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The courage to hold a hand

Caroline was very sad. Caroline was only six years old and her father had just died. In fact, her father had been assassinated.
Sitting in the back of big black limousine, Caroline Kennedy didn’t quite know what to do with her sadness. On the seat next to her sat her nanny, Maud Shaw, and next to Maud, Caroline’s younger brother John.
Through the windshield Caroline could see her mother, Jackie, and her uncles, Robert and Ted, walking in front of the limousine as it slowly made it’s way down the Boulevard to St. Matthew’s Cathedral.
Looking out of her side of the car, Caroline recognized the friendly face of Secret Service agent, Robert (Bob) Foster. She liked and trusted Bob Foster.
Not knowing what to do with her sadness, and on impulse, she rolled down the window and stuck out her six-year old hand. Agent Foster had a choice to make. Secret Service agents are not allowed to have their hands occupied, needing to be ready for any emergency. But Bob Foster didn’t even think twice. He held Caroline’s hand tightly the entire way to the cathedral.
Later, Agent Foster said it was all he could do to “fight back his own tears of sadness, for little Caroline Kennedy.”
When asked about his kindness, he seemed surprised, “All I did was hold a hand,” he answered.
We all know sadness. Life breaks for each one of us in different ways and in different places. Or, it breaks for people we love, and we want to help carry the weight. And sometimes, the sadness seems too much to carry.
It requires courage to roll down the window, to ask, to invite, to connect.
For whatever reason, there is a knee-jerk need to deny any sadness, or dismiss it, or apologize for it. “I’m sorry,” people will say, wiping away their tears, as if their sadness is a violation of some tenet of propriety. Heaven forbid if any humanity is exposed.
I will tell you that sometimes I am afraid to ask. Okay… not sometimes; most times. I don’t want to appear weak. Asking for help is a hard pill to swallow. Besides, I can handle it. That’s what I tell myself.
This morning I am joining the good people at God’s Grace Community Church in Highlands Ranch, CO. I tell them the story from The Gospel of John, a conversation a day or so after the feeding of the 5000. (Which was really the feeding of fifteen thousand, since they only counted the men. But I digress…)
So. Some followers of Jesus want to have a “discussion” about this “miracle” and need an explanation. I get that. If ever we were to witness a miracle we’d like to explain it. Or maybe even bottle it.
But this miracle – essentially, being fed to full-ness with the bread of life – is not a cerebral exercise or a case study.
Would you like to know the ingredients of Jesus’ miracle?
Sit down…
Break bread…
Give thanks…
Feed one another…
So, I’m wondering… could this miracle happen, even today?
Because the miracle has nothing to do with our faith, or our willpower, or our competency or togetherness, I believe the answer is yes.
I was raised in a religious environment that taught me otherwise. It told me that I was being weighed and measured by my faith and togetherness. And because of that, I needed to eradicate my messiness (and to quash my untidiness or grief or sadness).
I now believe differently.
I now know that we find and express acceptance, love, grace (the place where we can be fully human) and restoration, in our messy, imperfect, and fully thorny selves. In other words: We can embrace this life–without any need to photoshop it.
Remember Pinocchio, who, while pondering himself, founders in confusion about his self-worth.  Finally, he turns to his maker Gepetto and in a pleading way says, “Pappa, I am not sure who I am.  But if I’m all right with you, then I guess I’m all right with me.”
To be human is to be vulnerable. And from that vulnerability, we risk. We feed one another. We hold a hand.
I am capable of being wounded and cut and sad… which also means that I am capable of being kind and generous and present.
And in such moments of heartache, I have the courage to ask for a hand to hold.
In such moments of heartache, I have the courage to hold a hand the needs to be held.
“I now believe that the instruction (dogma) of my childhood–that led me into faith–is not what saved me,” my friend tells me. “It was the kindness of my Sunday School teacher; it was when my parents forgave me when I wronged them; it was the friend who stood alongside when I felt isolated from my peers. It was the hymns we sang in unison as a community, and it was the touch of a kind hand when someone had shamed me. It was the touch of the other–my brother and sister–that saved and saves me today.”
Robert Foster didn’t think twice about holding a hand that needed to be held. And he wasn’t posturing or amassing heavenly brownie points. He was doing what needed to be done.
Here’s the deal: we don’t need more remedies or advice. We need more touch. We become more human when we touch.
When we touch, we are seen.
When we are seen (or fed) we recognize that our value is not tied solely to our sadness.
Here’s the good news: The bounty from compassion is not predicated on life as we expect it.
The replenishment from grace doesn’t start when our fear is gone.
Or when our beliefs are unadulterated.
Or when our circumstances make it feasible.
Most likely, if we wait for all that, we miss rebirth, comfort, healing, being fed to fullness… and the miracle, every time.
I have an idea… This week, be on the lookout for slow moving limousines. You never know when you will see a hand that needs to be held.  

I’m back home tonight in Port Ludlow, and look forward to my conversation tomorrow with the geese (mostly about how sad I am to have missed two great football games today… just sayin’).
And to my east coast friends, please stay safe and warm.   
Quote for your week…
Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind,
“Pooh!,” he whispered.
“Yes, Piglet?”
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw.
“I just wanted to be sure of you.”

Notes: Robert Foster story referenced in American Legacy by Clemens Heymann and Borrowed Narratives by Harold Ivan Smith

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–Dear Terry, Monday’s Sabbath Moment reminded me of Fr. Greg Boyle’s statement, “God is too busy delighting in you to ever be disappointed in you.” We all need that grace, every single day. Peace to you, Stephanie
–Thank you, thank you… Sabbath Moment is just what the soul and body needs.
–Thank you Terry for sharing these words today. They gave peace to my soul that I wasn’t even aware I was in need of. Peace and blessings, Susan
–Terry: Good morning. Indeed it is! I just finished “This is the Life.” I could not put it down until finished and now wished it would continue on and on. Your vulnerability to share so much of yourself and such all inclusive illustrations are so inspirational. I thank you for you wisdom. Hold on! I believe I feel like dancing! Gotta go! Thank you! Pat 


I am done with great things and big plans, great institutions and big success. I am for those tiny, invisible, loving, human forces that work from individual to individual, creeping through the crannies of the world like so many rootlets, or like the capillary oozing of water, which, if given time, will rend the hardest monuments of pride.
William James

That hurt we embrace becomes joy.
Call it to your arms where it can change.
A silkworm eating leaves makes a cocoon.
Each of us weaves a chamber
of leaves and sticks.
Like silkworms, we begin to exist
as we disappear
inside that room.
Without legs, we fly.
When I stop speaking, this poem
will close in silence more magnificent…
I don’t regret how much I love,
and I avoid those who repent their passion.
Hundreds of sweethearts!
I am the lover and the one
lovers long for. Blue, and a cure
for blues, sky in a small cage,
badly hurt but flying.
Everybody’s scandalous flaw is mine.

A Time to Be Silent
There must be a time when we cease speaking
to be fully present with ourselves.
There must be a time when we exclude clamor
by listening to nothing whatsoever.
There must be a time when we forgo our plans
as if we had no plans at all.
There must be a time when we abandon conceits
and tap into a deeper wisdom.
There must be a time when we stop striving
and find the peace within.
David O. Rank

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