Make heroes of us all
|Too often, the headlines tear at our national emotional quilt.|
I enjoy an expansive vocabulary. But some days, I don’t have words. And the spiral I take toward mental exhaustion isn’t fun.
It’s as if I wake up at the mercy of the Queen of Hearts. “Where in the world am I?” asks the White Rabbit, “that’s the great puzzle.”
“Oh, you can’t help that, we’re all mad here,” says the Cheshire Cat.
The Queen of Hearts rules the kingdom. “Why,” she says, “sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
So. Where do we park this thing called hope? And how do we replenish it?
Gratefully, autumn is always good for my heart, and my spirit. As a youngster in Southern Michigan, autumn meant football, the pageantry of our annual leaf color parade, cooler weather, and pumpkin or apple pie for breakfast.
As a gardener, autumn is the prologue to winter dormancy and replenishment. The power of pause. And I love this invitation to let go of urgency. The gift of embracing what we have. And in this soil of gratitude, hope grows.
And yet; it seems easy to lose hope, doesn’t it? Or easy to assume that hope is depleted, and cannot be replenished.
This is important: hope is not something we acquire or even learn, or add to our life. Why? Because the good news is that hope is already in our DNA. It may be buried, true, but it is still there.
So hope is something we honor. There is power in this awareness. Even (and especially) in the muddle. This means that we can be present, and sit with, sorrow, pain or unknowing, and not be undone by them. They are big. But not bigger than hope.
“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention,” L.R. Knost reminds us. “So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.”
Some night soon, make some popcorn and watch the movie, Whale Rider. It is set in a small New Zealand coastal village, where the Maori claim descent from Paikea, the Whale Rider. In every generation for more than 1000 years, a male heir born to the Chief succeeds to the title. Tragedy envelops the village when the Chief’s eldest son, Porourangi, fathers twins (a boy and a girl) and the boy and his mother die in childbirth. The surviving girl is named Paikea, nicknamed Pai.
Grief-stricken, her father leaves the country. And Pai is raised by her grandparents. Koro, her grandfather (who is the Chief), refuses to acknowledge Pai as the inheritor of the tradition and claims she is of “no use” to him. In his world, girls cannot be chief. But her grandmother, Flowers, sees more than a broken line. She sees a child full of strength and dignity and light, and in desperate need of love. Today, we need more people like Flowers.
Koro is blinded by prejudice, and even Flowers cannot convince him that Pai is the natural heir. Prejudice is born of and fueled by fear. We see only what we want to see, and are unable to sort through what is real. With our blinders on, we can never see how blessed we truly are.
At the mercy of this fear, the old Chief is convinced that the tribe’s misfortunes began at Pai’s birth and calls for his people to bring their firstborn boys to him for training. He is certain that through a grueling ritual of ancient chants, tribal lore and warrior techniques, the future leader of their tribe will be revealed to him.
Meanwhile, deep within the ocean, a massive herd of whales is responding, drawn towards Pai and their twin destinies. When the whales become stranded on the beach, Koro is sure this signals an apocalyptic end to his tribe. Until one person prepares to make the ultimate sacrifice to save the people: the Whale Rider.
Alerted to this activity, the entire village is witness to this incredible event. Koro sinks to his knees in humiliation as he finally realizes just how blind he has been to have missed the only person in the village who is truly deserving to be the new chieftain, and she has been living right under his nose all these years.
The whale swims out to sea with Pai still riding on top, sometimes above the surface, sometimes beneath the surface of the ocean. And though Pai believes that she is to ride the whale to her eventual death, after a while she slips off, and floats away. It is some time before the villagers know that Pai has been rescued and is recuperating in a nearby hospital. Filled with love, pride and joy, Koro visits his granddaughter to anoint her the new chieftain of her Maori village.
When we label anything, we dismiss it.
When labels win, we do not see.
And when we internalize the label, we are certain that we are not seen.
And we are unable to embrace the leader, the light and the better angel within.
So, here’s my confession. If I give in to the mental exhaustion, I lose sight of that light, and I begin to believe (internalize) that empathy can be overwhelmed, compassion can seem helpless, suffering can be too much to comprehend, and the level of public quarrel too much to absorb. Mercy.
But here’s the deal: While I may have no magic to heal the pain and loss of others, or power to erase suffering from the world, I can stay grounded, and do what I can to help one person at a time (even myself), with small acts of great kindness. And who knows, maybe small acts of kindness will make heroes of us all.
Yes. Because every one of us, in our own way (even if we don’t always see it), can be a whale rider. And it is, after all, in our DNA to bring hope.
I’ll give Pai the last word; “My name is Paikea Apirana and I come from a long line of chiefs, stretching all the way back to the Whale Rider. I am not a prophet, but I know our people will keep going forward with all of our strength.”
I make no secret about my addiction to golf. So, this weekend was full, enjoying every bit of the Ryder Cup (the team match between US and Europe).
Tonight, a fire in the fireplace. And a good book, Barbara Brown Taylor’s Holy Envy.
Quote for your week…
Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud. Maya Angelou
(Note: Thanks to imdb for Whale Rider)
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In the mailbag…
–Thank you Terry, Not that there aren’t always nuggets in your daily doses, but today hit it out of the park for me. Loved the story about your dad. My dad was “just a” farmer with an 8th grade education (because, as the oldest of 5, his dad told him he could only go to high school if he could also still do a day’s work helping at home). He always carried a bit of ‘just a’, though smart, well read, talented and hardworking as a tenant farmer, beloved by all, and a wonderful dad who was strong in his faith and a great example for his children. Lucky for us…in spite of what he thought was missing….and without consciously trying….he still naturally spread his light, too. Thanks for this important reminder to us all. Have a great day! Mary Stall
–Terry, This is wonderful. Usually I read you first thing in the morning but today was a little crazy (can be even in a retirement community!) So glad I waited; what you wrote is so exactly what I have learned over the years. Thank you for keeping us all steady! Much love, Anne Carter Mahaffey
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POEMS AND PRAYERS
In each of us there is a spark that can reverse the trends of violence and depression spiraling within us and in the world around us. By setting in motion the spiral of gratefulness we begin the journey toward peace and joy.
Br. David Steindl-Rast
For Equilibrium, a Blessing:
Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore,
May the relief of laughter rinse through your soul.
As the wind loves to call things to dance,
May your gravity by lightened by grace.
Like the dignity of moonlight restoring the earth,
May your thoughts incline with reverence and respect.
As water takes whatever shape it is in,
So free may you be about who you become.
As silence smiles on the other side of what’s said,
May your sense of irony bring perspective.
As time remains free of all that it frames,
May your mind stay clear of all it names.
May your prayer of listening deepen enough
to hear in the depths the laughter of god.
Thou, my soul’s Healer
Thou, my soul’s Healer,
Keep me at even,
Keep me at morning,
Keep me at noon,
On rough course faring,
Help and safeguard
My means this night.
I am tired, astray, and stumbling,
Shield Thou me from snare and sin.
Carmina Gadelica is the most complete anthology of Celtic oral tradition ever assembled. During his travels with the civil service as an excise man, Alexander Carmichael (1832–1912) spent hours with peasants in their huts in front of peat fires listening as they “intoned in a low, recitative manner” these poems and prayers.