Are you broken? Lost?
Lights will guide you home.
Consider the story of The Tenth Goose told by Richard R. Powell in his book Wabi Sabi for Writers:
Nine Canada geese lift off a clear mountain lake; droplets from their wings cast lines of rings behind them on the glassy surface as they rise. Light gray feathers reflect amber light from the early morning sun, a clean glow off each curved body. You watch their broad wings grip air, watch nine bodies rise and fall in rhythm against the dark forest behind them. Each bird’s neck kinks in counter-time to its wing beats so that all nine heads remain level and each set of eyes gazes steadily out at the cool dawn, bright mystery of sight amid the shiny black head feathers. Closer now, you make out the expressionless curve of their beaks, see one goose’s thin moist tongue as she honks; hear the whistle of air across wing feathers as they pass over your head. Then you notice that there is a tenth goose far back, low to the water, working hard to catch up, honking softly, as if each wing beat hurts. This goose loses a feather as she passes close over you and you watch the feather spiral and glide to the ground. You pick it up and it looks perfect, each barbule lying neatly against its neighbor, the tiny whorl of fluff near the calamus soft to the touch. Then you see that the shaft is not perfect; it is cracked open from the middle to the tip.
You keep that feather, tuck it under the strap around your car’s sun visor, look at it every day you drive to work and remember the tenth goose. Remember your own efforts to keep up. And somehow, that tenth goose gives you courage. You wonder if she will find enough food or if winter will separate her from the rest, separate her from life. She speaks to you in a dream one night. In the distracted moments of the day she speaks to you, in the elevator or while you wait in traffic. Then one night she is there in your dream again, as silent as her feather in your car. She tips her head at you and that beak, with its lumpy prominence like a Roman nose, bobs up and down and you realize she is giving you permission to speak. In the dream you speak and she turns her head to hear you and you tell her your fear of dying and your hopes while living and she comes and rattles her beak between your fingers.
There is beauty and strength in the broken places, a beauty that continues on even when everything is a struggle, that faces setbacks with determination. Sometimes we are one of the nine geese, sure and strong, in sync, but sometimes we are the tenth goose struggling to keep up. And there is beauty in that, too:
It is a kind of beauty on the edge of defeat, a beauty tenacious and brave, and it is the beauty left behind when the warm, honking goose is gone. And not just flown away–but dead and gone. That feather remains as a testament to the beauty in living; and even when the feather dries and cracks and is eventually eaten by insects or the drab extension of time, it will live on in the imaginations of those who hear the story of the tenth goose.
Remember the Story of the Tenth Goose and take heart.
And, for a treat, here is Coldplay.
Who are the people you know who are just, frankly, hard to love? Maybe they’re irascible or mean; maybe they push people away; maybe they are flat out obnoxious. Who are those people? Is there a way for you to love them? Perhaps show them compassion or tenderness? Sometimes the people who least deserve love are the very ones who need it the most.
How do we bring peace to a contentious world? Perhaps the only way is to meet hate with love, anger with forgiveness, strife with peace. Please take a minute to enjoy these children singing Make Me a Channel of Your Peace:
Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there is hatred let me bring your love.
Where there is injury, your pardon, Lord.
And where there is doubt true faith in You.
Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there is despair in life let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness only light.
And where there’s sadness ever joy.
Oh, Master, grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love with all my soul.
Make me a channel of your peace.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
It is in giving to all man that we receive,
And in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Those of us with pets know how close the bond between animal and human can be. You look deep into the eyes of a cat or dog and see another soul, one who greets you, perhaps, with unrestrained love and affection. We think of ourselves as caring for our pets and sometimes forget how deeply they care for us in return. The bond between animal and human can be transcendent. And, beyond dogs and cats, is that close bond possible?
In this remarkable video, consider Blue, the pot-bellied therapy pig who cheers up seniors in assisted living:
It is not unusual to see 2 year old Blue in the hallways cheering up people a few times a month….
[Blue’s certification as a therapy pig] has been rewarding for both pig and people. The potbelly helps residents “get out of their element” and forget about pain or depression they may be experiencing, says Nu Vista Living Facility lifestyle director Pamela Collins.
“It’s amazing how much Blue is drawn to the people at the nursing home, it is as if she just knows that they need her,” said Zamora-Duran.
Life on Earth is complex, and the possibilities for connection nearly limitless. Isn’t it remarkable that we all–humans and animals–can connect as we share this planet?
In a surprise TED talk, Pope Francis put in a request for more tenderness in our lives. He stressed that we are all connected:
First and foremost, I would love it if this meeting could help to remind us that we all need each other,none of us is an island, an autonomous and independent “I,” separated from the other, and we can only build the future by standing together, including everyone. We don’t think about it often, but everything is connected, and we need to restore our connections to a healthy state. Even the harsh judgment I hold in my heart against my brother or my sister, the open wound that was never cured, the offense that was never forgiven, the rancor that is only going to hurt me, are all instances of a fight that I carry within me, a flare deep in my heart that needs to be extinguished before it goes up in flames, leaving only ashes behind.
Many of us, nowadays, seem to believe that a happy future is something impossible to achieve. While such concerns must be taken very seriously, they are not invincible. They can be overcome when we don’t lock our door to the outside world. Happiness can only be discovered as a gift of harmony between the whole and each single component. Even science – and you know it better than I do – points to an understanding of reality as a place where every element connects and interacts with everything else.
The Pope suggested tenderness for bridging the divides that separate us:
And what is tenderness? It is the love that comes close and becomes real. It is a movement that starts from our heart and reaches the eyes, the ears and the hands. Tenderness means to use our eyes to see the other, our ears to hear the other, to listen to the children, the poor, those who are afraid of the future.To listen also to the silent cry of our common home, of our sick and polluted earth. Tenderness means to use our hands and our heart to comfort the other, to take care of those in need….
Yes, tenderness is the path of choice for the strongest, most courageous men and women. Tenderness is not weakness; it is fortitude. It is the path of solidarity, the path of humility. Please, allow me to say it loud and clear: the more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly. If you don’t, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other. …
The future of humankind isn’t exclusively in the hands of politicians, of great leaders, of big companies.Yes, they do hold an enormous responsibility. But the future is, most of all, in the hands of those peoplewho recognize the other as a “you” and themselves as part of an “us.” We all need each other. And so, please, think of me as well with tenderness, so that I can fulfill the task I have been given for the good of the other, of each and every one, of all of you, of all of us. Thank you.
The future is in our hands. Can we think of and treat each other with tenderness? Do we recognize that we are all part of an “us”?
Try a little tenderness.
Before his crucifixion, Jesus told his disciples: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27.)
Today, as we celebrate Easter, remember his words and his sacrifice. For a lovely story and song in the Easter spirit, go here:
Grace is upon us
Open your heart
It is done
Grace is upon us
Open your heart
This is love,
The Lord is here
This is love
Come to the highest point of the mountain
At the earliest possible moment
Jesus on the cross bore the suffering of the world, not just of those who loved him or treated him well or believed in him, but everyone throughout time. As Madeleine L’Engle describes in her book Glimpses of Grace:
For Jesus, at-one-ment was not being at one only with the glory of the stars, or the first daffodil in the spring, or a baby’s laugh. He was also at-one with all the pain and suffering that ever was, is, or will be. On the cross Jesus was at-one with the young boy with cancer, the young mother hemorrhaging, the raped girl. And perhaps the most terrible anguish came from being at-one with the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, the death chambers at Belsen, the horrors of radiation in the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It came from being at-one with the megalomania of the terrorist, the coldness of heart of “good” people, or even the callous arrogance of the two men in criminal court.
We can withdraw, even in our prayers, from the intensity of suffering. Jesus, on the cross, experienced it all. When I touch the small cross I wear, that, then, is the meaning of the symbol.
For you and for all. Imagine that kind of love embracing you….and your enemy….and the person you think least deserving. Everyone. God so loved the world.
It is so easy to work, work, work, building up our resumés. Noses to the grindstone. Shouldering on. But, when it all comes to a stop, when we are done on this Earth, have we built up what really matters?
Will we leave behind people who loved us, who we loved with everything we had to give while we had the chance to give it? Have we showed our people how much they mean to us? Have we dared to truly love?
Or will we leave too much left unsaid, unfelt, unloved?
We still have time to choose.
Once there was a man who found a penguin covered in oil, suffering, unable to move, on a Brazilian beach. He took mercy on the penguin, fed it sardines, cleaned it, and nursed it back to health. And, after 11 months, the little penguin returned to the sea.
But the following year, that penguin, Dindim, came back to the 71 year-old retired brick-layer who had saved him. And Dindim keeps coming back, traveling over eight thousand miles, to visit Mr. De Souza every year since 2011. When Dindim sees Mr. De Souza he wags his little tail and barks like a dog, settling into Mr. De Souza’s lap for cuddles and sardines. Dindim won’t let any other animals near his man.
Every year, while others of his kind are nesting, Dindim returns to Mr. De Souza who thinks of the little penguin as his child.
Every year for six years now.
What kind of miracle is this? An abiding love between a man and a penguin. A wild animal filled with love and gratitude. Nature more complex and rich and full of mystery than we ever could have imagined.
Have you ever heard of Sybil Ludington?
How about Paul Revere?
In 1777, 16 year-old Sybil rode 40 miles (twice the distance of Revere’s ride) through the raining night to warn the Colonial militia of the advancing British army. She was thanked personally by George Washington for her service and bravery and yet few now know her name.
What’s most important in a war, of course, is who wins, and battlefields are littered with fallen soldiers, some remembered, most forgotten. Behind the scenes are countless more. Some heroic, some cowardly. Some remembered, most forgotten.
Fame is ephemeral. It doesn’t attach itself only to heroes or the deserving. If you chase it, you may well find yourself doing the wrong things for the wrong reasons. And, even then, if you do the things that you think will make you famous, fame could well elude you.
Character, on the other hand, is everything. Doing the right thing regardless of whether you will be remembered for it or get credit always wins. Again, your actions may go unnoticed or unappreciated, but that doesn’t change the inquiry. Doing the right thing is its own reward.
What is the right thing in these morally ambiguous and complicated times? Faith, hope, and love remain. And the greatest is love.
Do the loving thing. Spread light, not darkness. Work for peace, not division. Let your words and actions be gentle and true.
Love each other.