Last night I stuck a bag of trash on the porch. Living in the country and not placing garbage in a receptacle is like playing Russian Roulette. Sometimes a varmint gets into it and other times they just pass it by. Unfortunately, last night something got into the trash and scattered it all over the driveway. It was the first thing I saw when letting the dog out this morning. I went inside, grabbed a new bag and began recollecting the trash. There’s nothing quite like picking up frost-covered garbage at dawn.
As I was gathering it and stuffing it into the bag I began to recall a Jewish wisdom tale;
A woman repeated a story (gossip) about a neighbor. Within a few days, everyone in the community knew the story. The person she talked about heard what had been said about her and she was very sad. Later, the woman who had spread the story learned that it was not true. She was very sorry and went to a wise rabbi and asked what she could do to repair the damage. After giving this some thought, the rabbi said to her, “Go home, get one of your feather pillows, and bring it back to me.” Surprised by the rabbi’s response, the woman followed his advice and went home to get a feather pillow and brought it to the rabbi. “Now,” said the rabbi, “open the pillow and pull out all the feathers.” Confused, the woman did what she was told to do. After a few minutes, the rabbi said, “Now, I want you to find every one of the feathers and put them back into the pillow.” “That’s impossible,” said the woman, almost in tears. “The window is open and the wind has scattered them all over the room and blown many feathers outside. I can’t possibly find them all.” “Yes,” said the rabbi. “And that is what happens when you gossip or tell a story about someone else. Once you talk about someone, the words fly from one person’s mouth to another, just like these feathers flew in the wind. Once you say them, you can never take them back.”
It was a great reminder that not only every word but every action has consequences that we cannot foresee. Our lives should be lived mindfully aware that our scattered thoughts, words, and actions will impact the world for evil or for good.
Carrier or Cure –
I listened to a doctor today say that it was scientifically proven that the mood of one person can contaminate and infect an entire office or family. If an employee arrives to work exhausted, frustrated, malcontented, then it can “infect” their co-workers. If a family member is happy, content, joyful it too can spread to the other members of the family, lifting their spirits, helping them see the beauty in those who often drive one another crazy.
Most likely, each of us has experienced this phenomenon at work and at home. A husband or wife comes home in a foul mood after a long day of work, conflicts with another employee or the boss, fighting traffic and bringing this stress and anxiety with them as they cross the threshold of the family home. Or a co-worker, struggling with issues in the home, bringing their baggage to work.
The doctor noted that empathy, the ability to understand and feel what another person is experiencing, is an antidote that keeps the mood from spreading. Listening, patience, and the willingness to help the other are also effective in stopping the infection.
The question becomes; “are we a carrier or part of the cure?”
Hope is Tricky –
Fire can be a tricky thing. It doesn’t always burn when you want it to, go out when need it to, spread evenly, move at a trackable rate.
Last night a mighty storm blew through our area and left a lot of dead limbs in its wake (see pic). This afternoon I went out and picked them up. Some were wet, others dry but I was hoping to burn them since it was such a large pile. Pouring a little fuel starter on the pile I lit the match and waited. The fuel burned quickly but didn’t seem to be able to light the other limbs and debris. After half and hour, the flames disappeared and a big puff of smoke emitted from the pile as if the fire gave up.
It was lunch time so I went inside, washed my hands, decided what I wanted for lunch but as I was sitting down it occurred to me to check the fire, “just in case.” I stepped outside to get a view of the pile of limbs and spied one tiny flame. Over the next several minutes the flame grew and before I knew it I was sliding my chair away from the fire as it grew taller and hotter consuming everything. A few moments before it seemed out for the count but it was biding its time, growing warmer, waiting for the right conditions and then everything worked together to feed the flame and devour the pile.
Sitting there I thought about the elusiveness of hope. Hope, like a fire, isn’t always easy to keep lit.In dark times we need the light to see, the warmth of hope to stay focused and alive. However, in desperate seasons, hope seems to be snuffed out. We are drained, drowning in the evil which surrounds us. We need the flames of hope but a puff of smoke seems all we can muster.
Hope takes its time, smoldering, waiting for the right conditions, time and place to burst forth in uncontrollable, consuming flame. Hope can be a tricky thing. It doesn’t always inspire when you want it to, give you strength when you need it to, spread evenly, move at a predictable rate. Hope isn’t ours to control. It’s more powerful than us.
Fill Up –
Warm weather, especially as you near Spring, has a way of lulling you into a false sense of security. We use a big kerosene heater to warm our little farmhouse and I have two big kerosene cans to fill the lamp when needed. The catch is that we haven’t needed the heater for a couple of weeks because of unseasonable warmth and I had run out of oil the last time I filled it up.
It was warm this week, temps hitting almost 80 degrees on Friday. However, the weekend brought a cool front through the area, and Saturday and Sunday have been chilly! The temps dropped into the 20’s last night and it was cold in the house this morning! I got out of the bed a little after 6 o’clock and realized to warm things up I was going to have to grab the kerosene cans and drive to one of the few gas stations that carry kerosene and fill them up. I did and made it back home, put the kerosene into the heater and its warmth quickly spread through our home.
I didn’t want to get outside this morning, nor drive to a gas station, or stand in the cold while filling up the cans. What I did want was warmth and if you have no fuel you have not heat. A good lesson for little farmhouses and people of all shapes and sizes.