A Reflection from the President
Counting the Days
I don’t know about you but for me it has been 42 days since the church doors where I work have been closed. But who’s counting? Each of us is experiencing this commitment uniquely and yet there are some themes emerging. One of those themes I had been hearing about for a while, but had not hit me until recently, is the theme of tiredness. How is it that I could be feeling so tired when I am staying home?
I used to dream of having a whole week at home to read a novel, watch movies and not have to get in my car to get to another meeting or appointment. So now I’m home, 42 days of being home. And no, I am not reading novels, watching movie marathons or trying to learn new FUN things. I am tired.
In this distancing time, my one personal commitment to wellness, apart from washing my hands and staying a safe distance away from others, is that I walk 6 days a week. My walks on the path beside the river have been some of the best parts of my day. There are birds and sea lions, flowers, ships and happy signs. I have learned to go out early enough so that I won’t have to dodge people stretched out side by side along the path or keep alert for the guy that does laps on his “full speed ahead” motorized unicycle. Seriously, one tire, two feet, no hands, high speed. Yikes!
My scheduled walks felt great and were deeply satisfying until it hit me the other day that I am tired. Maybe I could skip my walk today, echoed a trickster voice in my ear. I resisted that voice and pushed myself out the door. That same day, when I felt the most tired, my beloveds showed up on the path. My Grandmothers walked with me as I hauled myself along. Though I did not see them, I knew it was them because I felt them, and I heard their voices. I knew they were seeing me, and I felt both their love and their call issued in their physically distant embrace. What a gift!
As I was growing up, I spent a lot of time with 3 of my 4 grandparents. My Norwegian Grandpa died when I was a year old, so I did not have time with him. I don’t remember his voice or his embrace.
These days it is my Grandmothers who come to me causing me to re-live precious conversations we had over the years, conversations that were the vehicles for grafting wisdom into my heart.
We “talked” the other day, my Norwegian Grandmother and I, and I told her that I remember the day when I asked her, “Do you ever ask why there has been so much suffering and tragedy in your life?” She answered me as she had answered me the first time and with the same bewildered look. “These things happen to everyone. Why wouldn’t they happen to us too?”
I turned to my British Nanna who said to me just as she had the first time. “Remember, there is always somebody better off than you and somebody worse off than you.”
They taught me then and they are calling to me now to check and keep healthy perspective. Yes, the world is in a crisis and I am in it with everybody else. I have the kind of privilege which means I can walk a beautiful path and work long days at home if I choose to. My privilege also leaves me prone to complain about things that do not matter or to become easily impatient over dumb stuff. Yes, I am tired, and I am aware of my vulnerability. My privilege feels fragile right now and I have control over nothing except the disciplines of washing my hands and keeping safe distances from others.
Wisdom is alive and well today in the experiences and teachings of our ancestors and Wisdom is trying to get our attention. How will we make time for those tired walks where Grandmother Wisdom waits to meet us, to speak to us again about keeping perspective about what really matters, about our strength and our vulnerability and our privilege and how those can and must serve the common good?
We are tired and counting the days. We have a long way to go yet and to where we do not know. We need now to use our energies to nurture healthy perspective. Grandmother is present, helping us.
“Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?
On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand;
beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out:
‘To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live.’” Proverbs 8:1-4
Maybe that’s what Dr. Bonnie means each time she commissions us to “Be kind. Be calm. Be safe.” God knows, she must be really tired.
The Rev. Jay Olson, President