Sunday, December 25, 2016

#SOL16: Peace and Goodwill

Christmas Uptown (M.A. Reilly, 2012)

When I got home Thursday afternoon I noticed our mailbox was broken as if a truck had run into it and smashed it to pieces.  I looked at it, lifting the heavy metal box out of a pile of hardened snow and realized that repair would be no simple matter. The post was in pieces. This would have been something Rob fixed and not having hime here was heightened by this mishap. There are so many things I now must attend to in a given day and as it was already dark and cold and I had no idea how to reassemble the mailbox so I left the mailbox sitting upright in a pile of snow with the hope the mail carrier would still deliver the mail. The one clear thing I have learned these last 18 months is what is important and what is just inconvenient.  Nonetheless, the mailbox situation weighed on me the next day as I left in the morning to run last minute errands and to see an ENT.

After 7 weeks with little improvement for  persistent cough no matter what I did, my doctor suggested and I agreed that it was time to see a specialist.  The ENT was efficient and quick and within less than an hour of arriving at the office I left with the knowledge that I had a chronic sinus infection and drove to get my medicine. (Aside: After two days of medicine I must say I am feeling better and coughing far, far less. ) After getting the medicine and few last minute grocery needs, I drove up the hill to our home and there in front of what was my mailbox was my next door neighbor Keith who was drilling screws into the top of the post.  I was so grateful and thanked him and he said it was no problem and that whenever I had something to fix I should ring his bell or Mike's (another neighbor) and they would take care of it.

I was overwhelmed and just carted the few bags into my kitchen before I burst into sobs. The kindness of others undoes me. The goodwill such kindness demonstrates reminds me how there are forces at work beyond our fingertips, beyond the borders of our bodies, that are and remain forces for good. Rob's death and the kindness of others have shown me this.


Last night Dev and I had dinner with friends in Manhattan before seeing a performance by the Alvin Ailey Dance Company.  To say the dance troupe moved me is to understate the sheer beauty of the narrative of the performance. We were all held enthralled.  And as I sat there in the near-dark theater watching the play of light and movement and music and speech--I realized that everything would turn out all right. I felt the power of the arts last night. How the arts refuse to lie down in defeat. I felt for sure--for the first time since early November and the election that peace and goodwill will overcome hate and the miserly politics of  privilege that Trump, his advisers, and many of his followers have displayed this last year. I thought about the many ways that hate and the forces of hate seem to forget or at least underestimate is how indomitable the human spirit is.


It is what is common among us that makes us hold hope like we would an old friend. It's the surprising kindness of a neighbor, the spiritual practices of a people downtrodden, the small daily acts of touching that keeps us connected, loved, oriented on this moving human map.

All of this sees us through the troubled waters for it is not the waters we must calm, but our fear to cross.


As a child I loved hearing the gospel read at church. Even then stories held my attention and though my mind surely drifted during mass, I was held captive by the Sunday story and even at times the homily that followed.  And at Christmas time, the Gospel of St. Luke filled me with wonder--that lovely proclamation of Jesus's birth by angels to the shepherds. And it was to the shepherds that the angels announced--not the wealthy, now the privileged--but rather the common folk--the ones who kept watch.

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed...And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And, see, the angel of the Lord came on them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10And the angel said to them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. 12And this shall be a sign to you; You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Good tidings of great joy.
Goodwill to all.


What I have learned during these last 18 months is that it is our need for each other that makes us strong. This human vulnerability gives rise to new language--to newer ways of expressing ourselves. Sorrow gives us new ways of being in the world if we open to it and allow others to take our hands.

It is our expressed desire for other that is the great joy we find in times of sadness. It is holding one another as we wade through those waters that allows us to find the goodwill we most often are seeking.  What pulses through us--this lifeline of hope--is greater than any sorrow we name.  Life is imbued by communal love and shows itself to be stronger than grief, stronger than troubled waters that we all will cross if we haven't already.

And perhaps that is one meaning of God troubling the waters. I know I have wanted the smooth, easy way and yet against the pain, the deep pockets of sorrow I have know, what has bloomed is most often more spectacular than what I could have hoped I might behold.

The troubled waters we wade protect us as they endanger us; lead us to name what we most have forgotten or had failed to learn.

I wish you and yours peace and goodwill this year and the next and the courage to step into those waters most troubled.


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