Sunday, July 08, 2018

Back to something

Something I was thinking about because of the sermon today.

It was on the "mustard seed" idea - the fact that very small things can lead to unexpectedly large good things. The minister referenced how our congregation has striven to be welcoming of all kinds of people (the interim minister we had a while back talked about "love 'em all and let God sort 'em out," which I think is a wonderful corruption of the old "Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out" motto).

And I was also thinking of something I used to ardently believe, but have kind of....lost faith in recently. It could be summed up by the phrase "Every loving act adds to the balance of love in the world." The idea, I used to have, was that even if I did small loving things, it somehow helped to counterbalance the greed or selfishness or whatever other bad things....not that it would wipe those things out, but somehow, it would act kind of like putting a penny on the scales....something small, but something that said "This isn't the only thing that has weight."

This was why, in the past, when I'd hear of some bad event in the world (e.g., a shooter attack), I'd grab some yarn and needles and start making a hat or mittens to donate somewhere.

And sometime around 2015 or 2016, I don't know. It's like there were too many shootings, there was too much bad, it felt too much like the cruel people, the bullies, the people who "othered" other people were winning....and it began to feel like:

1. What good I can do is pointless in the face of that
2. There's nothing I can do that's big enough or good enough to help anything.

And....a little part of me lost hope. It's a bad feeling, the sense that nothing you can do will make a difference and even though you may know that it is right to be unselfish in various ways, you're ultimately going to lose.

And yet, I kept going, kept pushing. Continued to try to be helpful and be a compassionate person, because that's how I was raised, even if some days I felt that doing so was utterly useless in the world at large (because of how little I can actually do) or that I was a "chump" because people who were selfish were "winning" and I sometimes wound up being taken advantage of for my good nature.

But of course, the parable of the mustard seed is right. That doing even small good things is important because you don't know what an effect they may have down the line. One of my Sunday school students said she met a former student of mine (she didn't get her name, but she clearly knew me) somewhere and the student spoke surprisingly (well, to me) highly of me - how fair I was, and how hard I clearly worked to help the class. And, I don't know. A lot of days I feel like I'm not on my "A" game. I try, but some days just don't feel like a success. But maybe on balance I'm doing OK.

Today was also our bell-choir doing the prelude. (I hesitate to use the word "performing," that seems wrong to me to say "doing music as part of a worship service" because we're not really doing it for accolades, we're doing it as part of our worship and as a service of sorts).

It went surprisingly well. We stayed on tempo, we stayed together. I didn't miss any notes or hit a wrong note (well, I had only two: the D and E above middle C). I didn't hear anyone else make a mistake but then I was concentrating pretty hard on keeping tempo and my own music. I don't think anyone got very lost, at least I didn't get that sense. People seemed pleased about it.

The director hugged me afterward.

And something else: when the director was off at the restroom, her (30-ish) adult daughter mentioned to us: "You have no idea how happy this makes Mom."

I guess....I guess being able to direct a bell choir is something she really loves, and in a way, we're serving by being able to be there for her? Anyway, I've found it fun and while we're taking a short break, we are going to try to do a piece for Thanksgiving so I will be back when we start back up again.

But that does strike me....sometimes maybe you never realize you're doing something kind for another person. I was doing it in part because I just wanted to be of service and I knew they needed people who could read music. (And yes, maybe, I did it a bit for myself: at any rate now I have proved to myself that indeed, I can do a musical performance type thing without choking or being overly nervous).

But one thing I do need to work on (along with trying to get my resilience back) is to remember that even if all I can do to help are small things, still, I can do things to help. And it doesn't matter if they are small. I have a little metal sign I bought somewhere hanging up in my kitchen saying "We can do no great things; only small things with great love" and that's one of the things I've believed... but sometimes my perfectionism gets in the way and I find myself saying "No. You should be able to do bigger things, you should be doing more."

(But then again, I also think of the parable where the wealthy young man is told to sell everything he has and give all the money to the poor, and the implication is only then will he be "good enough" in a religious sense....but the real idea behind it is that not one of us can do "enough," we can only do what we can do....)

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