Second Thoughts –
Earlier this afternoon there was a knock on our front door. Unfortunately, I was indisposed and couldn’t answer it and be decent at the same time. When I finally got to the door the person was gone and all that was left was a book on the evilness of Protestantism. I picked up the book, flipped through it as I walked into the house. I put it down in the foyer and continued on with my day.
However, as I was busy with other things a thought crept into my mind; “What if someone had brushed a coat of poison on the outside cover of the book? What if there had been dust inside and as I flipped through it floated into the air and on me?” I asked my wife; “How have we gotten to a place in the world where a book left on a front porch can cause us to have thoughts of terrorism and criminal intent?”
We live in a time where nothing seems innocent. We are suspicious, judgemental, accusatory, on high alert, expecting and preparing for the worst. How do we get back to a more innocent time? Was there ever such a thing?
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.
Full of Junk –
Today is President’s Day. I wish I would’ve remembered that before this afternoon. The last few weeks have been rough weather wise. Cold, rainy, windy and our trash has piled up in the bin outside. Finally, today, it was dry enough to put the all the trash in the back of the truck and take it to the Refuse and Recycle Center. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to do it before meeting with some fathers today so it sat in the back of the truck until afternoon. My truck looked like Sanford and Son. After finishing up my appointments I headed to the dump. I was almost there and thankful to get rid of the trash. Then, to my disbelieving eyes, the gates were closed and it dawned on me; “President’s Day.” It was a holiday and county employees weren’t working today. My truck would stay loaded down until tomorrow. “Grrrr!” and “Sigh.”
“Don’t let what’s happening around you get inside you and weigh you down.” Easy sentence to write a hard sentence to live. We are surrounded by many negative things which can be like anchors to our spirits. Violence, injustice, racism, sexism, bigotry, and all sorts of evil that threaten to permeate our souls. We must be careful, watchful, mindful to not allow this corruption of creation to become a part of us, absorb us, soak up our existence and make us apart of what we should be fighting against.
There are three kinds of problems; those we can live with, those we can do something about and those we must separate ourselves from.
It’s the last one which gives us the most trouble. Living with something aggravating and, at least in the present moment, is unchangeable can be a challenge. Fortunately, or unfortunately, we can tolerate a lot. This approach can create more hassles if something needs to be changed and we lack the direction, motivation or passion to do something.
Taking control, bending problems to our will, throwing our shoulder into a problem is an attitude we find easy. There’s nothing like grabbing a difficulty by the throat and forcibly doing away with it, changing it to our liking. The risk here is we can make a situation worse if we are too hasty, too stubborn or not wise enough in our decision-making.
Leaving it, for most of us, takes the greatest strength. To be faced with a problem and not change it but change ourselves, how we approach it, takes courage and trust. When we put up with it we are sullen and prone to negative thoughts and spirits. When we take hold of it and wrestle with it, we feel we are in control. When we decide to let go, step back, allow the problem to exist and find contentment at the same time, we have reached a place of genuine spiritual and intellectual maturity.