A TWISTED LOVE

I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face postoperative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth, has been severed. She will be thus from now on. The surgeon had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh; I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had to cut the little nerve.

Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed,  and together they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private. Who are they, I ask myself, he and this wry-mouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously, greedily?

The young woman speaks.

“Will my mouth always be like this?” she asks.

“Yes,” I say, “it will. It is because the nerve was cut.”

She nods and is silent. But the young man smiles.

“I like it,” he says, “It is kind of cute.”

All at once I know who he is. I understand, and I lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with a god. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth and I am so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers, to show her that their kiss still works. I remember that the gods appeared in ancient Greece as mortals, and hold my breath and let the wonder in.

Source: Richard Selzer, M.D.
Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery
(Harcourt Brace, 1996) pages 45-46
Originally published by Simon & Schuster, 1976

CONSIDER THIS

Was the young man a god? I think not. But he possessed a God-like love, a love that persisted in the midst of change, a love that did not alter when it found alteration.

Do you have eyes that can see beauty, joy, goodness, and hope? Can you sense such gifts even in the midst of seeming ugliness or when the light is dim and the darkness heavy?

SHE WEPT WITH HER SON

It was graduation time many years ago.   Preschool children had made a ceramic gift for their parents.  The graduation was over and the children had gone with their teachers to bring the gift of their ceramic hand to their parents.  The children all ran into the room together holding those hands as a surprise.   They were brightly wrapped with tissue paper and ribbons.   The classes had been working on them for weeks.

One small boy trying to run and carry his hand, wave to his parents, and at the same time he slipped and fell.   The surprise flew from his grasp and landed on the tile floor with an obvious ceramic crash.

The child’s first reaction was one of stunned silence but then he cried in disappointment at the broken hand.  His father who was wanting to minimize the incident and comfort the boy, patted his head and said, “Now that’s alright. It really doesn’t matter, son.  It really doesn’t matter at all.”  The child’s mother, somewhat wiser in such situations, dropped to her knees on the floor, swept the boy into her arms and said, “Oh but it does matter!  It matters a great deal!”   And she wept with her son.

Source: Based on a story told by  William Muehl in Why Preach? Why Listen
(Fortress Press, 1986) page 92

CONSIDER THIS

People need more than a pat on the head and a few words of reassurance. They need our blessing and our felt presence! When in pain or confused, people long for that someone who falls to the earth beside us, picks up our torn, broken and bleeding spirits, and says, “Oh, but it does matter. It matters eternally.”

THE LITTLE NEW YEAR

One cold morning Maurice awoke from his dreams and sat up in bed and listened. He thought he heard a knock at his window; but though the moon was shining brightly, Jack Frost had been so busily at work that Maurice could not see through the thickly painted panes. So he crept sleepily out of bed, and opened the window, and whispered: “Who is there?”

“I am,” replied a tinkling voice. “I am the little New Year, ho! ho! And I’ve promised to bring a blessing to everyone. But I am such a little fellow I need somebody to help me distribute them. Won’t you please come out and help?”

“Oh, it’s so cold!” said Maurice; “I’d rather go back to my warm bed;”  and he shivered as Jack Frost, who was passing, tickled him under the chin with one of the frosty paint brushes.

“Never mind the cold,” urged the New Year; “please help me.”

So Maurice hurried into his clothes, and was soon out in the yard. There he found a rosy-cheeked boy a little smaller than himself, pulling a large cart which seemed to be loaded with good things. On one side of this cart was painted the word “Love,” and on the other “Kindness.” As soon as the New Year saw Maurice he said, “Now please take hold and help me pull;” and down the driveway and up the hill they traveled until they came to an old shanty.

“Here is where I make my first call,” said the New Year. Maurice looked wonderingly at him. “Why, nobody lives here but an old colored man who works for us; and he hasn’t any children!” “He needs my help,” said the New Year; “for grown people like to be thought of just as much as children do. You shovel out a path to his door, while I unload some of my blessings; and the little hands went busily at work, piling up warm clothing, wood, and a new year’s dinner, the New Year singing as he worked:—

“Oh, I am the little New Year; ho! ho!
Here I come tripping it over the snow,
Shaking my bells with a merry din;
So open your door and let me in.”

Old Joe, hearing some noise outside, came to the door, and when he saw all the nice gifts the tears ran down his cheeks for gladness; and as he carried them into the house, he whispered: “The dear Lord has been here to-night.”

“Where am we going now?” asked Maurice, as they ran down the hill. “To take some flowers to a poor sick girl,” answered the New Year.

Soon they came to a small white house, where the New Year stopped. “Why, Bessie, our sewing girl lives, here,” said Maurice. “I didn’t know she was sick.” “See,” said the New Year, “this window is open a little; let us throw this bunch of pinks into the room. They will please her when she wakes, and will make her happy for several days.”

Then they hurried to other places, leaving some blessing behind them.

“What a wonderful cart you have,” said Maurice; “though you have taken so much out, it never seems to get empty.” “You are right, Maurice, there is never any end to love and kindness. As long as I find people to love and be kind to, my cart is full of blessings for them; and it will never grow empty until I can no longer find people to help. If you will go with me every day and help me scatter my blessings, you will see how happy you will be all the long year.”

“A happy New Year!” called someone; and Maurice found himself in bed, and his sister standing in the doorway smiling at him. “Have you had a pleasant dream, dear?” she asked.

“Why, where is the little New Year?” said Maurice; “he was just here with me.”

“Come into Mamma’s room and see what he has brought you,” answered his sister. There in a snowy white cradle he found a tiny baby brother, the gift of the New Year. How happy Maurice was then! But he did not forget his dream. Old Joe and Bessie had their gifts, too, and Maurice tried so hard to be helpful that he made all his friends glad because the happy New Year had come.

Source | Ellen Robena Field,
Buttercup Gold and Other Stories (1894)

CONSIDER THIS

You are the Maurice in the story: how do you imagine yourself conspiring with each new dawn to make sure you will have something to give to those who cross your path today?

MAKE YOUR OWN SANDWICH

Once upon a time there was a priest who spent part of each night making sandwiches for the homeless. He travelled around the poorer parts of the city and distribute them. Even though his day was already full, this late night activity didn’t overwhelm him. It actually made him happy.  he didn’t do it out of guilt, duty or any external pressure.  He shared freely and openly in a way that made a difference for him,  Even when the street people rebuffed his offer of food, he didn’t feel rejected or angry, because he wasn’t doing it for the reward or acceptance or appreciation.

The media found out about him and printed a story about his work. Instantly his reputation grew and he became a minor celebrity. The public, even his fellow priests, started sending him money to support his ministry.  Much to their surprise he sent back the money to everyone with a one-line note that said: “Make your own damn sandwich!”

Source | based on a story told in Robert Wicks, Riding the Dragon
(Sorin Books, 2013) page 34

CONSIDER THIS

  • What is easier, to write a check or to make a sandwich?
  • What is most gospel-like, to write a check or to make a sandwich and give it to the hungry?
  • What propels your acts of kindness and compassion? Guilt? Duty? External pressures? Fear of rejection? Desire to be liked and lauded? Or do you do what you do out of pure desire and delight?

THE GIFT OF NONVIOLENCE

A story is told about Muriel Lester, and English Quaker and a striver after kingdom life. One night she returned home from a meeting and found a man with a gun going through her drawers. Their conversation went something like this:

Muriel: “Good evening! Now please put that thing down. I don’t like guns and can’t talk with one in my face.” He looked at her, so stunned that he laid the gun on the dresser, one hand still on it. “Now, how can I help you? What have you come for?”

Burglar: “I’m taking your money, jewellery, and other valuables, lady. Don’t be tough with me.”

Muriel: “You must be in great need. But let’s not tear up my whole house. Here, I have almost no jewellery, but my money is in there. You may get it. I’ll collect the heirlooms and a few other things.” With that she went around her home, removing all her material treasures from their places and bringing them to the burglar.  All her money she also gave him. As he walked out of the door, brandishing his gun, threatening her not to call the police, she said, “Don’t worry. Your needs are greater than mine. I will not report. I hope you have enough now. God bless you.”  She then went to bed and slept in peace.

A few days later, her goods were all returned to her with an anonymous note: “No one has ever been kind to me before. I can’t steal from you.”

Source | Marilyn Gustin, Finding Joy & Peace: Living the Beatitudes Every Day
(Liguori Publications, 1998) page 44

CONSIDER THIS

Imagine you are Muriel, in a similar situation, what would you do? Would you react violently or respond with kindness?

SOCKS AND SHOES

A little boy about 10 years old was standing before a shoe store on the roadway, barefooted, peering through the window, and shivering with cold. A lady approached the boy and said, “My little fellow, why are you looking so earnestly in that window?”

“I was asking God to give me a pair of shoes,” was the boy’s reply.

The lady took him by the hand and went into the store and asked the clerk to get half a dozen pairs of socks for the boy. She then asked if he could give her a basin of water and a towel. He quickly brought them to her. She took the little fellow to the back part of the store and, removing her gloves, knelt down, washed his little feet, and dried them with a towel.

By this time the clerk had returned with the socks. Placing a pair upon the boy’s feet, she purchased him a pair of shoes. She tied up the remaining pairs of socks and gave them to him. She patted him on the head and said, “No doubt, my little fellow, you feel more comfortable now?”

As she turned to go, the astonished lad caught her by the hand, and looking up in her face, with tears his eyes, answered the question with these words: “Are you God’s Wife?”

Source | Unknown

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me. | Matthew 25:40 NRSV
  • Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me. | Matthew 25:40 the message

 

ARE YOU GOD?

With Christmas coming  grandma was out shopping for gifts for her grandchildren.  While she was at the toy store going through her list she noticed a small homeless girl outside wistfully looking into the store.  Grandma’s heart went out to this little girl.  She invited her into the store and asked her to pick out a gift for herself.  As they walked out of the store, the little girl held Grandma’s hand and looked into her kind eyes and asked “Are you God?” 

Grandma, somewhat embarrassed and somewhat touched said, “No, my dear, I am not God.” 

“Then who are you?”  continued the little girl.  Grandma thought for a moment and said, “I am a child of God.”  The little girl, fully satisfied and smiling, said, “I knew there was a connection!”

Source | Paul Coutinho, How Big is Your God?, page 1

PONDER AND CONSIDER

When people come into your life do they see a divine connection?