THE SYMMETRY OF KINDNESS

The train slammed into the station, injuring hundreds. The engineer was critically hurt. People toppled over each other, bouncing across seats and against windows. There was blood and glass everywhere. One woman shimmied her way to the platform when part of the station ceiling fell, pinning her. She thought she would die. Then the hands of fellow passengers lifted her, one to another, and she was saved. Later, she wanted to say thank you but didn’t know who to thank. Once on the mend, she retrieved a list of those who were with her that day. Now, one by one, she looks them up, asking if they had helped her. Each of them smiles and says no. Once with them, she can see what each needs, and so she helps them along. She unpacks groceries for an old woman, listens to a widower’s story, and gives a single mom her umbrella. This has gone on for weeks. She keeps trying to find those who helped her, only to help those she finds. Finally, it occurs to her that this is God’s symmetry of kindness. She will never know who helped her, so she can thank and help everyone she meets along the way.

Source: Mark Nepo,
Things That Join the Sea and the Sky: Field Notes on Living 
(Sounds True,  2017) page 113

CONSIDER THIS

Describe a time when you were drawn into helping others and what you learned from those you helped.

FEELING HOLY

Once when Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa was speaking at General Theological Seminary in New York City, one of the students sitting in the audience nudged the dean, who was sitting next to him, and whispered, “Desmond Tutu is a holy man.”  The dean in response asked, “How do you really know this?” To which the young man quickly replied, “I know that Desmond Tutu is holy because when I’m with him I feel holy.”

Source: Robert Wicks, The Resilient Clinician
(Oxford University Press, 2007) pages 4-5

CONSIDER THIS

  • Can the same be said of us by those who we encounter in our daily lives?
  • What do people experience when they are with us? Do they experience a sense of respectful space where they can rest their burdens, anger, questions, projections, stress, anxiety, and wonder?
  • Or, do they feel our sense of exhaustion, need to always be right or in control, or even our desire to be viewed as wise, attractive, witty, or helpful?

THE PRICELESS TREASURE

A group of tourists sits in a bus that is passing through gorgeously beautiful country; lakes and mountains and green fields and rivers. But the shades of the bus are pulled down. They do not have the slightest idea of what lies beyond the windows of the bus. And all the time of their journey is spent in squabbling over who will have the seat of honor in the bus, who will be applauded, who will be well considered. And so they remain till the journey’s end.

Source: Anthony De Mello, The Way to Love: Meditations for Life
(Random House Canada, 2011) page 3

CONSIDER THIS

“What will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life?”
Matthew 16:26

“We are perishing for lack of wonder, not for lack of wonders.”G.K. Chesterton

TOUCHING THE WATER

A troubled widower made his way to ask a wise old woman about his troubles.  The old woman received him and they walked along a stream.  She could see the pain in his face.  He began to tremble as he asked, “What’s the point? Is there any meaning to life?” She invited him to sit on a large stone near the stream.  She took a long branch and swirled it in the water, then replied, “It all depends on what it means to you to be alive.” In his sorrow, the man dropped his shoulders and the old woman gave him the branch.  “Go on,” she said, “touch the branch to the water.”

As he poked the branch in the running stream, there was something comforting about feeling the water in his hand through the branch.  She touched his hand and said, “You see, that you can feel the water without putting your hand in the water, this is what meaning feels like.” The troubled man seemed puzzled.  She said, “Close your eyes and feel your wife now gone.  That you can feel her in your heart without being able to touch her, this is how meaning saves us.”

The widower began to cry.  The old woman put her arm around him, “No one knows how to live or how to die.  We only know how to love and how to lose, and how to pick up branches of meaning along the way.”

Source: Mark NepoThe One Life We’re Given
Finding the Wisdom That Waits in Your Heart

(Atria Books, 2017) page 87

CONSIDER THIS

A Question to Walk With: In conversation with a loved one or friend, describe a time when you experienced a branch of meaning.

 

IT’S ALWAYS THE BEGINNING

Anthony, a middle-aged monk, was on pilgrimage, visiting Benedict his good friend, a monk in another country. Arriving at the monastery, Benedict, a gracious host and friend, welcomed Anthony, and as they started climbing a long flight of steps, said, “We have no elevators here. I apologize for the many steps we have to climb to get to your room.”

Anthony, with a smile and a twinkle in his eye, answered, “There are many steps in my home monastery, too.”  Then he added, “I count them as I climb…. This is how I count them: one, one, one…!”

Source: Based on a story told by Donagh O’Shea in goodnews.ie

CONSIDER THIS

In the spiritual life, it is always the beginning.

ON REMEMBERING AND REMINDING

Three elderly friends,  while playing bridge, were also discussing the travails of getting older.

One said, “Sometimes I catch myself with a jar of mayonnaise in my hand in front of the refrigerator and can’t remember whether I need to put it away, or start making a sandwich.”

Another agreed, saying he often paused, befuddled, on the stairway landing, unsure of whether he was going up or down.

The third, a recent widower, played a card as he responded,  “Well, I’m glad I don’t have that problem; knock on wood,” as he rapped his knuckles on the table, then told them “Oh, that must be the door, I’ll get it!”

Source: Unknown

CONSIDER THIS

“Well, we all forget things. That’s what reminding is for.” (Words spoken by the controlling Martin Burney character played by Patrick Bergen in the 1991 drama/thriller Sleeping with the Enemy.)

  • What do you need to forget?
  • What do you need to remember?
  • What would you like to be reminded of?

DISTRACTED BY A FOUR-LEGGED STOOL

 

Master: Most courageous lion tamers use two tools to control and ‘tame’ the fierce companions prowling around the cage: a whip and a stool, or a chair. Which of the two is the most valuable to the tamer?

Student: Surely the whip.

Master: No. The one most important tool is the stool, and more specifically, the four legs of the stool!

Student: That’s odd! Why so?

Master:  A lion can easily overpower, maul and kill a person. However, it’s only easy for the lion to do so if it can focus on the singular object of the person. The lion tamer uses the stool as a method of distraction. The lion, when faced with the legs of the stool, tries to focus on all four at once. Confused, and unable to focus, it stands there, frozen!  The lion tamer remains relatively safe behind the stool.

Source: Based on a story found in
David Feldman
How Does Aspirin Find a Headache?
(New York: HarperCollins, 1993.) pages 9-11

CONSIDER THIS

Life isn’t a dress rehearsal. Whether you know it or not, you’re already in the circus ring of life. Most of the time, we sit quietly, maybe confused, gazing at the wooden stool dangled in front of us, silently debating about which leg is the most important.

“You will never get to the end of the journey if you stop to shy a stone at every dog that barks.” —Winston Churchill, Speech, 3 December 1923

“The shortest way to do many things is to do only one thing at a time.” —Richard Cecil

“If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.” —Source Unknown