Once upon a time, a little boy loved a stuffed animal whose name was Old Rabbit. It was so old, in fact, that it was really an unstuffed animal; so old that even back then, with the little boy’s brain still nice and fresh, he had no memory of it as “Young Rabbit,” or even “Rabbit”; so old that Old Rabbit was barely a rabbit at all but rather a greasy hunk of skin without eyes and ears, with a single red stitch where its tongue used to be.
The little boy didn’t know why he loved Old Rabbit; he just did, and the night he threw it out the car window was the night he learned how to pray. He would grow up to become a great prayer, this little boy, but only intermittently, only fitfully, praying only when fear and desperation drove him to it, and the night he threw Old Rabbit into the darkness was the night that set the pattern, the night that taught him how. He prayed for Old Rabbit’s safe return, and when, hours later, his mother and father came home with the filthy, precious strip of rabbity roadkill, he learned not only that prayers are sometimes answered but also the kind of severe effort they entail, the kind of endless frantic summoning.
And so, when he threw Old Rabbit out the car window the next time, it was gone for good. (From Tom Junod’s Esquire article, “Can you say Hero”.)
Every once in a while (and I’m not always sure what triggers it), I give in to my broken places. Meaning I assume that the label of “broken” is the only truth about who I am. And I live small.
It’s no surprise that I would try hard never to show those places. What would people think? It is also no surprise that when life feels heavy or uncertain, it is easy to be derailed, and afraid. And that’s when we need stories; to remind us that it’s precisely in the broken places where we touch, embrace and give thanks for the soft and life-giving places of our heart.
So. Let us tell stories to muster the means to carry on, to say No to a self that has been made to feel small.
Let us say yes to hope.
Let us say yes to the permission to return to our self—no longer small—and to the voice of grace.
Let us tell these stories because our world needs and seeks the miracle of grace.
“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” (From the film series, The Hobbit)
Amen. Which takes us back to Junod’s article about my hero, Mr. Rogers.
Junod’s article begins with the story of Old Rabbit. And then, in his first meeting with Mr. Rogers, there is this conversation;
“What about you, Tom? Did you have any special friends growing up?”
“Yes,” he said. “Maybe a puppet, or a special toy, or maybe just a stuffed animal you loved very much. Did you have a special friend like that, Tom?”
“Yes, Mister Rogers.”
“Did your special friend have a name, Tom?”
“Yes, Mister Rogers. His name was Old Rabbit.”
“Old Rabbit. Oh, and I’ll bet the two of you were together since he was a very young rabbit. Would you like to tell me about Old Rabbit, Tom?”
Mairead Corrigan Maguire’s invitation to be unafraid of our broken places; “Change will only come about when each of us takes up the daily struggle ourselves to be more forgiving, compassionate, loving, and above all joyful in the knowledge that, by some miracle of grace, we can change as those around us can change too.
Here’s more from Junod…
Once upon a time, a man named Fred Rogers decided that he wanted to live in heaven. Heaven is the place where good people go when they die, but this man, Fred Rogers, didn’t want to go to heaven; he wanted to live in heaven, here, now, in this world, and so one day, when he was talking about all the people he had loved in this life, he looked at me and said, “The connections we make in the course of a life–maybe that’s what heaven is, Tom. We make so many connections here on earth. Look at us–I’ve just met you, but I’m investing in who you are and who you will be, and I can’t help it…”
What is grace? I’m not certain; all I know is that my heart felt like a spike, and then, in that room, it opened and felt like an umbrella. I had never prayed like that before, ever.
I had always been a great prayer, a powerful one, but only fitfully, only out of guilt, only when fear and desperation drove me to it… and it hit me, right then, with my eyes closed, that this was the moment Fred Rogers–Mister Rogers–had been leading me to from the moment he answered the door of his apartment in his bathrobe and asked me about Old Rabbit. Once upon a time, you see, I lost something, and prayed to get it back, but when I lost it the second time, I didn’t, and now this was it, the missing word, the unuttered promise, the prayer I’d been waiting to say a very long time.
“Thank you, God,” Mister Rogers said. (Thank you Tom. Thank you Mr. Rogers)
Speaking of grace, one of the great gifts I receive every week is the letters (yes, real pen on paper), and email notes from Sabbath Moment friends. With stories that affirm Albert Schweitzer’s observation, “In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”
And this morning, a murmuration of seagulls (well more like a dance and soar). And then gathering on the fifth fairway, for morning conversation.
As we ready ourselves for the holiday season, here are my wishes: be gentle with yourself. Find replenishment. And don’t’ be afraid to spill your light in very ordinary ways.
Quote for your week…
The One who came still comes and the One who spoke still speaks—Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it—because it does. The First Book of Corinthians
Note: The excerpts above are all from the November 1998 issue of Esquire magazine. Made into a movie, A beautiful day in the neighborhood.
Thank you for making space for me and for Sabbath Moment. Your support means the world. Let us continue to find places where our souls and spirits can be nourished and refueled. Please pass the word about Monday Sabbath Moment. And, now join me for Daily Sabbath Moment (Tuesday – Friday). Your donations make a difference, and if you are able, thank you. And the new book, The Gift of Enough–a journal for the present moment.
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Today’s Photo Credit: “Hi Terry – Last weekend we had family camp with my son’s boy scout pack. We were in a low light park in southern Arizona and were surrounded by S0.Many.Stars. On the first night, my eight-year-old was nearly asleep, but I brought him out of the tent to look at the stars and were rewarded with a Shooting Star. It was amazing. I also had to visit the restroom in the middle of the night and it was so annoying to get out of the tent, get extra cold and then walk all the way to the building. But man alive, can you believe that there were even more stars than there were a few hours before – truly a blessing in a relatively cold disguise. An observation that I haven’t really thought much about is that, this low light state park is what it was like 150 years ago. Before electricity people were blessed with this amazing sight every day. I wonder if they even knew how lucky they were. Okay to the photo – one of the scout dads brought a technical telescope that we were able to look into and see amazing sights. Below is a picture that he had taken. This is being shared with permission. I thought you might like it. ‘I had fun showing everyone space last night at the family camp. This is a photograph I took after (1,000 sec.). This is IC 434 also called the Horsehead Nebula.–photo and statement from Mr. Alex McClure.’ Thank you for being you,” Alicia Hayden (Tempe, AZ)… Thank you Alicia.. Keep sending your photos… send to firstname.lastname@example.org
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–Thank you, Good morning! I don’t have a picture but I wanted to tell you how much I loved your Spiritual Gardening book. So much so that when I got a chance to go to Puget Sound and Whidbey Island I could not resist! You were right about the gardens. They were awe inspiring… and the funny thing in my travels there, I ended up meeting a man who became my husband! God is good! Thanks so much for your words of wisdom and thoughts. Teri
–Thanks for your morning’s meditations. Your quote of Francis Ponge, about meaning to be found in the “simplest object or person” instantly reminded me of a Tennyson poem that my grandmother loved, and passed on to me. Blessings on your day, Lane
Alfred Lord Tennyson
Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower-but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, all in all,
I should know what God and man is.
POEMS AND PRAYERS
We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us, that they may see, it may be, their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer,
perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet.
This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.
Try, as best you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.
If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.
To Bless the Space Between Us
Prayer for a Garden
God, we need peace – so we come to the garden for quiet.
We need joy – so we come to the garden for our senses —
the green of leaf,
the rich crumbling smell of soil,
and the scent of pine needle,
the sounds of small life, of chipmunk and bird,
that come and go in all places natural,
the rough texture of gravel, the delicacy of a flower petal.
We need to let things go – so we come to the garden for rest,
and we need to let people go,
so we come to the garden to remember them.
We need hope – so we come to the garden to watch things grow
reminding ourselves to be planters
and to enjoy what others have planted.
We need benches where we can begin to let Sabbath in our lives.
We need paths to help us recognize our own journeys.
We need a justice commitment to environment,
a global commitment that calls us to action,
but we also need a small square of real earth
to root our speeches and to get our hands dirty.
We need community – so we come to this garden
to give and receive a shared blessing
(not the result of our personal winter catalogues,
spring compost, summer weeding)
to give and receive a shared blessing
from the hand of the Sower of seeds. Amen