Friday, December 3, 2010
December, Advent, Winter, Solstice.
Peace, Hope, Love, Goodwill.
Giving, Sharing, Reflecting, Celebrating.
I love this season... not just the holidays, but the gray days. The gray sky allows the other deep, rich colors of the earth to pop out and be noticed. It's a symbol to me that we each bring our own bit of color to the world around us. And it causes, for me, a sense of reflection and meditation... and that is what Advent is all about.
Yesterday I met with a few friends and over soup and bread, we reflected on an Advent scripture reading from Psalm 146. This psalm is a reminder of what God the Helper does... this is a very active God, not someone who sits around merely watching the goings-on of earth. More importantly for me, though, that reading is a call to be active in the world. What kinds of activities are involved? Things that society often tells us not to do. Things that are sometimes difficult. But things that each of us can do, and things that many of us do on a daily or weekly basis.
Keeping truth and keeping faith.
Working for justice for the oppressed.
Feeding the hungry.
Giving freedom to the imprisoned.
Opening the eyes of the blind.
Supporting the hurt and the humble.
Caring for strangers.
Tending to orphans and widows.
Some of these things are more popular than others. Lots of people help to feed the hungry by working in a soup kitchen or donating canned goods to various organizations. Many folks volunteer at nursings homes and hospitals. You get the idea. How many of us, though, take care of strangers? Do we invite them in our homes or even our lives? Instead, we're taught to be afraid of them. A bit of food for thought.
Now I often see things metaphorically, being a previous teacher of English. So while some of these things are easy to understand literally, others may not be. Do we go around opening jail cells and letting out those who have been imprisoned? Another good thing to think about. But rather than get into the discussion of our legal system, I choose to focus on those among us who are imprisoned by things other than a jail cell or a military cell. Those with addictions. Those caught up in habits they can't seem to break. Those torn by hatred. Those who suffer from disease. Surely we can help some of these people in a myriad of ways. It only takes a little bit of thought and a little bit of love.
As for curing the blind? Well, wouldn't it be nice to be able to literally do that. But we don't have those skills. We can, however, seek to open the eyes of the metaphorically blind. We can begin discussions with those who seem unable to comprehend the lifestyles of people who are different from them, with those who see war as an answer, with those who believe money can solve problems. Perhaps we can't change their minds, but maybe, just maybe, we can offer some word or thought that stays with them, that rattles around in their brain and soul and is just noisy enough to make them pay attention to it and to cause a wee bit of reflection.
In truth, this list of actions is what being a human is all about. Not just during the holiday season, but each day of our lives. Some might send a check, however small or however large, to a charity seeking peace and justice in areas throughout the world. Some might work at a shelter that serves the homeless. Some might donate needed items to those in jail. Some might regularly visit folks at a nursing home. Some might serve as a Big Brother or Big Sister. And some might rescue an animal discarded by the side of the road. There are so many ways to share ourselves with others. And some of these cost so little, if anything: we can share a smile and a pat on the hand, give up our place in line to someone with a greater need, offer a kind word to an overworked postal worker, listen to our neighbor who's down on her luck, say a warm thank-you to a teacher or a bank teller, share a meal with someone who hasn't many friends.
May you find peace and joy and love each day during the remainder of this year and into the next, and may you also bring peace and joy and love to others.