Quote of the Day: Center for Action and Contemplation teacher Brian McLaren once lassoed a whole flock of issues with one all-embracing rope: “The same forces that hurt widows and orphans, minorities and women, children and the elderly also hurt the songbirds and trout, the ferns and old-growth forests: greed, impatience, selfishness, arrogance, hurry, anger, competition , irreverence—plus a theology that cares for souls, but neglects bodies, that focuses on eternity in heaven, but abandons history on earth. [But when that old system] gives way to a new prophetic role[for each of us], the poor and the forgotten benefit, and so do all living things. One realizes that the spirit of Saint Francis and the spirit of Mother Teresa are one, and the same: [they speak with a Spirit] to whom the poor and sick and the sparrows and salamanders are all precious, each in a unique way.”
Commentary: We are the ones who are impoverished instead of enriched when we ignore the distinctive gifts of each person or tree around us. When we gloss over these gifts through ignorance or impatience, we close ourselves off to the wonders embedded in the diversity of life, a wellspring of inspiration that could otherwise delight us and guide us toward fresh options in how we live our daily lives. Contemplation opens our hearts, minds and eyes to what we have neglected to see, hear or take joy in. It is not about “turning inward” per se; it is about “opening up” to grace.
Suggested Action #6: As you walk around your neighborhood, creature or workplace, take everyone you see out of abstract generalities and focus on their uniqueness. Turn “the old Black Man who runs the elevator” into “Mr. Bobby Bright, who lives five blocks away and works to support three generations of his family who lost their home in Puerto Rico in the hurricane.” Remember the next door neighbor’s dog is not named Dog, but is a beagle named Zoomore who has never barked his entire life. The tree you sit under every day in the park is not Tree but Fremont’s cottonwood, one that germinated in the spring rains of 1910 and survived a century of droughts, floods and wildfires. Praise the distinctiveness of every life around you. Celebrate their specificity.
Gary Paul Nabhan aka Brother Coyote is a professed member of the Ecumenical Order of Franciscans, a graduate of the Living School, a conservation biologist, orchard-keeper and story-teller.