I read a letter to the editor in this morning’s local newspaper. The letter, in expressing appreciation for the Supreme Court’s recent decision regarding LGBTQ rights, referred to last week’s regular column by our church minister. The writer wrote:
“…it was very encouraging to read Rev. Walz’s column in the 6/23/2020 Voice, offering to welcome members of the LGBTQ community and to share his church’s resources with them.”
The person who wrote the letter has been deeply involved in Village political matters in recent years; I found some of his positions irritating, annoying, and offensive. Based on positions he took and what I considered the “trouble” he caused, I have made a number of assumptions about him, some unconsciously. One such unconscious assumption was that he was probably intolerant of people whose sexual orientation did not fit his definition of what is “right.” His letter brought me up sharply; it reminded me I should not be so quick to judge without having all the facts.
I know an American blogger who now lives in Sweden with her Swedish husband. Her blog is far more engaging than mine. Actually, I don’t really know her; but we’ve read one another’s blogs and we both comment on them from time to time. Neither of us are regular readers of the other’s blog, nor do we comment every time we read, but we pay attention on occasion.
The reason her blog is more engaging than mine, aside from her writing style and the content of her posts, is its frequency. Unlike me, this American-Swedish blogger apparently does not feel pathologically compelled to write blog posts almost every damn day. I checked this morning; her last post was made on June 14. She has gone roughly two weeks without posting. I pride myself on missing a day or two at a time. And I have, on many occasions, posted several times within a single twenty-four-hour period. Pathology.
The difference between us, then, is that she posts only when she actually has something to say. I other the other hand, feel obliged to write every time I feel words clogging my fingers, backing up from my fingers to my elbows to my upper arms, continuing on to my shoulders. When that happens—almost every day—I have to turn the spigot, releasing the linguistic pressure, lest my brain explode, flinging letters and shattered words and shredded syllables all over my desk. That would be an ugly sight, indeed.
I think the reason I write so often is to remind the few brave regular readers that I am still here. Were I to write less often, I fear those brave few would forget I exist; and, then, when I were to write, no one would remember to read. There’s a psychological connection between what I’m suggesting and my blogger friend’s point in her most recent blog post: that we all need to focus on being better at listening. She points out that, too often, rather than truly listening, we hear only enough to trigger a response about our own experiences. A response to really hearing someone validates the speaker’s experiences, not one’s own. More engaging, yes. And more thoughtful.
Yesterday’s pounding rains flooded many local roadways, though only a few Village roads. I saw photos of Hot Springs that stunned me, cars submerged in several feet of water and rushing water that could have carried away houses in the current. We are fortunate to live on the side of a mountain, with natural drainage offering considerable protection from rushing water; no dams of any kind, either, to cause water to back up and inundate our house.
It was during some of the heaviest rains that I drove my wife to the dentist’s office to have a permanent crown installed to replace a temporary one. After an hour, she called me to pick her up; the permanent crown was not made properly, so they reinstalled the temporary one. They will call to schedule a return appointment, once a new permanent crown is made and ready. By the time I picked her up to take her home, the rain had subsided.
We can’t control the weather and we can’t control the quality of dental crown manufacture. Lessons that, one day, will make sense as part of a pair of insights about life.
How much of the time we invest in “making a difference” really makes a difference? How much makes a difference only insofar as our investment of time gives us a sense of value, accomplishment, relevance? I ask the questions because I sometimes feel that “helping” organizations like churches are simply applying feel-good band-aids to problems; they feed the poor and destitute, for example, rather than enable the poor and destitute to buy and prepare their own meals. A food pantry, as vital as it often is, does not address the underlying problem of hunger. But it addresses an immediate need and gives donors of food, money, and time a sense they are contributing to helping the needy. Yes, food pantries are needed. But, at the same time, more permanent solutions that take far longer to create and even longer to implement are needed. How do we balance meeting immediate needs with creating lasting solutions?
Structural change in society could be of so much more lasting value than temporarily filling a crying need. But if the choices are to allow some people today to starve or to enable many more people tomorrow to feed themselves, how do we justify choosing structural change over urgent care? That’s one of those questions whose answers prove how incredibly difficult life is.
I think about a few people several times a day; people who are in my life only tangentially. If they knew how often they are on my mind, they probably would think it strange. Maybe it is. But I don’t think so. But I wonder why these people seem to matter to me more than others whose roles in my life are equally tangential? It’s not that any one of them “matters” more or less; it’s that something about them sparks my attention and ongoing interest.
As I consider this matter, though, if the shoe were on the other foot, as it were, I would find it more than a little strange. I might find that it borders on stalking…not behavior, but…what? Why am I on that person’s mind? Is it physical? Mental? Pathological? What? So I would understand someone thinking it strange. I wonder whether I am alone in this odd sense that I cannot justify in my own mind why some people, some of whom truly are on the periphery of my life, are on my mind with some regularity?
Why is it, I wonder, that people seem to feel so constrained from revealing what’s on their minds? I suspect they fear how others will perceive their thought processes; that “they’ll think I’m crazy, or worse.” Maybe. I’ll probably never know. Because people are uncomfortable talking about matters that make them, or others, uncomfortable. And, so, we go on living in the dark.
I cannot conceal,
how fragile I feel.
But I will reveal
what’s under seal,
and what’s real,
if you will treat me tender.
~The Caretaker’s Son~