Life Lessons

We are kind of on the cusp of the New Year’s resolutions moment. And that got me to thinking about things I/we might have learned over the course of a lifetime. As I was web surfing, I came across this compilation of life lessons and I thought I would share it with you.  Enjoy!!

 

I learned that I like my teacher because she cries when we sing “Silent Night”. Age 5

I learned that our dog doesn’t want to eat my broccoli either. Age 7

I learned that when I wave to people in the country, they stop what they are doing and wave back. Age 9

I learned that just when I get my room the way I like it, Mom makes me clean it up again. Age 12

I learned that if you want to cheer yourself up, you should try cheering someone else up. Age 14

I learned that although it’s hard to admit it, I’m secretly glad my parents are strict with me. Age 15

I learned that silent company is often more healing than words of advice. Age 24

I learned that brushing my child’s hair is one of life’s great pleasures. Age 26

I learned that wherever I go, the world’s worst drivers have followed me there. Age 29

I learned that if someone says something unkind about me, I must live so that no one will believe it. Age 30

I learned that there are people who love you dearly but just don’t know how to show it. Age 42

I learned that you can make some one’s day by simply sending them a little note. Age 44

I learned that the greater a person’s sense of guilt, the greater his or her need to cast blame on others. Age 46

I learned that children and grandparents are natural allies. Age 47

I learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. Age 48

I learned that singing “Amazing Grace” can lift my spirits for hours. Age 49

I learned that motel mattresses are better on the side away from the phone. Age 50

I learned that you can tell a lot about people by the way they handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. Age 51

I learned that keeping a vegetable garden is worth a medicine cabinet full of pills. Age 52

I learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you miss them terribly after they die. Age 53

I learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life. Age 58

I learned that if you want to do something positive for your children, work to improve your marriage. Age 61

I learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. Age 62

I learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back. Age 64

I learned that if you pursue happiness, it will elude you. But if you focus on your family, the needs of others, your work, meeting new people, and doing the very best you can, happiness will find you. Age 65

I learned that whenever I decide something with kindness, I usually make the right decision. Age 66

I learned that everyone can use a prayer. Age 72

I learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. Age 82

I learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love that human touch-holding hands, a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. Age 90

I learned that I still have a lot to learn. Age 92

Author unknown

 

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On mirror gazing

So I was reading this book “The Hidden Lamp” which is a compilation of stories about Buddhist Awakened women.  Lots of very cool stories that make me want to stop, scratch my chin and think for a bit. And when I do, I often find myself looking at the world just a little bit differently.

The story du jour is about a convent where the abbess would meditate in front of a great mirror in order to see into her own nature.  Over time each generation of nuns would meditate in front of the mirror concentrating on the question “Where is a single feeling, a single thought, in the mirror image at which I gaze?” The good sisters were searching for the purpose of their lives, looking to discover who they were as human beings.

Well reading that story got me to remembering a moment in my life when I was maybe in junior high school, maybe 7th or 8th grade, so just about 12 or 13 years old, just starting to realize that there was something to this becoming a young woman stuff.  I was in a small department store with my mother, wandering around waiting for her to be finished with whatever it was she was doing, and I walked past the jewelry counter. Of course there was a mirror on the counter that caught my eye – that is exactly what mirrors in department stores are supposed to do. I remember looking into it and noticing the zits on my chin – remember I was just barely 13 and not really conscious of much at that point in my life. So, just as I’m starting to notice these fatal flaws on my face, the sales person puts her hand over the mirror, moves it away and says to my mother, something like “these girls are so full of themselves all they want to do is look at their pretty faces.”  Funny, I never really resonated to the pretty faces part. Truth be told, I don’t think of my self as particularly pretty. I’ve always thought of my self as someone people liked because I have “a nice personality” but, anyway, what I resonated to was the critique of looking in the mirror.  So the story about this meditation resonated with me.

The commentary on the meditation included notes from a contemporary Buddhist practitioner who took up the meditation for a week. She brilliantly describes the her distractions from the first several days.  By the seventh day she was able to look into the mirror and see a courageous woman who was at least willing to look at herself.

And that really resonated for me. It took me from being critiqued for being curious about what I look like to an affirmation that it is not only OK, but a good think to take a good long look at who you are – and to find some peace and comfort in it.

So, maybe we should all try this?  Have a look at yourself in the mirror – 5 minutes a day for a week. What do you see? What are your reactions?  Do remember to look with the eyes of compassion!

Reflections of Summertime, Balance and the Need for Play

Now that I am retired and have time to think and recently I find myself thinking about the importance of balance, and well, the importance of rest and play. When I was working, success at work was my primary goal for a good long while. Then my partner caught cancer, and doing my best to take care of her was not just my primary goal, it was my only goal. Now I find myself thinking about balance: work and play, self and others, doing and being.

As if to remind me of the importance of balance between work and play, I came across this story in Joan Chittister’s book “Wisdom Distilled from the Daily.”

One day a traveler in the desert came across good Sister Scholastica who was relaxing and enjoying herself with the other sisters. The traveler was shocked, and taunted the sisters saying, “What kind of monastics were they to be out playing like that?!?”

Sister Scholastica asked the traveler if he had a bow and arrow. And the fellow allowed as how he did. The good sister then asked him to shoot an arrow off toward the far distant horizon. He did. And she said, now shoot another. He did. And Sister Scholastica said, “Shoot your bow again. Keep shooting; keep shooting; keep shooting!” Finally the traveler said, “But if I bend my bow so much I will break it.”

And Sister Scholastica said to him, “It is just the same with the work of holiness and with the work for justice. If we stretch ourselves beyond measure, we will break. Sometimes it is necessary to take the time to meet our other needs as well.”

When the traveler heard those words, he was saw their wisdom and repented of his rebuke to Sister Scholastica. And the other sisters were strengthened in their sense of community.

Further in the book, Chittister notes that Talmud Scholars have commented on the importance of rest.  When we rest from our work, we create a time and space to evaluate where we have been, how far we have come, and the quality of what we have done. When we rest we open time and space to contemplate the meaning of life, and the meaning of our own life as we have chosen to live it.

So, yes the work that you are doing IS important. AND it is important to remember that if you overwork a bow it will break, if you overwork yourself, you too will break. So, take a deep breath and go out and play for a while! After all it is summer time and the living should be easy.

On Seeking Serenity

So, who wouldn’t want a little more peace and serenity in their life, right? And of course the moment I hear the word serenity, I think the serenity prayer from Alcoholics Anonymous. You know, the one that goes: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

But of course Bill W. and Bob S. the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous were not the authors of the prayer. The original Serenity Prayer is attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, and the full length version is a bit longer than the commonly quoted four verses. The full version says:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen.

–Reinhold Niebuhr

But, oh, the joys of the internet!! If you do a diligent search of the internet, you can uncover a differentially distributed Serenity Prayer by Myers-Briggs Type! Which of course is funny only if you have a bit of background understanding of the Myers-Briggs Types. So, here is a little on Myers-Briggs Types, followed by the Myers-Briggs Serenity Prayers.  (oh be persistent, read the background, the differentiated Serenity Prayers are funny enough to be worth it).

Excerpted with permission from the MBTI® Manual: A Guide to the Development and Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®

Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I)Favorite world: Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world?

Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)Information: Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning?

Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)Decisions: When making decisions, do you prefer to first look at logic and consistency or first look at the people and special circumstances?

Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)Structure: In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options?

So, your Myers-Briggs Type is your combination preferences from those four groups. This is a very quick and very, very dirty way of coming at it, but have a look at the four groups, and the questions, and pick out your four preferences. Then have a read below 😉

And here are the Myers-Briggs Type based Serenity Prayers:

 

ISTJ – God, help me to begin relaxing about little details tomorrow at 11:41:32 am

ISFJ – Lord, help me to be more laid back, and help me to do it exactly right

INFJ – Lord, help me not be a perfectionist (Did I spell that right?)

INTJ – Lord, keep me open to others’ ideas, wrong though they may be

ISTP – God, help me to consider people’s feelings, even if most of them are hypersensitive

ISFP – Lord, help me to stand up for my rights (if You don’t mind my asking)

INFP – Lord, help me to finish everything I sta. . .

INTP – Lord, help me be less independent, but let me do it my way.

ESTP – God, help me to take responsibility for my own actions, even though they’re usually not my fault

ESFP – God, help me to take things more seriously especially parties and dancing

ENFP – God, help me keep my mind on one thing – Look, a bird – at a time.

ENTP – God, help me follow established procedures today. On second thought, I’ll settle for a few minutes

ESTJ – God, help me to try not to run everything, but if You need some help, just ask.

ESFJ – Lord, give me patience and I mean right now

ENFJ – God, help me to do only what I can and trust You for the rest. Do You mind putting that in writing?

ENTJ – God, help me to slow downandnotrushthroughwhatIdoAmen.

As Niebuhr says, Forgiveness is the final form of love. Let it be.

 

 

On Becoming Real

Children’s playrooms can be fun filled places. They can also be fearsome rooms. They are often filled with elements of joy and delight, but they can also be places where monsters lurk and anxieties burble. In the world of Margery Williams, in her book the Velveteen Rabbit, on this day, the playroom is a place of sadness because The Girl is terribly ill and has not been allowed out of bed and into the playroom in a very, very long time. Here is a section from the book where we listen in on a conversation among the toys as they discuss becoming real.

 The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it. “What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?” “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.” “Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit. “Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.” “Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?” “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” “I suppose you are real?” said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.                    “The Boy’s Uncle made me Real,” he said. “That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.” The Rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him. He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished that he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him.

 

 

And of course we all want to be real. How can we respect the dignity of others if we cannot respect our own dignity? And how can we respect our own dignity if we are not Real? Yet, like the Rabbit, we want to become real without all those painful things happening to us. But becoming real, to others and to ourselves, well it seems to me that that’s just what a life well lived is all about, and getting our sharp edges worn smooth, and having our hair loved off, and becoming a bit shabby, well that’s part of the process too.

So, listen, the rest of the book is quite wonderful, and finishes the story of the Rabbit becoming Real. Go have a read …  You can find the full text of the book at Project Guttenberg, http://archive.org/stream/thevelveteenrabb11757gut/11757.txt wherethe eBook is reproduced courtesy of the Celebration of Women Writers, online at http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/.

Experiencing Justice with The Lady and the Tramp

The most basic principle of social work practice is to have a clear goal. After all (maybe before all!) if you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there?!? So, what is justice like? How does it look, feel, smell, sound, taste? What is human dignity like?

Well, on some level we all have a visceral, personal answer to that. Most of us can identify a moment or two in our lives when things just felt right. When all was right with the world, when we did something good for someone else, or maybe when someone did something for us. Now, I’m not talking about winning the lottery grand, but just those moments when things were nice and you found yourself hoping life could go on forever like that. So, go ahead, conjure up one of those moments and bask in it! Recollect how you were feeling, the smells associated with it, the taste it left in your mouth, the sounds around you, the setting and scenery. Bask in all of it for a few moments. Niceness, it is lovely. And that is how I would like everyone to experience fairness and dignity.

And then there is this guy Anthony deMello who offers us this story about a homeless man in London. The man, let’s call him Nigel, has been walking the streets of London all day. He is exhausted, and as night comes on, he finds himself on the bank of the River Thames. It has been a particularly difficult day for Nigel, panhandling has not gone well, he was continually rousted by the constabulary so that he was not even able to secure a bit of bread for himself. He is looking forward to a night’s sleep and a fresh start to the day tomorrow, hoping at least it won’t be raining. Just as he is settling in and about to fall asleep the lights of a car sweep over him, and a chauffeur driven Bentley pulls up near him. A very attractive woman steps out of the car and asks, “Sir, are you intending to spend the night here?” Nigel says, “yes.” And the woman, let’s call her Sofia, replies, “I will not conscience that. You will come with me to my home where you will have a decent meal and spend a comfortable night.” And Sofia insists that Nigel join her in the car, and they ride through London to her mansion. When they arrive at the mansion, Carson ushers them into the mansion. Sofia says, “Carson, please take Nigel to the servants quarters and help him settle in. Be sure that he is treated well and that he has everything he needs to be comfortable this evening.” After a time Sofia goes by to check on Nigel. She sees a bit of light from under his door, and so she knocks on it. Nigel invites her into the room, and Sofia asks, “Is everything alright, Nigel? Did you have a good meal?” Nigel responds, “My lady, I’ve never had a better meal in my life.” “Then are you warm enough?” “Yes, my Lady, the bed is comfortable and warm and lovely.” “Then maybe you need some company to help you to relax and sleep.” And as Nigel moves over just a bit to make some room for Sofia, he falls into the Thames.

Now, when I read DeMello’s version of this story I burst out laughing. I did not see that coming, not at all. But it makes sense. Harboring illusions will not get us justice or respect for dignity. Dreaming may help us to envision a better future, but putting our shoulders to the wheel is what will lay the foundation today for a better tomorrow. So, wake up, drink the coffee, and do some work! We are not required to finish the work, but neither are we free to desist from it!!

And then, because it’s me, I started to think a bit more about the story. And I started to wonder, what if the genders were reversed. What if Nigel were Nancy? What if Sofia were Samuel? How would the fantasy play out? I suppose if it were a gothic romance version Nancy would still be dreaming of her hero Samuel coming to save her. But would even she be dreaming of him crawling into her bed? What if Nancy were a feminist, how would her fantasy play out? If you were homeless, what would make you want to scrunch over in bed? If it were me, I would be dreaming of a warm bed, a decent light, and a good book. But then that’s me.

Ah, and the point of the story was, after all, to wake up, drink the coffee and do the work!

Surrounded by water and dying of thirst

You know the values clarification game where you are asked to imagine yourself on a raft with 6 or 8 other people? Typically the scenario gives you a brief character sketch for each of the other people, and you are then pushed to decide who you would throw out of the raft in order to save the lives of those who remain. The rationale usually involves something like a lack of clean drinking water or a shortage of food, and of course there is no knowing when or if any of you will be rescued. Well, this raft story is not that one.

 In his book ‘Awareness’ Anthony deMello tells the story of a group of people who are marooned on a raft off the coast of Brazil. Here’s my version:

 One sunny afternoon in Brazil Marta, Enrico and a small group of their friends set out for a lovely afternoon on the waters of the Amazon, dallying away the day. Somehow, they lost their paddle and so could no longer control the direction of the raft. The waters of the river carried them out to the ocean, and there they were, trapped and unprepared. What had been a lazy, lovely day now became a life and death situation. They had no food or water with them. The current was carrying them farther and farther out into the ocean. They knew they were immanently going to die if they did not get some help. And in the heat of sun, they were suffering the effects of dehydration. And they were surrounded by water they dare not drink. The one think that they knew for sure was that to drink the salt water of the ocean.  They knew that drinking ocean water would only make them thirstier. They had all grown up hearing about tourists who drank ocean water and came away with headaches, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. No ocean water was no help for their dehydration, that they knew. Surrounded by water and they were dying of thirst.

 But, here is what they did not know: the rush of Amazon River water that carried them out into the ocean still surrounded them. The Amazon flows out into the ocean with such ferocity, that it carries a stream of fresh water out into the ocean. There are estimates that up to 100 miles from the mouth of the Amazon in the Atlantic Ocean you can dip out some fresh water. But the paddlers knew what they knew and they were not about to take the risk of even tasting the water around them.

 All too often we are like Marta, Enrico and their friends. We know what we know, and we are not about to be disabused of our knowledge by taking the risk of being open to new perspectives or alternative.  Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me! Ah, yes, but we can be brainwashed by the blinders that platitude imposes. 

 All too often our vision, our dreams are limited by the blinders of fear and mistrust.  April fool’s day is approaching. And this year, I propose that we should all take a risk and be fools for love! Let us move out into the world with hearts open to the joy and freedom of love. For one day (then maybe more), let’s take a risk and approach each other with the foolish freedom of heart that young puppies carry when they meet someone new! Imagine the sweetness and joy of a world where love and justice flowed with the power of the Amazon? Where love and justice were carried for miles into the ocean of fear? Let’s all try it for a day and see what happens?

 

Chiyono and the bottomless bucket

 “If you are as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, you still will not escape slander! Get thee to a nunnery, go!” Around 1600, by way of William Shakespeare’s pen, that was Hamlet’s advice to Ophelia. A continent away in Japan, and 300 years earlier in 1290, Chiyono found herself facing similar options. So, Chiyono set off to the nunnery, to the Zen temple in Hiromi where she was accepted to work as a servant.  Chiyono journeyed to the temple (and agreed to work there as a servant if that was the only way in) because she wanted to attain enlightenment (for the new agers or feminists among you, think empowerment).  For years – years and years even – Chiyono worked faithfully, diligently moping and cleaning, chopping wood and carrying water for the nuns at the temple. And through all those years her desire to attain enlightenment never wavered.

Chiyono would listen and watch the nuns from a distance. She emulated their sitting posture and practice each evening when her work was done. Chiyono sat facing the wall in her room, quietly breathing, quietly chanting the words she heard the nuns saying. And, over the days, weeks and years, nothing happened. Persistently Chiyono practiced what she observed, and still nothing happened, she could feel no progress towards enlightenment.  Eventually, Chiyono summoned up her courage asked one of the older nuns, “Sister would you please tell me the principles of your practice? How can I attain enlightenment?”

The elder nun looked at Chiyono and recognized her as the woman who cooked and cleaned, who chopped wood and carried the water. The nun was a woman of wisdom and compassion and so she said to her, “In your search for enlightenment, you must not cease your effort. The Buddha tells us that at the end of all our exploring we will arrive where we started, and shall know the place for the first time (who knew that T.S Elliot was quoting the Buddha!?!). Enlightenment is not words; it is looking deeply into your own heart, into your own mind, and nurturing the compassion for all sentient beings, the compassion that is always already there.  Each of us is complete and perfect just as we are. But each of us is best by desires for what we don’t have, and by fears of loosing what we hold dear. We are deluded into thinking that we can hold off changes that we foresee; but changes will happen, indeed that there will be change is the only constant. Let go of your delusions. That is the way of Zen. Practice this diligently as you walk, as you work, as you move through each day.” (Ah, new agers and feminists among you, think empowerment here too! Each of us is complete and perfect just as we are; each of us is fully powerful and need only learn to exercise and manifest our unique strengths, skills and powers.)

And Chiyono took the elder sisters words to heart and practiced letting go of her attachments even as she moped the floors and cleaned the lavatories, even as she chopped wood and carried water.  She moved through her days with one pointed focus and determination. As she worked and practiced her letting go, she became ever more compassionate in her encounters with the other nuns in the temple. As she moved through the days, where once she might have felt some resentment for the younger nuns who were free to sit in meditation throughout the day, now Chiyono saw her own work as actions of caring in support of the other’s practice.

One evening Chiyono was carrying her bucket to the well to bring back some water to the kitchen. As she carried her bucket, the bottom which was held on by bamboo strips fell out, and the reflection of the moon in the water vanished. In that instant Chiyono touched enlightenment. This is her enlightenment poem

With this and that I tried to keep the bucket together
And then the bottom fell out.
Where water does not collect
The moon does not dwell.

            For all of that I like the story about Chiyono for the first two lines of her enlightenment poem: “With this and that I tried to keep the bucket together, and then the bottom fell out.” For her, when the bottom fell out she saw through to enlightenment. That resonates for me as I think about how hard we all try to keep it together, wrapping our lives with bobby pins and bubble gum to hold the pieces together. And for us too, maybe only when things fall apart will we find our way to living lives that allow respect for all sentient beings (and isn’t that just what lived human rights are about?) to live lives that respect all sentient beings, all of them. (It is the all of them part that seems to particularly trip me up. It is so much easier to be fully respectful of people I like, people who agree with me.)

            So, I find myself wondering –  what will I see, what will you see, when the bottom falls out, and we have enough compassion for ourselves to remember to look through to the other side.

Blaming an Empty Boat

During the rumspringa that marked the transition moment after entering as a postulant and before being accepted as a novice, Sister Bridget was in a rowboat on Round Valley Reservoir.  It was a lovely late spring afternoon. The sky was emerald blue, with a few billowy clouds floating by, just enough to invite a bit of day dreaming to envision the clouds as castles and a dragon drifting above her.  Bridget was lost in her thoughts, contemplating the decisions that were just ahead of her in her progress towards becoming a full member of the cloister. The day was calm, water in the reservoir was crystal clear and smooth as a mirror. Bridget inhaled deeply basking in the peacefulness of the moment, of the day.

But then she looked up, and to her surprise saw another boat on the reservoir heading right toward her. She waved her arms and shouted, “Look out! Hey watch where you are going! Hey, hey, I’m here! Watch out!”  But the people in the other boat just ignored her. Her frustration growing, Bridget tried desperately to paddle out of the way. But the boat just kept coming at her. She kept shouting and paddling, but the boat just kept coming.  The other boat rammed right into her little row boat, and knocked Bridget into the water.

Now Bridget is cold and wet. Her borrowed row boat looked a bit damaged. The peace and serenity of her day is in ruins. As she flails in the water trying to drag herself back into the row boat without capsizing it, she continues to shout at the people in the other boat, “what’s the matter with you! What were you thinking!! Why don’t you watch were you are going?!? I just don’t understand how some people can be so inconsiderate.”

Finally Bridget gets herself back into her row boat, and is able to see that the other boat is empty. The person she has been so incensed with is no one at all.  And Bridget’s anger and frustration instantly turn to concern for the owner of the boat.  With a shift in her thoughts, anger dissolves into concern and compassion and Bridget begins to scan the waters for a body without a boat.  Off a short distance, Bridget sees someone splashing in the water waving an oar.  And she manages to stop the motor on the other boat, tie it to the stern of her row boat and to paddle over to collect the woman who is overboard.  Together they restore the other woman to her boat, and each of them finds her way back to her own maritime meanderings.

And Bridget is left thinking about how easy it was to feel personally affronted and to cast blame, insult and injury on an empty boat. And she found herself wondering how often when she thought she was on terra firma finding fault she was actually a bit loose from her moorings casting blame where there was none to be had.

If we are going to be fair and just, before we shower blame on another, it might indeed be better to first be sure there is someone in the other boat, and even then to walk a mile or so in their shoes.

A Fable about Salt and Love

 

Once upon a time there was a land that was ruled by man who was both king and father. The king had three daughters and loved them each in turn. As he watched them moving through his castle and court yards, the king noticed that while he love each of his daughters, he loved each of his daughters somewhat differently. He began to wonder about this odd quality of love. Being a king as well as a father, the king had also recently begun to wonder about which of his daughters he would entrust with his kingdom. And so one day he summoned the three young women to him, and he asked each of them how they loved him.  

 

 “My dearest king and father,” replied Elizabeth Barrett, the oldest daughter, “I love you to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach, I love you more than words can express.”  The king and father was filled with joy and was very pleased when he heard these words from his eldest daughter.

 

Bonny Anne, the middle daughter said, “I love you like the sun that gives us light and warmth and life. I love you more than my heart can hold.”  And now too the king and father was filled with joy and was very pleased when he heard these words from his Bonny Anne.  Then he turned to Salannia, his youngest daughter and asked her to tell him how much she loved him.

 

“Dear father, my king,” she answered, “I love you as much as salt . . .”

 

Before Salannia could continue the king, overcome with disappointment and dismay, interrupted her and shouted, “As salt! You say you love me like salt! The most common and simple spice in my kingdom! If only you might have said saffron, which is rare and precious, or honey, which is sweet, I would have been pleased! But salt! That is the same thing as saying that you do not love me at all!”

 

In his anger the king had Salannia ushered out the door and he banned her from ever appearing before him again. The king then proclaimed Elizabeth Barrett, his eldest daughter, would be heir to the throne.  When Bonny Anne, the middle daughter, learned of this, she was outraged that her father neglected to establish a role of power for her within the kingdom, and she set out to sea and became a pirate queen of the oceans.

 

And Salannia, the youngest daughter, left the kingdom in sadness. She walked for days and days, and eventually she came to another castle where she secured a job in the kitchen.  In a short time Salannia’s skill became known throughout the castle. Her reputation as a chef was recognized by the servants and by the Lord of the castle himself, and soon she became the head chef. 

 

And life went on in the kingdom with each of the daughters taking up her new life responsibilities and becoming ever more sure of herself in the world. After a time the Lord’s of the castle where Salannia was head chef announced that son was to be married. All the Lords and Ladies from the neighboring lands were invited to the feast, and of course Salannia’s father was to be among the guests. Salannia and her staff worked for days to prepare the feast. As they cooked, Salannia saw to it that only she prepared the foods that were to be served to her father – and she ensured that not a touch, not a hint, not one grain of salt came near the food that her father was to eat.

 

Course after course of sumptuous foods were served to the guests. All of the guests praised the excellence of the food, one after another proclaiming that they had never tasted food as delicious as that which they enjoyed that evening. All the guests, that is, except Salannia’s father. He alone could hardly swallow a bite of the food, while the food was beautiful to look at, it was very nearly inedible. When he heard the other guests reveling in the brilliance of the dishes, he could contain himself no longer and demanded to speak to the cook. “What have you done to my food? It looks wonderful, but it has no flavor or taste? I cannot even bear to swallow it.!

 

“My dearest king and father,” Salannia replied, “You exiled me from your home when I told you that I loved you as much as salt. And so today you have no salt in your food. Just as the food at this feast is dull and pointless without salt, so too my life is dull and meaningless without you.”

 

As he heard these words from his daughter, the king relented and repented. He begged his daughter to forgive him, and he welcomed her back home, where he established her as co-queen with his eldest daughter. And together they ruled happily ever after.

 

 

 

And what does all of this have to do with justice? If justice is fairness – and it may well be much more than that, but it is at least that – then fairness and respect require listening carefully to each other. Fairness and respect require hearing the full meaning of what each person means to say, and then pausing long enough to understand the meaning of what each person is saying from within their own context. At least that if we will be worth our own salt, if we mean to be the salt of the earth, otherwise we will just be rubbing salt in each other’s wounds 😉