Wednesday, February 22, 2017

St Francis of Our Streets

I like this essay, although it seems the editor who titled it paid no attention to the writer's opening sentence. Nonetheless, it's a good job of calling out for special appreciation to one of the many people who work in purposeful anonymity to help others. For Father Jordan, and for the others inspired like him, it's not about them it's about "the care of the poor and vulnerable." It should be so for all of us. 

A note, too, on my appreciation for the Franciscans. We have had a St Francis statue in our gardens for years, modeling some of our stewardship on his theology. I've written of how that happens in the past. Interestingly, my father, who I've often said looks like the Dalai Lama, has the middle name Francis. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

"What is noise now will be music later"

All of us felt differently the morning of November 9, some the heady rush that what they believed was suddenly and unexpectedly given credence, and some that what they were afraid would happen now would happen. In the latter category, for many of us this has been expressed as numbness, a kind of unwillingness that other people were willing to vote their anger and fear rather than their hope and future. This essay, written by someone who watched his country go from peace to violence and noted the changes afterward: "People asked me if I had known the war was coming — I did, I'd say, I just didn't know I did, because my mind refused to accept the possibility that the only life and reality I had known could be so easily annihilated." Will Trump take us to war? My initial response is, Of course not! We are too civilized, too well-intentioned for that to happen. But of course, exactly those words were how I greeted Trump's second-- or is it third? Can anyone be certain of any fact now?--run at the White House. If this is the new normal, will compassion in government or relationships be seen as abnormal? Will gasps of apprehension become sonatas?

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sitting quietly

While it's true, as my wife has observed, that I can't take part in a moment of silence without telling somebody that I'm observing a moment of silence, I do in fact spend most of my working day quietly. Between patient visits, of course, I do a lot of reading, usually with a radio on. And when I visit someone who is unresponsive, I'll sit close to them, preferably near a window because I like a view, and relax into my role as nonanxious presence. 

Oddly, I wouldn't have pegged me for someone for whom calm would become a natural state. I bite my nails, I tap my fingers, I hum and sing under my breath. I am a mess of jangling, banging nerves. I promised myself when I was younger that I would never be bored, and smartphones and Facebook have helped me keep that promise. Sometimes, even sitting next to the bed of a person actively dying, it's difficult not to check my email or a friend's status or my Twitter feed. I admit to giving in more often than I'd like.

But I reflect on the situation this way. As a Unitarian Universalist I accept individual and corporate dignity and worth. And a part of that is something I've heard called NODA. No one dies alone. While I can't guarantee to be with someone when death happens, I can be present for a short time as the process plays out. This ministry of presence, as I see it, is as important to a comfortable death as any drug or prayer. It's the best I have to offer, maybe the best any of us has to offer. To accept the sociability of our species, that we like to live with one another, is to accept we also like to die with one another.