“All real living is meeting.” Martin Buber
Real life happens in the present, and in the Presence. When we see one another as precious. Knowing that we are all welcomed into God’s compassionate heart, no exceptions, no exclusion.
Here’s what I know: in Presence, our heart comes to life.
Where hope and joy and gratitude bubble up.
Where we see what is life-giving—inclusion, empathy, kindness, mercy, gentleness, humanity, compassion.
Where we remember the Irish proverb’s affirmation, “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.”
When the world feels hopeless and heartless,
take a moment to look around.
There are beautiful humans everywhere,
often hiding in plain sight in cabs,
on buses, in cafes, on trains, in libraries,
on park benches, in laundromats, on subways.
They may not be rich or well-educated.
They may be broken and hurting themselves.
They may not have much to offer
in terms of worldly goods.
But they are the comforters, encouragers, sharers,
teachers, servers, healers, mentors, connecters,
helpers, and counselors who keep
the random hurting humans,
the weary and the lost,
the invisible sufferers who walk among us every day,
going just long enough
to find their hope and strength again.
It doesn’t take a degree or wealth
or a grand gesture to make a
difference in this world.
It just takes a human who cares.
(Thank you L.R. Knost)
“Sometimes we have to ask for help, and that’s OK,” Mr. Rogers says. “I think the best thing we can do is to let people know that each one of them is precious.”
This week we remember the Irish proverb’s affirmation, “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.”
And this takes me to a scene in one of my very favorite books, The Shoes of the Fisherman. Morris West tells the story of Ukrainian Archbishop Kiril Lakota, who is set free after two decades as a political prisoner in Siberia. Kiril is sent to Rome, where the ailing Pope makes him a Cardinal. In the novel, the world (set in the 1980s) is in a state of crisis—a famine in China is exacerbated by US restrictions on Chinese trade and the ongoing Chinese-Soviet feud. When the Pontiff dies, Lakota—after several ballots—is elected Pope. In the book, the new Pope, Kiril I, is often plagued by self-doubt, by his years in prison, and by this strange world he knows so little about.
There is one telling conversation, between two of Kiril’s advisers. “What did His Holiness have to say about that?”
“He has a soft heart. The danger is that it may be too soft for the good of the church.”
“He has suffered more than we. Perhaps he has more right to trust his heart than we have.”
And I say, “Yes”. Because tenderness is the path of choice for the strongest, most courageous men and women. And gratefully, it is from soft places that we can see the world differently.
So, the story invites a paradigm shift. As long as we park our sense of measurement about success (or influence or accomplishment) in favor of the powerful and imposing, we forget that we’re all just walking each other home (Ram Dass).
It’s a “strength” that hides behind insecurity. And in that kind of world, we see only what we want to see, and we miss the profound truth: the connection between tenderness (soft heart) and courage. The connection with “the least of these”.
The good news is that this is not a project or assignment or test. A tender heart is a gift to embrace. And a gift to spill. A gift that changes the world. From the soil of vulnerability and humility grows empathy, kindness, mercy, gentleness, humanity, compassion and inclusion.
Let’s give David W. Orr the last word, “The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it.”
I’m remembering a scene from (one of my favorite TV series) West Wing. The episode when Josh is navigating Post Traumatic Stress, and life (internally and literally) for him, is on edge.
Leo tells Josh this story; “This guy’s walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can’t get out.
A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, ‘Hey you. Can you help me out?’ The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on.
Then a priest comes along, and the guy shouts up, ‘Father, I’m down in this hole can you help me out?’ The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on.
Then a friend walks by, ‘Hey, Joe, it’s me can you help me out?’
And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, ‘Are you stupid? Now we’re both down here.’
The friend says, ‘Yeah, but I’ve been down here before and I know the way out.'”
This week we remember the Irish proverb’s affirmation, “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.” Meaning that presence and attention is our currency. Why? Because real life happens in the present, and in the Presence.
In other words, there is no need to keep score.
Grace walks into our lives like this. It doesn’t always come in big ways or obvious miracles. Sometimes it’s just someone acknowledging our pain. It isn’t always a complete removal from the pit. Sometimes it’s just someone coming into the pit and spending some time with us or seeing that we need some sort of help and getting it without us asking. And sometimes, we get to be that someone, who makes space for presence, and sanctuary and healing.
Gratefully, no one of us is on this journey alone.
Here’s the deal: Where there is a place to be seen, to be heard, to be valued, sanctuary is real, and healing happens.
Healing happens when we allow ourselves to receive love, compassion and kindness without suspicion.
Healing happens when we are free to embrace an extraordinary core of strength and courage that resides inside of us… and without even realizing it, let it spill to those around us.
St. Bartholomew’s reminder is apropos, “Many of us spend our whole lives running from feelings with the mistaken belief that you cannot bear the pain. But you have already borne the pain. What you have not done is feel all you are, beyond the pain.”
A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.
A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said, “and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.” (From the Gospel of Luke)
Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?
The one who treated him kindly.
Yes. Neighbor here is another word for Presence, that place where our heart comes to life. Where what is life-giving—empathy, kindness, mercy, gentleness, humanity, compassion and inclusion grows and spills.
Where we practice the Irish proverb’s affirmation, “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.”
Here’s my confession: When my ego doesn’t need to be propped up, I don’t need to win any shouting match (which isn’t to say shouting doesn’t feel cathartic for a wee bit).
I want to be reminded (I need to be reminded) that our well-being is grounded in grace. And grace is a voice much bigger than all the other attachments where we may park value or significance.
We see that dignity is alive and well in the hearts and souls of those around us. Now, courage takes on a new meaning. Giving us the permission to say yes to choices that invite more soft hearts in a world that needs them.
When we see with our heart, we know that, regardless of our differences, we are on this journey together. A tender heart affirms the inherent value in others, and asks, “What’s next?”
You know, the question the Good Samaritan asked, as he stopped for the man in ditch. “What’s next?” Because he knew what it was like to be wounded too. You see, once we are open…
…to having our stereotypes contradicted,
…to giving up our expectations and demands,
…to embracing our own brokenness,
…we find “There is a light in this world, a healing spirit more powerful than any darkness we may encounter.” (Mother Teresa)
When we see with our heart, we are grounded. We are conscious—present—no longer numbed. And tender hearts create sanctuaries for those left out. So, if ever there was a time for tender hearted, courageous men and women to step forward, it is now.
Prayer for our week…
In this century and in any century,
Our deepest hope, our most tender prayer,
Is that we learn to listen.
May we listen to one another in openness and mercy
May we listen to plants and animals in wonder and respect
May We listen to our own hearts in love and forgiveness
May we listen to God in quietness and awe.
And in this listening,
Which is boundless in its beauty,
May we find the wisdom to cooperate
With a healing spirit, a divine spirit
Who beckons us into peace and community and creativity.
We do not ask for a perfect world.
But we do ask for a better world.
We ask for deep listening.
(Jay McDaniel, Professor of Religion, Hendrix College, Arkansas)
Photo… “Dear Terry–what a great healing Sabbath Moment today (Apr. 17)! Thank you, thank you! This photo is of a neighbor’s azalea coming through the old fence, determined to create. I love the essence of this regenerative energy. I hope you both are well and thriving. My friend, Kathy Michaud, and I are giving a retreat Apr. 28-30 at the Hinton Center. I discovered the Center from attending your programs there. Breath Prayer–breathe in possibility, breathe out gratitude. So I thank you!” Patty Smitherman…