Today is the birthday of Helen Keller, who could see nothing physically, but who had vision that has blessed many. She might have held this shell without knowing its color and spots, but knowing in tender touch its roundness, spirals and ridges, the precious point where they ended, the way it nestled in her palm and told silent stories of the sea. If we are attentive and tuned to all our senses, we may find new dimensions of beauty in our surroundings. One way of showing gratitude is by using all the senses I have been given to be aware of the world around me, to have vision beyond sight.
These windows at the back of our house mirror a rose arbor covered with blooms just a month ago. But summer arrives today says the calendar as well as the temperature, so the scanty blooms that are still there are pale and dried. The reflection today seems to say “all gone away.” But I know this rose. It is hardy and tenacious, with a reputation for surviving even a hurricane. I know it will bloom again. I will not mourn for lost blossoms. I will enjoy the many shades of green in its leaves, admire the lacy intertwining of its branches. I will wonder at the raindrops caught in spider webs woven in rose canes. I will count the bird nests perched inside the arbor’s protection, and rest in the shade it gives me. And I will be grateful for eyes that can see the rose bush reflected in the windows of home.
“Whether one looks at a star, a child, a moment of sorrow, or a time of gladness, blessed is the ordinary…I believe the small moment is the carrier of God’s most endearing gift, and that it must not be permitted to slip away unsavored and unappreciated…If one accepts each day as a gift from the Father’s hand, one may sometimes hear a voice saying, “Open it. I invite you to share with me in these little appointments with myself as we try to unwrap the hidden beauties in an ordinary day.” Gerhard Frost in Blessed is the Ordinary
We are hearing so many stories of tragedy and trauma, of danger and despair. Some of the horror is magnified by the immediacy with which we now receive the news. Social media and news reporting brings word and image straight into our homes and hearts from the real-time scene. “Breaking news” threatens to break us. For some of us, the pain is present in our immediate and extended families Is there anything we can reply to disillusionment and despair? To the erosion of hope? To fear? What does the intersection of faith and art (which this blog addresses) offer in response to this reality? How is our energy best spent in helping each other?
Howard Thurman offers this: “The mass attack of disillusionment and despair, distilled out of the collapse of hope, has so invaded our thoughts that what we know to be true and valid seems unreal and ephemeral. There seems to be little energy left for aught but futility. This is the great deception…To drink in the beauty that is within reach, to clothe one’s life with simple deeds of kindness, to keep alive a sensitiveness to the movement of the spirit of God in the quietness of the human heart and in the workings of the human mind – this is as always the ultimate answer to the great deception.”
My pastor reminds us that each time we meet, there is a story on every pew that can break your heart. I know some of those stories, and I know that he is right. I also know that we need to hear each other’s stories if we are to know and trust and help each other.
” It always amazes me to think that every house on every street is full of so many stories; so many triumphs and tragedies, and all we see are yards and driveways. ~Glenn Close, American Film and Stage Actress
Part of my daily walk takes me by the front yards of houses in our neighborhood, but the last mile or so of the walk is around a small lake behind the back of houses with wrought iron fences. I see beautiful landscaping, luxurious pools, and groupings of comfortable outdoor furniture. Some even have outdoor kitchens. I enjoy my walks, but I very seldom see another person except the few who are on the path for jogging or cycling. The only signs of life are the dogs in several of the back yards. I don’t see the stories, but I know that they are there.
Wendell Berry expands this need for story in What Are People For? “When a community loses its memory, its members no longer know one another. How can they know one another if they have forgotten or have never learned one another’s stories? If they do not know one another’s stories, how can they know whether or not to trust one another? People who do not trust one another do not help one another, and moreover they fear one another. And this is our predicament now.”
I want to be a part of a community that has not lost its memory. I do not want to forget. Writing and blogging is one way I share my story with you, a hospitality of spirit for me. What about you? In what ways do you tell your story and how are you able to listen to that of others?