Saturday, December 22, 2012

"Hold them up..."

"Hold them up, hold them up,
never to let them fall prey
to the dust, and the rust. and ruin
that names us and claims us
and shames us all..."

James Taylor's "Never Die Young" is one of the most sobering songs I've ever felt.  And yes, I really do mean "felt," rather than heard.  This song reaches me in a place that is tender and hopeful and sad all at once.

I used to feel that we were all just a bit like the people in this song: 

"...a little too sweet, a little too tight 
Not enough tough for this tough town.
Couldn't touch 'em with a ten foot pole
No, they didn't seem rattled at all. 
They were fused together body and soul. 
That much more 
with their backs up against the wall."

The bottom line is, that none of us feels immune to the kind of tearing down that these "tough towns" are sometimes so thoughtlessly engaged in.  And it can be so subtle that even when we passively participate -- just by listening -- we think it's harmless...or even deserved.

But it never is.

As part of his Thanksgiving Proclamation for this years (2012), President Barack Obama had this to say about how we might consider treating one another: 

"On Thanksgiving Day, individuals from all walks of life come together to celebrate this most American tradition, grateful for the blessings of family, community, and country. Let us spend this day by lifting up those we love, mindful of the grace bestowed upon us by God and by all who have made our lives richer with their presence."

I've been thinking about this portion of his proclamation, since hearing it in church that day.  And I can't think of any other one thing that would make a bigger difference in the lives of others.

I love the tradition of Hora.  An Israeli (among other cultures) custom often performed  at bar/bat mitzvahs and weddings, in which the honoree(s) are lifted up on chairs during a congregational dance.

Its symbology is similar to the western tradition of asking the wedding guest to vow their ongoing support of the couple --as they make their way in the world as a new family -- by replying, "we do."

But these symbols, traditions, and customs are only as good as our conscientious effort to follow through on these pledges.  

Gossip, rumors, talking about others behind their back -- picking away at the details of someone's personal decisions and choices --  never lifts up those we love, care about.  It never elevates our concept of man.  It never blesses those we are in relationship with as friends, family, neighbors, colleagues or even as fellow citizens of a global community.   And it always leads to tearing someone down.

Even when it is done in the circumspection of our own silent reverie, those negative thoughts about others, begin to tear down our sense of ourselves -- as loving, generous, merciful beings.

I believe that it is especially critical that we "hold up" those who are working so hard to be "in relationship."  Mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, siblings, fathers and sons, neighbors, colleagues, sisters, friends, in-laws, blended families.

These relationships have the potential for being the most amazing laboratories for demonstrating the consistent, enduring, persistent kind of love that seems miraculous to society these days.  This is where unselfishness breeds, where unconditional love blossoms, where forgiveness is given wings.

We can never -- ever -- know what others are facing in the sanctuary of their relationships.  But we can refuse to speculate, wonder, or imagine.   We can walk away from the mental invitation to "be concerned."  We can turn away from society's desire to "know the details." We can hold them up to the sunlight of God's warming Love.  We can hold up -- in our own heart, and to everyone around us -- the best in our fellow beings.  That gentle glimmer of grace, a shimmering slice of something sublimely sweet. 

And we can gently, but firmly, "hang up" when someone is sharing of another person's news.  Wouldn't you rather hear it from them anyway. 

As my friend Carol once said, "I don't share other people's news, it's not mine to share, it's theirs."  Refreshing isn't it!

Holding one another up.  This could just be the best Christmas gift we give eachother this year!

with Love...always,  


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