In this strange stretch of time, we take turns needing and giving solace. What we receive today we give tomorrow. May spirit guide us to pay attention to others’ need for solace and offer it; that we have the humility to accept solace when it is offered. It’s simple. “Shine your shoes. Fill your refrigerator. Water your plants. Make some soup.” Say thank you. And together we will survive.
That’s it. That’s all this blessing knows how to do:
Shine your shoes. Fill your refrigerator. Water your plants. Make some soup.
All the things you cannot think to do yourself when the world has come apart, when nothing will be normal again.
Somehow this blessing knows precisely what you need, even before you know.
It sees what will bring the deepest solace for you. It senses what will offer the kindest grace.
And so it will step with such quietness into the ordinary moments where the absence is the deepest.
It will enter with such tenderness into the hours where the sorrow is most keen.
You do not even have to ask. Just leave it open— your door, your heart, your day in every aching moment it holds.
See what solace spills through the gaps your sorrow has torn.
See what comfort comes to visit, holding out its gifts in each compassionate hand.
Jan Richardson in The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief
This poem came from meditation at a time when conditions in our world weighed heavily on me. LOL! If only I had known the conditions we endure in this moment! It feels like the time to revisit the poem. We seek to tame the current of fear that rushes over imposing boulders springing up in our unconscious. So we flex our intellectual prowess in countless monologues across social media, in offices, living rooms and backyard gatherings. We seek to blame and fix. In our love for justice we can continue our self-assigned role as “The Great White Fixers,” or we can practice waiting, listening more intentionally for the words of the oppressed.
We must act for justice, AND there is this from James Baldwin:
The root of the black man’s hatred is rage,
and he does not so much hate the white man
as simply as wants them out of his way,
and, more than that,
out of his children’s way.
James Baldwin I Am Not Your Negro
I hear my rapid thought-fire
Ricochet off your heart,
Creating a wall of words to
Keep me safe.
Wait for the space
Between the thoughts
Between the words.
The year 2004 brought us an extraordinary film written and directed by Paul Haggis. Crash won three Academy Awards, Best Picture one of them. The film deals with every shade of the complex human experience of race in America. It is on my mind as we wrestle with the reality of George Floyd’s murder. The film calls me as a white person to see the truth straight on, ask the hard questions and work toward conversion and acts of justice. It calls every race to do that by holding a mirror to the consequences if we continue to ignore our inner work. Two scenes contain the seed of the whole film.
The first scene, “Pat Down by the Police” will ask you to be brave. It is not for the faint of heart, containing violent language and action toward a woman of color. Officer John Ryan (Matt Dillon) stops a car taking Hollywood director Cameron Thayer (Terrence Howard) and his wife Christine (Thandie Newton) home after an awards event. Its truth is stark and powerful.
The second scene, “Car Fire,” turns the previous scene upside down and we are forced to examine the meaning of trust and vulnerability.
I invite us to gather in living rooms as adults and older teens to view this film for the first time or again. Open a discussion of how it relates to George Floyd’s death and how we each carry the seeds of racism buried deep or edging to the surface. Spirituality is to be born in acts of justice. We must not hoard it for self-gazing.