Gifts that make our home
A soldier’s young daughter (her father in the process of being transferred and moved to a distant post) sits on the floor in an airport departure lounge, among her family’s meager and ragtag belongings. Sleepy, the girl leans against the packs and lays her head on a duffel bag.
A well-dressed woman walking the concourse, stops when she sees the scene, and pats the little girl on the head. “Poor child,” the woman says. “You haven’t got a home.”
The child looks up in surprise. “But we do have a home ma’am,” she answers. “We just don’t have a house to put it in.”
Plato reminded us that “whatever is honored will be cultivated.” To put it another way, whatever we honor determines the way we “see” the world—it becomes our lens, or our paradigm.
This is a story about paradigms. The woman who stopped—even though well intentioned—had a paradigm: home equals stuff. Or, in this case, big stuff, such as a house. (And, if we are honest, we must acknowledge that this is ingrained in all of us… it is our “American” paradigm.)
In her wisdom, the little girl knew that home is not what we own, but who we are.
“It means a gradual process of coming home to where we belong and listening there to the voice, which desires our attention,” Henri Nouwen writes. “Home is the place where that first love dwells and speaks gently to us.”
This love gives us a birthright gift of self. Every one of us arrives with our own gifted form, with the shape of our own sacred soul. Parker Palmer observes, “Biblical faith calls it the image of God in which we are all created. Thomas Merton calls it true self. Quakers call it the inner light, or ‘that of God’ in every person. The humanist tradition calls it identity and integrity. No matter what you call it, it is a pearl of great price.”
Stories don’t require lessons. (Although we are partial to conjuring one after the fact. And it is my occupational hazard after all… and for me, there are wonderful healing lessons here.)
It is true, there are many things that “take us away” from home. And not having a house isn’t among them. I’m thinking of things such as anger, busyness, self-importance, self-doubt, unforgiveness, despair, frenzied consumerism and bitterness. It is seldom sudden. But in every instance, there is this reality—and it’s easy to see how this new weight becomes the definition for our identity. It tells us who we are. And here’s the kicker: the above list requires that we focus on the periphery issues, on whatever is needed to impress, or use, or measure, or perform.
Bottom line? We end up focusing on what we don’t have.
Or even crazier, we focus on what we don’t have enough of.
Even when we finally get what we are certain we “needed,” it turns out we needed more. Go figure.
This paradigm is called Scarcity. And it is peddled in many ways… “More is always better.”
“That’s just the way it is.”
“Sorry, whatever you need, there isn’t enough.”
“If only you tried this…”
So, how can we move beyond the scarcity paradigm and dispel the illusion?
Lynne Twist writes, “It all comes from ‘we’re not whole’—you’re not ok the way you are, you’ve got accumulate and acquire more. And that is a tyranny; it’s not just a misunderstanding, it’s a tyranny… But it takes enormous courage because the whole system is promoting something else, and promoting it from a base of fear. Advertising and marketing give each one of us thousands of messages every day. They tell us that we’re not tall enough, or thin enough, or young enough, or something—enough.”
Here’s the deal: When I see only scarcity, 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. Broken relationships, empty bank account, loss of desire, loss of stuff, grief, anxiety, stress—while less than pleasant, and at times downright unnerving—can never rob us of what is within.
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.”
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.
Buckminster Fuller, he of geodesic dome fame, said that scarcity is about a “you-or-me world,” and sufficiency is about a “you-and-me world.” (Let us remember: We are on this journey together.)
I get it. If we begin with sufficiency, then perhaps what we “carry”—our home—is not stuff (or things or possessions) but rather opportunities.
Opportunities to be generous, big-hearted, kind, human.
Opportunities to be thoughtful, empathetic and attentive.
Opportunities to offer hope. And yes, even if the gift we give (or the light that shines) comes from a wounded or broken heart.
I have an idea… This week let’s break the rules. The old rules demand that we obtain, consume, clutch, win at any cost, and give only when it makes sense. As a result, we see only what we want to see.
The little girl is right. We do have a home—full of gifts and a light that shines. A place that anchors us and sustains us. And also, a birthplace and incubator for creating space, offering sanctuary and affirmation and generosity for those who are left out. So. What houses (encounter, gesture, conversation, helping hand, smile or a hug) can we put “our home” in today?
Speaking of finding homes with no houses. Eighty years (February 19), President Franklin Roosevelt signed the executive order that led to the forced removal and mass incarceration of about 120,000 Japanese Americans in 10 American internment camps. My prayer is that we learn from the high cost of being driven by fear, bigotry, and paranoia.
I’m back home in Port Ludlow. Chatted with the geese. No homily today I tell them, just stories about my time in Tucson. Walks on canyon trails, San Xavier Mission, Botanical Gardens and yes, a sonoran hot dog.
And about following the sunset, flying home. My Oh My.
Quote for your week…
We can shift from scarcity to sufficiency, from complaint to commitment, from envy to gratitude. We can, through the stand we take, through the power of conversation, and through conscious attention to our legacy, change the dream. Lynne Twist
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March 18 – 20 Religious Education Congress, Anaheim, CA
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Letters that do my heart good…
–Terry, Thanks for your recent SM Daily. One phrase particularly hit home: tell the stories. Working as a Hospice chaplain, I often encountered grieving families. My go-to recommendation to them was almost always: Tell The Stories. Doing so is enormously helpful to grieving. Healing. Thanks for reminding me! Bob
–I will Be Still and wait for your new book, Stand Still! I Know it will be a salve for this very messy world. Thank you Terry for being My Friend. Safe travels to Tucson. Pat
–Dear Terry, I was so pleased to read you will be in Tucson this week. This is my home for 55 years now and I love Tucson! Ironically, this week you’ll be experiencing a wide variety of weather instead of our usual gorgeous weather. But, regardless of that, I hope you’ll find your stay here in the Old Pueblo refreshing and revitalizing. It’s my birthday week and since I follow you each day first thing in the morning, I’ve told my SM friends your visit here was a special birthday treat! After all, you said you were in Tucson to visit family and after your teachings and wisdom have helped me wade through these pandemic years, I feel like we are ‘family’. Thank you for spilling your light, sharing your heart and now, Enjoy Tucson! Sincerely, Michaele
POEMS AND PRAYERS
Whatever happens to me in life,
I must believe that somewhere,
In the mess or madness of it all
There is a sacred potential-
A possibility for wondrous redemption
In the embracing of all that is.
Edwina Gateley, A Mystical Heart
It’s All In the Dance
You dance across the back porch
feet quick to avoid the
barely a swoosh heard
from the soles of your
arms flung to the air
in worship of the summer day
soaking the afternoon
Hair flies as the twirl
brings you close to the edge
caught in time and danced
back to the centre.
peeling the bell of release
eyes bright with mystery
you finally sit beside me
on the built-for-two swing,
breath coming quickly
as you turn to me,
“It’s all in the dance,”
you whisper in my ear,
as if I should understand
so quickly what you have known
for all time.
Reaching under the swing
you lift a box
no wrap, no ribbon,
yellow dancing shoes.”
(Thank you Colleen, Sabbath Moment Friend)
Our true home is in the present moment.
The miracle is not to walk on water.
The miracle is to walk on the green earth in the present moment.
Peace is all around us–in the world and in nature–and within us–in our bodies and our spirits.
Once we learn to touch this peace, we will be healed and transformed.
Thich Nhat Hanh