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The power of a kind word

Sarah is an ordinary woman with a peculiar habit. You see, every Saturday, when the Jehovah’s Witnesses make their neighborhood rounds, she invites them in. And begins by saying, “I’m glad to see you. I’m not going to covert, but you all are welcome to stay for tea.” And every Saturday, the missionaries do just that.
Another time, a salesman dropped in–old fashioned door-to-door, selling vacuum cleaners.  “Come on in,” she tells him. “I need to tell you that I’m not going to buy, and my baby is asleep, so no loud demo, but you look like you’ve had a long day, would you like a cup of coffee?”
“Why?” the salesman asked.
“Well, this may sound strange, but I actually believe that God may be found in any person, so I’m offering you coffee because you might be Jesus.”
I’m certain that for the salesman, it was easily his strangest house call ever; but he sat for a spell, and enjoyed the coffee.
There was a time where I would have overlooked this story (adapted from Lauren Winner’s Still). Or more likely, would have dismissed it. It falls under the category of too-good-to-be-true. But more than ever, we need it. In a world where it’s too common to hear, “I feel like I can’t even relate to them (family and friends) anymore.”
In a world where, because of fear and apprehension, we mistrust just about everyone and everything. Even kindness. Especially kindness. (I read that in some countries it is the ruse of would-be pickpockets. They pose as persons needing direction, and when kind strangers stop to help, those who help are fleeced. Is it the exception? Yes. But even so, fear carries the narrative of our time and our relations and our conversations.) 

That’s why I love this story. And I have a hankering for kindness.
Although, this is not a Sabbath Moment about kindness. Per se. Because our temptation is to bottle up whatever Sarah had, or find a way to teach it or market it on Amazon.
Lord knows, we find multiple ways to complicate life.
It is not enough, apparently, just to offer a cup of coffee. 

Sarah’s story is about letting life in.  Every bit of life.
Sarah’s story is about making space.  Rooting ourselves in love and hospitality.
(For the record; just give me a list, I’m okay. Making space is trickier.)
Dr. Irvin Yalom writes about a patient, “(She) described the horrible days of her cancer’s recurrence… She cried when she told me about calling her surgeon, a friend of twenty years, only to be informed by his nurse that there were to be no further appointments because the doctor had nothing more to offer. “What is wrong with doctors? Why don’t they understand the importance of sheer presence?” she asked. “Why can’t they realize that the very moment they have nothing else to offer is the moment they are most needed?” (Momma and the Meaning of Life)

I’m loving High on the Hog, a new Netflix series about how African American cuisine transformed America. And how inviting someone in, to the table, makes space for presence, and connection. And healing. And resilience. And you never know who needs that space. But you still make the invitation, “Come on in.” In the series, a member of a local community was described this way, “He wouldn’t say it, but his life is really heavy right now.” (Raise your hand if you’ve been there.)

So. Let’s begin with Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ reminder; “Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely.”
We offer coffee… we make space…
We make space to see.
We make space to be seen.
We make space to give wholeheartedly.
We make space to welcome.
We make space to offer comfort or reprieve or hope.
We make space to be Sabbath (sanctuary), in a world of disquiet, disruption and misgiving.
That certainly doesn’t mean that we sugarcoat the world. Lord have mercy, there’s enough pain and injury to go around. And I can tell you that I am not a fan of people who–in the name of upbeat coaching–dismiss life’s complications, irritations, tensions and potential pain.
But here’s the deal: When we make space, we are able to bring who we are, wholeheartedly–whether that be grief or sadness, or bewilderment, or gladness or joy. And in that space, there is hope, and there is mercy.
Let’s call this space, the Gift of Enough. (Yes, it is the title of my new book. Let’s just call that a good coincidence.)

In her book The Sabbath World, Judith Shulevitz quotes a lovely teaching by 18th century master the Vilna Gaon. “Consider the mystery surrounding the first Shabbat. Why did God stop, anyway? God stopped to show us that what we create becomes meaningful only once we stop creating it and start remembering why it was worth creating in the first place.” Shulevitz closes by saying, “We have to remember to stop because we have to stop to remember.”
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around,” Leo F. Buscaglia
“Come on in.”
Maybe that is exactly what we need today.
One cup of coffee, or tea, at a time.

My good friend Sam greets me, “Namaste.” Meaning, I bow to you, or to the divine spark I see in you.
That was Sarah’s gift too. And the reminder of what we too often fail to see; that we too, are the gift. Each one of us carries within us that divine spark. The image of our Creator.

So, if someone asks this week, “What do you do?”
You can answer, “I make space.”

Today the Chimacum Farmers Market. What a treat in this neck of the woods. Local produce to adorn our table. I’d love it if you could pull up a chair.
And on my walk this morning, the geese let me pontificate and spout (what a gift) watching their young ones look almost like grownups. What a treat it’s been to watch them flourish.

Quote for your week:
When we reach out in compassion and love to other people, we are filling the space that surrounds them–and us–with with love. We are creating a space of love. We are rooting ourselves in love and hospitality. Macrina Wiederkehr


Today’s Photo Credit: Hi Terry, Thanks for your daily blessing us with presence, wonder and mindfulness!  This recent photo I took on the New Jersey shore of waves pounding the jetty as the Sanderlings fought the wind and waves. They hugged the solid rock of the sea wall for refuge. Thought of you!” Bob Keener… Thank you Bob… Keep sending your photos… send to [email protected]
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Help make Sabbath Moment possible. I write SM because I want to live with a soft heart; to create a place for sanctuary, empathy, inclusion, compassion and kindness… a space where we are refueled to make a difference. SM remains free.
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July 9 – 11  Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, Hayesville, NC 28904
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In the mailbag…
–Good morning Terry, I have started receiving your Sabbath Moment again and just wanted to say thank you! They make me feel like I have a dear friend sharing a cup of coffee to start my day. Hope you and the geese have a wonderful day! Marge
–Terry, Your quote from David Brooks spoke to me. I looked it up in the NYT and sent it to several friends. As I begin my days on my urban patio with a variety of birds, squirrels, baby mice and as many plants as I can squeeze into this tiny space, your words are yet another gift and a needed inspiration.

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To love in the face of fear is bold.
To love in the face of hatred is courageous.
To make the choice to stretch through resistance to love even more deeply and widely in the face of blatant acts of fear and hatred is a heroism of the heart that may be our only hope to heal this world.
–Kristi Nelson

And now in this living moment,
May the wonder, blessing, and peace of God’s Presence
fall upon you,
like a soft gentle rain,
soaking into your being,
to heal you,
to hold you,
and to make you whole.
Bob Holmes #comeintothequiet

Love means to learn to look at yourself
The way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.
And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
Without knowing it, from various ills—
A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.
Then he wants to use himself and things
So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.
It doesn’t matter whether he knows what he serves:
Who serves best doesn’t always understand.
Czeslaw Milosz

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