them that makes them important.”
In this culture where economic value bests intrinsic value, we are owned by narratives that diminish us. And here’s the deal: we have forgotten our DNA.
“What has been lost is the true beholding of the light from the inner eyes,” John Scotus Eriugena wrote. “Grace is given to heal that inner sight, to open our eyes again to the goodness that is deep within us, for God is within us. The grace of Christ restores us to our original simplicity.”
William Sloane Coffin elaborates, “Of God’s love we can say two things: it is poured out universally for everyone from the Pope to the loneliest wino on the planet and secondly, God’s love doesn’t seek value, it creates value. It is not because we have value that we are loved, but because we are loved that we have value. Our value is a gift, not an achievement.”
Love (value or meaning) is not something you produce or achieve or acquire. It is not something that you even have. Love is something that has you. So, we surrender. And maybe, that surrender begins with an unforeseen journey across a long bridge.
Love brings you home. Now, grounded in humility (with no appetite to be somebody we are not), love will soften our hearts, shrinking rage and saying no to contempt. And here’s the good news: “When we are in touch with our blessedness,” Henri Nouwen reminds us, “we can then bless other people.” And in that blessing, “…awaken from the illusion of our separateness,” Thich Nhat Hanh wrote.
Yes. We are not on this journey alone.
I stopped to re-read the last two paragraphs. I needed that balm of grace today.
Anthropologist Eleanor Leacock spent a lot of time with the Cree Indians of northern Canada. She went on a hunting trip with a Cree name Thomas. Deep in the bush they encountered two men, strangers, who had run out of food and were extremely hungry. Thomas gave them all his flour and lard, despite the fact that he would have to cut his own trip short as a result. Leacock probed Thomas as to why he did this, and he finally lost patience with her.
“Suppose, now, not to give them flour, lard,” he explained, “just dead inside.”
I get it. And that’s the last thing I want to be.
Here’s what I believe: every one of us has the resources to feed and to nourish, and to bless one another. To lead one another home.
To a home that emboldens us. And who knew that it would require bravery to spill kindness in our world? Go figure. Thomas blessed the two strangers because he was made of stronger stuff, right? No. Blessings can spill from ordinary people who can do extraordinary things.
Did you see the Snow Moon? Mercy it’ll do your heart good… Go outside tonight and look up.
I did not win an Oscar tonight, but I enjoyed watching those who did.
Quote for your week…
We do not pray in order to escape the world around us. We pray with one eye on the world so that we can come to understand what is really being asked of us here and now, at times like this, as co-creators of the universe. Sister Joan Chittister, OSB
Notes: Cree story from Tribe by Sebastian Junger
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In the mailbag… because your letters affirm us all…
–Terry, I not only get continually blessed by your work, I get blessed reading how others get blessed also! Thank you for that, Cynthia
–Terry, You want to write “something “meaningful”’. Did you really say that? Thanks for today’s chuckle. The Moment you have sent IS meaningful! Loved the encounter with the lady tending her flowers. Just a word of caution: Don’t jump over walls and hug people. It may land you in the lockup, even in Holland! Bob
–Good morning on a “cold,” Arizona morning in The Valley of the Sun (Arizona). Was led to you via CAC, UniversalChrist, Franciscan nuns, St. Theresa of Avila, then your book. What a sense of loving humor has the Christ. After a fearful, lost, asking, continued searching night, there you, It, All was/is. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and soul. Joy
–Terry…… I….. like thousands of others so appreciate what you do. My husband’s Alzheimers is slowly getting worse…. We are living in the lower level of our son’s home. I still play the oldies at a retirement home…love it. I remember Van Cliburn once said, “Music is a gift from God.” You too are a gift. Pat
–Awareness and wonder….seeing with new eyes. Ah yes!Abraham Joshua Heschel said just to be is a blessing. I am so happy you write mainly of plenitude this week, my friend. And I feel grateful, for the beauty of your soul and of your words… and of the huge richness of my life. Jinks
–Happy Monday, Terry. I received the attached email and inspirational essay recently. After reading your Sabbath Moment today’s thought it might provide “food” for a future column for you. Thank you for the reminder to be present! Blessings, Madeleine
–Dear Terry: I look forward to your weekly Sabbath Moments and urge my family and friends to ‘read, mark, and inwardly digest’ them. Please add me to your connections. Walter
POEMS AND PRAYERS
Being A Pilgrim
To journey without being changed is to be a nomad.
To change without journeying is to be a chameleon.
To journey and to be transformed
by the journey is to be a pilgrim.
Mark Nepo, The Book Of Awakening
To Be Held
To be held
by the light
was what I wanted,
to be a tree drinking the rain,
no longer parched in this hot land.
To be roots in a tunnel growing
but also to be sheltering the inborn leaves
and the green slide of mineral
down the immense distances
into infinite comfort
and the land here, only clay,
still contains and consumes
the thirsty need
the way a tree always shelters the unborn life
waiting for the healing
after the storm
which has been our life.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.