By Barbara Braver
If I had followed my first instincts this morning, I would have arisen and then closeted myself in one room with a lot of books written by people who had wise things to say to me. I would spend every moment of the day with these wise people, and maybe a box of chocolates. My chosen friends would companion and console me in the midst of what I can only think of as some sort of dissolution of civil society as I have known it. How could I think otherwise after only 10 minutes of checking out what the word of the world is this morning. Right now, it is mass shootings and war and disease and plastic-filled oceans heating and ice melting and drug overdoses and incarcerated children and and and….
Closer to home there is my dear friend Julie and her as-yet undiagnosed stomach problems. There is Caroline who has a sense that her marriage of 20 years is at a dead end. And Sam, who is out of work, yet again, and the accompanying financial worries. I don’t have to look far to see suffering.
Given all this how am I to move into this new morning? If I took a poll of my various parts – body, mind and spirit – I suspect the vote would either be to go back to bed and hope for sleep or into the room with the books and the chocolates … Of course, I would have to get up eventually and when I did the world would look pretty much the same. That is a distressing prospect, especially because I would emerge from my solitary room feeling sorry about using my precious life that way, to say nothing of all those chocolates.
And, here is the bigger question. How can I be of any help at all in the midst of this? Oh, I do have some thoughts bubbling up through the miasma. I could begin by calling Julie to see how she is doing with her various dietary issues… eating only applesauce and bananas until the doctors can get a better sense of why her stomach is in conflict with the rest of her body. Perhaps I could offer an encouraging word or just listen. Friendship and community offer hope. And just that shred of hope, of having accomplished something small and done one good thing, could help me to move, with grace and grit, away from being totally disempowered in the midst of global agony.
I pause, and breathe, and hear another word, a very different Word from all of the tragic words that daily describe the torn and pain-filled community we inhabit. The biblical book of Deuteronomy is quite explicit about that. “…the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.” I believe that. The word has been implanted in my heart by the love at the center of the Universe, the Love which I name as God, but call it what you will. I move to that loving Word praying it will open my heart such that I may live in this world, full of both joy and suffering, showing some trace of the Divine compassion.
Tomorrow is another new day and I may go through this again, but I pray I will be informed by observing the Word I have received today. And so, I begin – yet again…
And now, I will call Julie.
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.