Monday, April 20, 2009

To Lend a Hand

Several years ago, going through a hard time, I began to tinker around with calligraphy. Like any other hobby when you focus you can’t really think of anything else. Time would stand still while I was working with letters and words. One of my own pieces hangs over the desk in my study. These are the words: “To lend each other a hand when we are falling perhaps that’s the only work that matters in the end.” Frederick Buechner has one of the characters in one of his books to say this to someone. When I first read the words they struck me like lightening.

One of the things that got me through that dark time was people. First my family that stood by me patiently. And sometimes it took a lot of patience. And there were members of the church I had served that came through when I needed them. And here and there were friends who helped make that hard time bearable. I wonder if I would have made it alone—toughening it out—just charging along gritting my teeth. Healing doesn’t usually happen that way. Often we some doctoring and we need some medication. And those great hearts that reached out to me kept me going and helped me mend.

Of course I forget these words often now. But I keep this phrase close to remember that: “Inasmuch as we do it unto the least of these…we do it unto him.” There is a lot of mean-spiritedness all around us. Hatred toward our President. Gay-bashing. Trouble almost in every family. Certainly in most churches I know. The letters to the editor these days detect a lot of rage and frustration. That tea party business the other day was not really about taxes as much as it was about a people mad and scared of many things.

I have been reading Nathaniel Philbrick’s splendid history called Mayflower. It is a good book to read in these stormy days. 102 folk spent two months on that voyage they thought were never end. But they learned early that they had to rely on one another. And when they finally landed they needed each other even more—especially since half of them died the first few months. Isn’t that where we are today? It hardly matters what our political persuasion may be—but the truth of the matter is that we need each other. Maybe, just maybe lending a hand might just get us through this dark and scary time.

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