Friday, November 20, 2015

Giving Thanks for Our Differences

 Here we are; 7.2 billion of us spinning on this big rock in the middle of infinite space.

That's 7.2 billion different ways of living life.

Each one of us with our individual preferences about food, music, politics, religion, the clothes we wear.

Just so you know, your preferences, especially when different from mine, irritate and annoy me.

Sometimes, like last Friday in Paris, our differences of opinion lead to bombs and bullets. It leads to people who were just trying to eat dinner or listen to some music dying.

It's hard to understand, confusing and frightening to think that differences of preference lead to bombs and bullets. I don't like this.  I don't like this one bit. Really I'd like things to go back to the way they were last Thursday when I was making my Thanksgiving grocery list and not worried about war in Syria, millions of innocents displaced by war, or angry young men who want to exercise power in the most brutal way cheating someone else out of their life. My preference is for peace and brotherly love.

I'd like to hang on to my preferences. It only seems fair. I've spent a lifetime collecting, curating, fine tuning so that I know definitively I prefer a gin to vodka martini. I enjoy the hit of sauteed onion and herbs of provenance and loath dill in almost any dish, except ice cream when I prefer chocolate sauce. I prefer my own bed at 9:15 p.m to any gala, concert or party, even on a Saturday night. I prefer the company of people I know and love to strangers unless they've got a French or Scottish accent. Maybe this list of silly preferences takes too lightly the differences of the God to whom we pray and our understanding of what that God requires of each of us. My preference is the thought that there is one God who speaks many languages and accepts many beliefs, but insists on one thing: that we love each other. Loving each other, it seems to me, precludes bullets and bombs as a way to convince someone that your faith is the correct one.

I can understand rage, frustration, exasperation with the way the world seems to be going.  It seems like everything is falling apart.  Don't we all want to keep the world spinning? Who told me or you that the world should spin according to our prefrence, that's the question?

Say you forget to put a glass in the dishwasher. Stand back as I roar my indignation at the unjustness of the world and your obvious lack of respect for me.  Am I every one's mother?!  Must I pick up after the whole world?

Is it too much to ask for peace and a clean kitchen counter?

It's exhausting trying to get the whole word and everyone in it to twirl the way I think they should twirl.  Not only is it exhausting, but after giving it my very best effort for over 50 years, it doesn't seem to be working. Nobody is paying attention.

I've decided to give up on my preferences.....ow, even writing that hurts.  It's so hard to give up what I want, what I know in my heart is right.

So I'm going to practice first.  I'm going to practice on this maple tree in my yard.

I love maples just like I love my children, family, Prince Charming, friends and neighbors.

Except this maple has some issues, just like my children, family, Prince Charming, friends and neighbors.

The leaves on this maple change late and they only change to yellow.  Our neighbor's maples change to give a good six weeks of color as they shift from a gorgeous gold (deeper and richer than this pathetic yellow) flushing to crimson.

The Neighbor's maple
Our maple is planted too near the power lines. Every few years the power company comes by with saws and lops off half the tree, ruining its symmetry.

Year after year the maple insists on being what it is--a merely yellow, late changing, lop-sided tree.  Both life circumstances and its nature make it what it is. I've been asking myself which is easier to change the maple or my thoughts about it?

What might happen if I shifted my thoughts to appreciation for it's deep, summertime shade, its interesting bark, the way it cleans the air and gives me oxygen to breathe?

What if, in practicing to accept the world as it presents itself in the maple, I learned to accept my children, family, Prince Charming, friends and neighbors--colorful character, independent-minded, lop-sided, kooky characters all?

What if I stopped trying to fix the world and everyone in it to suit myself? I'm just practicing.  I'm just practicing accepting the maple.

Today I'm giving thanks for you, dear reader. I appreciate the time we've had together today. Blessings to you and your family as you break bread together this Thanksgiving.

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