Christmas didn’t turn out the way I thought it would this year-maybe it never does. I had some plans but they didn’t happen… and so not knowing what to do, I got into my car and I drove for miles…..I drove up the mountain road-518 that winds through the mountains to Taos. Always a beautiful drive no matter what time of year, Christmas Day, the snow was falling and blowing…. …the roads were slick but sanded..I passed snow covered cabins with smoke coming from the chimneys, often with several cars and trucks parked in front and I imagined families and friends sitting by the fire, talking, laughing… once it been that way for me too but it had been a long time, another lifetime and now I wondered if there were others feeling as sad and lonely as I did.
And then I thought about the most unforgettable things that had happened in the past few months
LISTENING-THE GREATEST GIFT
I thought about a lunch I had had with a man whose 39 year old son had very recently died. It had been a completely unexpected death of a young man, seemingly in perfect health who died suddenly, instantly of a genetic heart problem that no one had been aware of. A terrible shock for his father and his family.
This father told me how angry it made him when people said “I’m sorry for your loss” He said he wanted to say “You’re sorry? How do you think I feel?” Being a very kind man however, he had looked on the internet for advice as to how he could respond in a good way and the suggestion was to say “Thank you for your kind words” And so he had been doing that.
But I understood: there are very few people who are available to really listen, to be with someone in the sad times, in the difficult times.
Many are ready to give advice, usually unasked for….
But it is listening or helping often in some simple way that is so hoped and wished for…..
I learned this early in my life when my mother died. I was in 4th grade and when I went back to school after her funeral, the things people said made me lonelier still because I knew they had no idea what they were talking about, no understanding.
The feeling so often is: I’ll say a few words such as sorry for your loss and then please get on with it, cheer up and don’t bother me.
When listening to another person, don’t just listen with your mind, listen with your whole body. Feel the energy field of your inner body as you listen. That takes attention away from thinking and creates a still space that enables you to truly listen without the mind interfering. You are giving the other person space-space to be. It is the most precious gift you can give
THE LOAVES AND THE FISHES
Then I thought of how I recently asked for help as my non profit is in serious financial trouble, taking me down with it [RITES OF PASSAGE]. I had written to quite a few people who I thought would help but the people who responded were not at all the people I expected. Almost all were people with the least amount of money or resources.
And I learned that it wasn’t just the money but the feeling that someone heard and cared:
A woman in Connecticut who is in a wheel chair and lives in low income housing pledged $25 a month and it was like a million dollars to me.
And a man who retired as the shipping manager of a university library sent $100 and then like in”pay it forward” asked some people he delivered wood to, to send the money to me rather than paying him and I loved that..so much more than the money…
Currency: U.S. Dollars
Purpose: Rites of Passage
Message: Dear Ms. Pickard, Bob and Linda Fall from Union, Connecticut referred us to you. They helped my ailing husband (and our household, which includes my 88 y.o. mom) with two deliveries of wood for this upcoming winter’s heating needs. Instead of accepting a $green$ exchange, Bob asked that whatever we had planned to gift him, to redirect it to you and one of your beautiful and powerful projects-from-the-heart. Please advise how best to honor our barter commitment. Thank you for your good work on behalf of the people…...
Another friend sent food: butter, bread, potatoes and eggs and green chili…
And there were others too-a chaplain at a retirement center in Little Rock and friends who bought their Christmas gifts from POOH’S STORE but none of them gave advice..they just listened, they understood and they helped.
“SAINTS ARE HUMAN BEINGS..VERY HUMAN BEINGS”
And then finally, I thought about a movie my son had sent me for Christmas. St Vincent stars Bill Murray and an amazing little boy and it’s about a real saint. It had a tremendous impact on me and if you watch this film clip, you’ll understand.
So these were my thoughts on a snowy, winter evening, thoughts which are somehow all connected…I think