One day a very wealthy man took his son on a world-hopping trip visiting “underprivileged” countries, with the firm purpose of showing his son how “poor people” live. On their return from the trip, the father asked, “How was the trip?”
“It was great, Dad,”
“Did you see how poor people live?”
“So, tell me, what do you learn?”
The son answered, “I saw that we have one dog and they have four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden, and they have a river with no end in sight. We have imported lanterns in our garden, and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard, and they have the whole horizon. We have a small piece of land to live on, and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve one another. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them.”
The boy’s father stood, speechless.
“Thank you, Dad, for showing me how poor we really are.”
It’s easy to be befuddled. Or is it duped? After all, we live in a world with inverted price tags. And because of that, we give way to identities that diminish us, blocking empathy, humility, glad heartedness and contentment.
This story is our reset button. And perfect for Advent. A time of year to pay attention to our longing for, and need of, forgiveness and new beginnings.
Here’s the paradigm shift: Rich is not about what we possess. Or own. We’ve turned wealth into a way to objectify stuff and relationships, predicated on having, possessing and preening.
Rich is about the real connections that expand our life and give us value. Rich is about the connections that promote the value of love, empathy and compassion and encourage us to struggle against what is artificial, mechanical and cold.
To paraphrase Wendell Berry, “The significance, ultimately the quality of our life, is determined by our understanding of the story in which we are taking part.” This begs the question, what is my narrative?
It’s important to remember that we don’t tell these stories to add a dollop of regret, or a passel of “shoulds”, to our life. Our plates are plenty full. So, this is not an assignment. This is a gift. An invitation, pure and simple. An invitation to be front row and center to this sacred moment, this sacred life, wholehearted. And the portal to this invitation is gratitude.
This past week, I stood at Spouting Horn, Kauai, a blow hole in the lava rock, waiting for next mesmeric geyser.
A four-year-old girl is at the railing, her eyes glued on the rock. Her father says, “Okay, time to go.” “But Daddy,” she tells him. “I could watch this aaaalll day.”
Yes. That’s the story. The invitation to savor to this day, to be nourished by wonder, delight and awe. Even if the moment invites sorrow or grief, we can bring our whole heart, to honor that life has been lived here.
William Blake, seated, in his old age, beside a little girl at a dinner party; Blake leaned down to her, smiled, and said, “May God make this world as beautiful to you as it has been to me.”
Last week I talked about sufficiency versus scarcity.
Here’s the deal: Without an agenda, the boy in the story sees and celebrates and savors sufficiency (meaning affluence); treasuring the sacred in the very ordinary and in the wonderfully mundane.
This is not easy to do when scarcity is our script.
In the back of my mind, I hear the Eagles, “Now, it seems to me some fine things, Have been laid upon your table, But you only want the ones that you can’t get.”
This week I asked a friend, “When you think of sufficiency, what comes to mind?” She said simply, “Home.”
Yes. Home is that place where we are grounded, safe, connected, seen. Where there are arms to hold you when you fall, a harbor in any storm, a place to hold laughter and tears. A place for simple pleasures and joy. A place to set down pain, fear and worry and the weights we carry. The place that welcomes strangers and the lonely.
It is the end of the year, time to generate financial paperwork (supposedly a snapshot of my “net-worth”). I see now that my heart needs–no, requires–that I create a different type of account.
Consider it deposits made in a “savings account” for my well-being.
“Have you ever felt your heart catch?” When you do, you pause; listen, and pay attention to the treasure unmeasured that is here, now and in this moment. Even if this moment comes wrapped in something or someone we do not expect.
I talk about spilling the light, but I know that it is easy to let the bushel baskets of life extinguish the flame. I’ve been asked, “So how do you get rid of these baskets–distractions, expectations, shoulds? What’s the formula?”
That’s just it; I don’t have one. Which is not a good sales technique I admit. But what if we learn the lesson of the boy in the story; that our wealth (our abundance–in relationships, wonder, gratitude, delight) comes when we live, or let spill, what is already inside of each of us. Somehow, we don’t yet believe it is there. What is it? Too good to be true?
When I tally the catches of the heart this week, I realize that I can see my life through the eyes of the little boy and little girl. And I can answer the question: “So, how did you replenish your savings account this week?”
Today, a milestone of sorts. I am 65. And no, I’m not retiring.
I was born on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. That’s pretty good bragging rights for a boy who was born and raised Baptist.
The Christmas tree is up, Christmas music fills the house. And a reminder that books make great gifts. Say, This Is The Life. Just a wee hint. Blessings to you. Savor your day.
Quote for your week…
In beauty I walk
With beauty before me I walk
With beauty behind me I walk
With beauty above me I walk
With beauty around me I walk
Notes: Speaking of “treasures,” I am grateful for notes from Sabbath Moment readers who are juggling life, and finding solace in the permission to sit still and hear a voice of grace. Just so you know, your notes mean the world.
1—My new book This Is The Life, is available. Pass the word.
2 — Sabbath Moment is possible because of your gifts. I’m grateful for all who make Sabbath Moment possible.
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Today’s photo credit — Spouting Horn, Kaloa, Kauai… keep sending your photos… send to firstname.lastname@example.org
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In the mailbag… because your letters affirm us all…
–Terry, Thank you for all that you do. Keep up the excellent work. May the New Year bring you many joys. Ron
–Terry. So grateful for the food you provide weekly. Deep gratitude, Jeanette
–Dear Terry, You know I love Sabbath Moment. Keep spilling the light. Sr. Anne
–Terry, Thank you for Sabbath Moment. It brightens my week! Peggy
–Hi Terry: Our Deepest Fear is one of my favorite poems. Placed perfectly within your writings, I am reminded of its powerful message. Thank you, Kim
–Terry, Loved the John O’Donohue poem in today’s SM. He must have been watching as you find sanctuary in your garden!! I try to do the same… when I water the roses or feed birds in the backyard, and sometimes just observe nature. (Recently, a huge Falcon… (a Merlin? I believe) has taken to resting on a very tall coconut palm next door… he may be taking a moment for himself… although, more likely, looking for a fish? lunch in the river below. Either way… it’s so cool. The great Blue heron has visited, as well as a juvenile! Love that I have had a moment to just take it all in. I call them Hershey Moments!! Liana
–Loved your SM today. I have found that when I smile and share a hello with strangers my day sparkles. Talked to a gentleman in Smart and Final today who is still struggling with the loss of his wife 4 years ago, just 2 days after Christmas. He was trying to find the right stuff for laundry. I suggested a couple of things and offered my condolences on the loss of his wife. He is attending a group where he has heard people share their stories of loss. He went with a closed mind and heart, but in listening he begin to share his story. I told him I had been widowed for 24 years. By the grace of God, I am still bothering strangers with conversations. A smile, a nod, a quick hello can bring blessings to both the one giving and receiving. That is what you do with Sabbath Moments. Don’t stop until God takes you home. The world is a better place because of you, Kathleen
POEMS AND PRAYERS
In the evenings I walk down and stand in the trees, in light paused just so in the leaves, as if the change in the river here were not simply known to me but apprehended. It did not start out this way; I began with the worst sort of ignorance, the grossest inquiries. Now I ask very little. I observe the swift movement of water through the nation of fish at my feet. I wonder privately if there are for them, as there are for me, moments of faith. Barry Lopez
May this house shelter your life.
When you come in home here,
May all the weight of the world
Fall from your shoulders.
May your heart be tranquil here,
Blessed by peace the world cannot give.
May this home be a lucky place,
Where the graces your life desires
Always find the pathway to your door.
May nothing destructive
Ever cross your threshold.
May this be a safe place
Full of understanding and acceptance,
Where you can be as you are,
Without the need of any mask
Of pretense or image.
May this home be a place of discovery,
Where the possibilities that sleep
In the clay of your soul can emerge
To deepen and refine your vision
For all that is yet to come to birth.
Invocation to the Source
Come, O Light of lights
Come, O One who breathes me
Come, O Mother Father
Come, O Holy Birther
Come, O Fire that warms me
Come, O Light that guides me
Come, O Joy that lifts me,
Come, O One that is me.
Come, O Source and Sustenance,
Come O All, O Everything.