By Barbara Braver
I know that Alexa – that electronic technological home helping device – has been around for a while, and that lots of people have it. Notice I am resisting saying “her” here, though it does seem to act out of its feminine sensibilities. I mean, she hopes I will have a good day when I ask her what time it is… Oh… whoops: OK, “her.” “Have a good day,” she says to me. I have not yet slipped far enough over the edge to respond, “Thank you. You too!” Well, usually I don’t .
In any event, I didn’t have Alexa until she was given to me as a Christmas gift by my son, who likely knows I need all the help I can get with regard to what time it is. Didn’t he and his sister always say that way back in their elementary school days, when I repeatedly urged them to “hurry up”, to be ready for the school bus, they always missed it, but when I was not there and they did it on their own, they were always on time? True. But, I digress.
In these pandemic days, when I am not going anywhere anyway, and it doesn’t much matter what time it is, I am finding Alexa most helpful as my kitchen disk jockey. It turns out she has a marvelous repertoire and to date has had immediately available every tune I have requested. I have a list of songs I return to again and again of a morning during the coffee-making moments. New Every Morning is the Love. That’s a good one. What the World Needs Now is Love, Sweet Love. No argument there! And, Morning has Broken with Cat Stevens always gets me off to a good start. Sleepers Wake brings a calming bit of Bach. A favorite is the old hymn, Amazing Grace. As it goes: I once was lost, but now am found … was blind but now I see.
Well, true enough. I am naming a truth here, a recognition. Yes, I was blind. I had so much out there in the world to enjoy. I could hug my grandchildren. I could go to a concert and clap away with an appreciative audience. I could sit close to others, and maybe chat, at the cheery neighborhood bar and eat calamari that was cooked for me and sip the martini they made just the way I like it. I could visit friends in their homes and meet them in church. I could plan a weekend getaway. All of this … all of this I could do…. Now unthinkable. Now it is just here … just here. Always here … just here. I was blind to what I had. I took it all for granted, and now I see. I am discovering now that it is indeed possible to be grateful in later recognition of what has been, and I am. I am so grateful.
Yes, I once was blind…or perhaps more accurately I saw as if through a veil: the accumulated everyday evils of our nation’s systemic racism; the difficulties of those who make it through life unaided by the privileges I enjoy as an educated white woman. And, though I was certainly aware of the dangers of climate change and global warming, I was unable to imagine how different the sky would look with fewer cars on the road and fewer planes flying overhead spewing their toxic fumes into the air we breathe. Now I see clearly with both sadness and horror how divided our nation is in these days.
And what about this moment? Surely there are gifts to be seen: gifts to comfort and sustain me through grief and uncertainty and fear and outrage. Ah yes. Amazing grace. With God’s amazing grace I pray I will look with unblinded sight at all such gifts, surely here. I once was blind and now I see. Amazing grace. AMEN.
Barbara Braver grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where at age 12 she started a one-page weekly newspaper called Neighborhood News. It lasted for a full summer, to the amusement of several indulgent neighbors. This was the beginning of the writing life. After college graduation she moved to the Boston area, drawn by romantic notions of Emerson, Thoreau and Louisa May Alcott. Though this might have been an insubstantial motive, she has never been disappointed. For most of her professional life, she worked for the Episcopal Church, including 18 years serving as the communication assistant for the Episcopal Church’s leader. Since retirement she continues writing, editing and leading retreats.