What are you not seeing?
By: Steve Matthews, Consultant for Congregational Redevelopment
Isn’t that a beautiful picture? Daffodils springing forth every year give me hope. I love their reliability and consistency (not to mention that brilliant yellow color and sweet fragrance). They always come up in the spring and they beautify our landscape. In these uncertain times reliability and consistency are things that matters to many of us, but even though these flowers are of the same genus, each one is different. If I take the time to approach them with curiosity and tenderness, I see their uniqueness.
I have recently moved back to my hometown after being away for 30 years. In 1992, this town was very homogenous. I would have described it as a close-minded, white, racist, working-class town with one dominant political party. It has changed a lot in 30 years – more hipster, more inclusive, much more diverse racially, and it is growing rapidly.
I didn’t exactly move back because I wanted to. I moved back to take care of aging parents in a health crisis. I came back with lots of baggage (literally and figuratively). In the last two years, I have mostly adjusted to life “back home.” I bought a house and have begun to settle in some, but the baggage of my early years has kept me guarded and biased toward what I used to believe was true.
Last week a humbling incident reminded me that my vision had gotten skewed toward my historic biases, and I was not experiencing my neighbors with much curiosity. I needed some repairs done, so I contacted a local contractor through a third party. When he arrived his appearance and presentation triggered all of my “good-ol-boy” reactions. I took a deep breath, stayed engaged, and leaned in. What I discovered was an open-minded, friendly, positive person who had experienced a lot of adventure in his life. He had values of hard work and a desire to treat people fairly. He cultivated friends from diverse backgrounds because he too had felt hemmed in by the culture of our region. When he left, I felt more alive and hopeful because of our conversation.
I know many of us in church-land are living on our physical and emotional reserves, and staying curious about the unique gifts of a particular flower, an old friend, or a new neighbor is not at the top of our list when it comes to how we want to spend our energy, but what if this curiosity is restorative – not only to our energy but to our sense of perspective? As you move about your faith community, family, and neighborhood, what are you not seeing? The poet Roger Keyes, wrote a poem about the famous Japanese block print artist Hokusai. In this poem, he beautifully and tenderly invites us to pay attention and curious. Here is an experpt:
Hokusai says look carefully.
He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious.
He says there is no end to seeing.
He says look forward to getting old.
He says keep changing,
you just get more who you really are.
He says get stuck, accept it, repeat
yourself as long as it is interesting.
He says keep doing what you love.
He says keep praying.
He says everyone of us is a child,
everyone of us is ancient,
everyone of us has a body.
He says everyone of us is frightened.
He says everyone of us has to find
a way to live with fear.
He says everything is alive–
shells, buildings, people, fish,
mountains, trees, wood is alive.
Water is alive…
…He says live with the world inside you.
He says it doesn’t matter if you draw,
or write books. It doesn’t matter
if you saw wood, or catch fish.
It doesn’t matter if you sit at home
and stare at the ants on your veranda
or the shadows of the trees
and grasses in your garden.
It matters that you care.
It matters that you feel.
It matters that you notice.
It matters that life lives through you…