|Aug 19, 2016 07:04 am
Recently I attended the wedding of a couple that I had not previously met. My companion had been asked by her friend the bride-to-be to take photographs of the two-day event which included attending a meet and greet for the bride and groom’s families the day before the ceremony. I suppose that my vocation has prepared me for events like these as this certainly wasn’t going to be the first time that I’ve found myself at intimate familial gatherings such as weddings and funerals where I’m meeting people for the first and most likely the last time. We had a delightful time and I will not soon forget the names and faces of many: Linda and Andrew who were the bride and groom. Matthew the groom’s brother from Arizona and his lovely wife Rabina. Barbara the groom’s sister and Chris her husband and their sons Tyler and Patrick from Philadelphia and Colorado.We met David on day two. He came to the reception alone and a little late – dinner had already been served. We were seated at a table with one empty seat and after asking if he could join us David, a stranger, surprisingly called my companion by her first name and then looked at me and said, “And I hear you’re an Episcopal priest?” As it turned out David was the spiritual director of the groom who is a lay hospital chaplain. David was most certainly a wise man – the kind of guy whose calm and friendly demeanor combined with the deep lines on his face tell you that he had lived to see much in this life – and that like that wonderful poem by Naomi Shihab Nye – kindness was now his calling. We engaged in a delightful conversation about many things: our faith, our journeys, children, our work. As we departed David, whom by then we had known for the sum total of about one hour, looked at us and said, “Have a good life.” The words struck a deep chord in us because we knew he meant them.
Later that day with her own wisdom my companion pondered David’s farewell and the fact that often the words “Have a good life” are uttered in a manner that is anything but kind. How true. I’ve used them that way myself and want to rewind the clock, wipe those utterances from my record, re-issue them in a manner that is anything but unkind, and mean it. Thank you friend. Thank you David.
Written by Linda Lentz, August3, 2016.
|By Anonymous on Aug 04, 2016 11:38 am
Last Friday night, I received a call that none of us want to get. An ambulance driver was calling me to tell me that my friend and neighbor had been in a very serious car accident. They suggested I come to the hospital. The accident could easily have been a fatal one for her.
As I drove to the hospital to be with her, I thought how precious, and yet how fragile, our lives are. And how unexpected events can end our lives as we know them. Events like car accidents, unanticipated and life-threatening illnesses, and wars that destroy people’s lives as they knew them; all these events can alter our lives and the lives of those around us. My heart ached for my friend, but I also rejoiced in her survival, just as my heart went out to the refugees who shared their story with us on Sunday.
My friend today told me that she feels more alive now that she has in a very long time. She is grateful for the people in her life that that bring her joy. She’s focusing now on a “new normal” that is less focused on day to day worries and tasks–and more focused the people around her and on the positive aspects of her life that light up her life and the lives of those around her.
We heard on Sunday about the devastations of war that leave countries, cultures, and human lives changed forever. But we also heard the optimism of survival and intentionally going forward with courage and making new beginnings. In the refugee story and my friend’s story, I hear gratefulness for life and for communities of kindness and sharing.
One of my favorite books and a source for daily prayers is Celtic Benedictions by J. Philip Newell. The Thursday prayers include the following:
The vitality of God be mine this day
the vitality of the God of life.
The passion of Christ be mine this day
the passion of the Christ of love.
The wakefulness of the Spirit be mine this day
the wakefulness of the Spirit of justice.
The vitality and passion and wakefulness of God be mine
that I may be fully alive this day
the vitality and passion and wakefulness of
that I may be fully alive.
That we all may be fully alive to love and to life. Que así sea. (That it might be so.)
Recently I have been thinking about how hard my parents worked to see to it that my sister and I had what we needed to have a good life. They both worked hard both at their jobs and then at home. They never shrank from work. There was not man’s work and woman’s work. There was just work. They both pitched in on whatever needed doing. They never complained about it. They just did it. They both dug out the dirt to create a basement room in our newly acquired house. They hauled that dirt in a wheelbarrow to make a wider front yard and as a foundation for a much wider front porch. Each had his or her own lawnmower. Mother’s was electric. Dad’s was gas powered.
Consequently, my sister, Jean, and I grew up with a good work ethic. We were taught by words and examples that all work if it is legal is honorable. While serving as a graduate assistant in the speech and hearing center’s program for young adults at the University of Alabama, I learned firsthand how motivational the prospect of being able to get a job and earn money was for the clients. These severely impaired young women and men tackled work related vocabularies with gusto. They discovered as did I that working feels good and is good for both body and soul.
Once I said to my late wife, Liz, when our children were younger that I would like to be a beach bum. “Go ahead,” she said. “I can’t,” I said. “I have you, Suzanne and Michael.” “Oh no buddy, you can’t pull that one. You can’t be a beach bum because your make-up will not allow you to do nothing. It is not us. It is you.” I had to admit that she was right as usual.
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both talk about bringing back jobs. Neither of them talk about how meaningful work is to the mental health of the worker. They never talk about how important work is to the dignity of the worker. Work is more than a paycheck. Middle class Joe Biden gets it. Sure, a paycheck is great and necessary, but that is not the end of the story.
I never thanked my parents for all they did for us. The dignity of work was one of their greatest gifts.