The Good Woman and Huldukona: an echoing yes to life and to love

Once, or maybe twice, in that time when things we dream really do happen there was a woman in Iceland who trusted her dreams, she was a good woman. She was a hard working peasant woman, married to an average kind of hard working man. There was nothing much remarkable about their lives. They lived each day as best they could. They worked hard. They had little, but they had enough. Life was not easy for them, but it was their life and they made the best of it. To look at them you would find nothing very remarkable. And yet if you stood with them for a while you would feel a depth, a resonance, a rootedness.

One night as this good woman slept, she dreamt that the elfwoman Huldukona came to her. In the dream, Huldukona asked her to put two quarts of milk a day in a bowl, and to set it in a corner behind a cupboard. Huldukona asked the woman to do this every day for one month. Huldukona explained that she needed the milk for her child, the child of her heart and hearth. The good woman was moved by compassion and promised elfwoman that she would do this.

In the morning when she woke, the good woman remembered her promise, and put the milk in a bowl in the place Huldukona had pointed out. The good woman did this even though she and her husband had only enough to get by. Every day for one month the good woman put out the bowl of milk. And each day when she returned the bowl was empty. The good woman was faithful to her promise and continued her gift faithfully each day.

At the end of the month, Huldukona again visited the good woman in her dreams. Huldukona thanked the good woman for her kindness, and asked her to accept the belt she would find in her bed in the morning when she rose from her sleep. Huldukona then dis-appeared.

In the morning, when the good woman rose from her sleep she found a stunning hand wrought silver belt, more beautiful than anything she had ever seen, the gift of the grateful elfwoman.

 

When we think of heroes the first image that comes to mind is likely to be that of a warrior – a strong burly man engaged in a physical struggle of muscle and violence. But, today I am inviting you to think again. This good woman was a hero, maybe a new transformative kind of hero. She trusted her dream and her vision. She was willing to give from her heart to nurture a life. She believed in what was asked of her. She said yes to life and to love. What could be more heroic? And yes, in the fable she was richly rewarded in the end for her generosity, but I think that may well be beside the point. The point for me is that she said yes to life and to love … in a small unremarkable way, but in a way that made all the difference for those to whom she responded. And that made all the difference to them.

So, today in some small way, let us each wake up and say yes to life and to love, with a small act of kindness and generosity giving just a bit more than we might have first thought we were able, because after all, kindness and generosity are an echoing yes to life and to love.

Advertisements

Two lions and a flock of sheep

Two lions walk into a bar . . . no, that is not this story.

Two lions are playing golf when a flock of sheep walk across the golf course grazing . . . no that is not this story either.

Once in another time and place which is sometime and some place, there was a lion who was wandering across the lands when she came upon a flock of sheep meandering and grazing in a small pasture. As the lion looked over the heard, sizing them up to decide which of them would be supper for herself and her cubs she noticed that there was another lion about. But this other lion was lazing in the middle of the sheep.

This other lion grew up with the sheep since it had been a small cub. It would bleat like the sheep and run about in the pasture like the sheep. Our lion went right for this strange aberration of a lion, and when the sheepish lion stood before the feral lion his entire body and being began to tremble and shake. He had never seen such a magnificent and ferocious creature. The feral lion asked the sheepish lion, “what are you doing here in the middle of these sheep?” The sheepish lion was perplexed and replied, “I am a sheep.” “No, you are not! You are a lion. Come with me.” And the feral lion lead the sheepish lion to a pool, where the two lions stood shoulder to shoulder next to each other. “Look” commanded the feral lion. When the sheepish lion saw his reflection in the water he let out a thunderous roar, and in that moment he was transformed. And he was never the same again.

 

This is another Anthony deMello story. deMello tells the story as an example of awakening to awareness, and how sometimes that awakening is an all of a sudden ‘ah ha!’ kind of experience. And there are moments like that. Transformative moments that shake us, or somehow touch us at the core of our being, kind of like someone finally turned the lights on – I was blind (or thought I was) and now I see. And, I suspect working for social justice and human rights can be a lot like that too in some ways. When you are working for human rights – building protections for people so that things that should never be done to them (like torture, kidnapping, murder, false imprisonment, etc) are never done to them; so that the things that should be accessible to everyone are accessible to them (like food, clothing, safety and security, etc); and so that groups can be groups in their own particular way as long as they respect other groups rights – well, when you focus on those big things, it can get overwhelming. And then, there are these ‘ah ha’ moments when you realize that “yes, we need to think globally, but we must act locally.” And on a local level it is all in the details. And finding and respecting the core of our basic human nature is a pretty important detail. Today, for me, its kindness.

Kindness? Please! Just how important is kindness? As I thought about that, I remembered a story about Hillel, who took a bet that he could not summarize the entire Torah while standing on one foot. Hillel smiled and said, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to others. All else is commentary.” Sounds like a description of kindness to me. And then there was Jesus who summarized all of the law by saying, “Love God with your whole being, and love your neighbor as yourself.” That sounds like kindness too! And then the Buddha who taught, “hate can never dispel hate, only love can dispel hate.” That sounds like pretty powerful kindness to me.

So, today, this day, let’s all look at ourselves in a pool of clear fresh water and see the kind beings that we inherently are. And let’s go share that kindness with each other. Let’s lead each other to seeing ourselves and each other in the water of kindness, and maybe even pause and lap it up together.