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Friday, July 15, 2011

A Matter of Being There

Annie Lamott's wisdom about life and writing includes such nuggets as these: 

Life isn’t logical. It is actually brutal. Cain is still slaughtering Abel, and that is the reality. How do we bring the living water to a very, very, very thirsty, scared and cold world?

We don’t do it by appearing more powerful and more learned. We do it by showing up and pushing back our sleeves. It’s the loaves and the fish and slowly, slowly, slowly trusting that the more that we give away, the more will be shared and the more we’ll starve for the softening of our hearts.*

These are difficult words, and ones I would just as soon ignore.  Yet there is a truth here that stands in the streets calling to passers-by in the way, in the way Jesus described life in his day: "It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.'"

We, all of us at one time or another, prefer our made-up stories to the truth of a world in pain.  We would like to live in those novels and short stories that describe the lives of fictional characters rather than the real-life human beings who confront us on street corners with their signs begging for handouts.  We don't want to read of the realities of lost jobs, foreclosed homes, low-grade schools because of slaughtered budgets.  We listen to the arguments in Congress about the debt ceiling, and are oblivious to the woman ahead of us in the check-out line handing her food stamps to the clerk.  We hear with concern about billions of dollars of unpaid government debt and pretend to ignore the $1.52 the woman comes up short with.  We can personally do very little about the former but the latter is within our reach to remedy.  Will we hand her what is needed to make up the shortfall in her change purse? 

Annie Lamott's words ring loud and clear in the way we address the hardships of our day.  The more we are willing to give of ourselves to those around us, the more we become vulnerable to the needs we discover within our reach, and the more we respond.  And from that discovery we push back our sleeves and show up where we can make a difference.  We don't need to have access to millions of dollars.  Once upon a time, we are told,  a loaf of bread and five fish were enough to feed the hungry thousands.  Let's just do it.

*from "Leadership and Education; Duke Divinity School