On one day in 2013, I walked across a bridge. The sun shone down from a bleached blue sky. The air was cool, but our spirits don’t notice, as we stand and sing under the sign, Edmund Pettus Bridge. We are in Selma, Alabama on Bloody Sunday. I was honored to join a group of new friends on the 13th Annual Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage. We were led by Representative John Lewis.
As it turned out, I walked smack dab into an epiphany.
Or perhaps, the epiphany walked into me.
Either way, it wasn’t on my agenda.
I find that I navigate my days a little easier when I have some semblance of control. But this I know: control (craving the status quo) and epiphanies are not to be found in the same sentence. Epiphanies open our eyes, and they open our heart. And gratefully, after that day, I could never be the same.
I’m replaying the memory, today, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Some choose to see it as another day for banks and the Post Office to be closed.
But what if, it’s a good day to pause. And remember the gift of epiphanies. And to let the light of mercy and compassion be rekindled. I think it’s something we could use. I know it’s something I could use.
David Wilcox’s reminder, “In this scene set in sadness like the night is here to stay, there is evil cast around us but it’s Love that wrote the play, and through this darkness Love will show the way.”
On a Saturday morning during the Pilgrimage, I stood in the kitchen of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church Parsonage, the home to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his family from 1954 to 1960. By the time the Montgomery bus strike was achieving both success and national attention, Dr. King began receiving telephone death threats (as many as 40 a day).
“One night very late around midnight–and you can have some strange experiences at midnight–the telephone rang.” Dr. King relates the story in a later sermon. “On the other end was an ugly voice.”
“For some reason, it got to me. I was weak. Sometimes, I feel discouraged… You can’t call on Daddy anymore. You could only call on the Something your Daddy told you about, that Power that can make a way out of no way.”
And at that kitchen table, he prayed. “Lord, I’m down here trying to do what’s right… But I must confess… I’m losing my courage.”
King explained what happened next: “I could hear an inner voice saying to me, ‘Martin Luther, stand up for truth. Stand up for justice. Stand up for righteousness.'”
Maybe that’s what clicked. When I see acts of courage, I see heroism, and I don’t see myself. Or I see how far I have to go. Or I see how far short I have fallen.
But I do understand tired.
And I do understand discouraged.
And I do understand the end of my resources.
Mother Pollard was one of the elders of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, during the bus boycott of 1955-56. When her pastor Dr. King, suggested she go back to the buses because she was too old to keep walking, she told him, “I’m gonna walk just as long as everybody else walks. I’m gonna walk till it’s over.”
King marveled. “But aren’t your feet tired?” he asked.
“My feet is tired,” she replied. “But my soul is rested.”
So tired is one thing. Being soulless is something else altogether. Mother Pollard knew this. I doubt she went to a workshop to figure it out. She just knew in her bones; that she is whole, and filled with grace and sufficiency.
Which meant that for Mother Pollard, her rested soul allowed her to live fully into this life. (I read that the best beauty product is to actually have a life.) She walked toward, and not away from, life. This life, her life, with its contradictions, frustrations, weariness, tired feet and injustices.
Mother Pollard knew who she was. Her strength came from that place. Because she did not see herself as a victim, she could live with intention, beyond circumstance or public opinion. In other words, tired feet was not an impediment. And from that soul flows tenderness, tenacity, compassion, inclusion and sanctuary, joy, passion and justice.
But how can I model these icons? Moments of epiphany also invite a paradigm shift… from big world to small world. We forget that change happens (ferments and grows) in the small world, not the big world.
You see, the big world feels (too often) overwhelming and outside of our ability to change or affect change. Plus, you know, “we don’t have the skill set”. No wonder it is so easy to give up when we see only big world issues. “It’s not my problem, after all.” And the big world takes us away from this moment… and the people who are right in front of us…
“There is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.” Amanda Gorman
When we know that the light is here, now, we embrace the permission to be present. Where we are grounded, we pause. We say thank you. We will see beauty in places we didn’t expect, and we are gifted with surprises of grace. We will see craziness and pain, yes, but now we have the permission to engage, instead of resign. To care. To spill light. Even in small ways… to spill compassion, forgiveness, second changes, understanding.
And remember; this call to spill light is not merely something we “should” do, as if an obligatory check mark on a resume. This is something we are wired to do—because spilling the light is in our DNA.
This week, with the witness of Dr. King and Mother Pollard, let us look for more bridges—reconciliation, grace, healing, hope—that we can cross.
California still, in many parts, under water. Stay safe friends.
And for Seattle football fans, our season now over. But we did better than anyone predicted. We’ll take it. Onward…
Quote for our week – “Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but an endless pilgrimage of the heart.” Rabbi Abraham Heschel
Note: The Pilgrimage was sponsored by The Faith and Politics Institute
Today’s Photo Credit: My walk around Port Ludlow Golf Course, Port Ludlow, WA… on my way to talk with the geese… Keep sending your photos… send to terryhershey.com
Yes, your gift makes a difference… Donation = Love…
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.
(NEW address by check: PO Box 65336, Port Ludlow, WA 98365
Letters that do my heart good…
–I’m on a Terry Hershey journey. This is my 3rd course and perfect timing as I just tested positive (again) for Covid. So, 5 days at home practicing pausing. I’m in Tucson, by the way, so mornings I can sit and watch the sun rise, and evenings, the other window has the sunset (or I can go outside and watch from the driveway). Still I have my “to do” lists, clean the closet, organize the music area, train the puppy. I’m going to focus on more just being. Hoping one day to have pausing be my norm. Thank you Terry for these amazing gifts. Denise
–Love the weaver story. We bought our house from a teacher of weaving, a remarkable weaver herself. I was sorry that she had taken her work down from the walls to sell the house. All that remained were nail holes in the walls showing that much beauty had adorned those walls. This column is also a reminder that we are called to be human BEings, not human DOings. Thanks for your wisdom. We the people… Peace & all good, patti
–Love your message of grace today and love Peggy Jackson’s note to you! I once bought an amaryllis bulb for a friend who lived in southern California. She sent me a picture much later of the long stalk and beautiful flower blooming on her deck. Jo
POEMS AND PRAYERS
The most visible creators I know of are those artists
whose medium is life itself,
the ones who express the inexpressible
–without brush, hammer, clay, or guitar.
…They neither paint nor sculpt–
their medium is being.
Whatever their presence touches, has increased life.
They see and don’t have to draw. They are the artists of being alive.
You say you see no hope
You say you see no reason we should dream
That the world would ever change
You say the love is foolish to believe
‘Cause they’ll always be some crazy
With an army or a knife
To wake you from your daydream
Put the fear back in your life…
It is love who mixed the mortar
And it’s love who stacked these stones
And it’s love who made the stage here
Although it looks like we’re alone
In this scene, set in shadows,
Like the night is here to stay
There is evil cast around us
But it’s love that wrote the play
For in this darkness love can show the way
Now the stage is set
You can feel your own heart beating in your chest
This life’s not over yet
So we get up on our feet and do our best
We play against the fear
We play against the reasons not to try
We’re playing for the tears
Burning in the happy angel’s eyes
Show the Way, David Wilcox
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;
and 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. Amen
St. Francis of Assisi