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"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"Go and see!"

The "lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer" are here. Full force.

I think something about that causes something in our brains to switch to 'off' position.

Which is not a bad thing, really.

Personally, I'm on information overload. The ongoing tragedy of the Oil Spill in the Gulf. The war continues in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mitregate as the run up to meetings in UK about the "appointment" and consecration of women to the episcopacy.

The shocking, controversial revelation of female genital mutilation at Cornell (yes, here in the USA).

My own personal stuff.

In the midst of all of this, the 'business' of the church goes on. Food supplies at the food pantry are low. People having accidents and in hospital. Visiting the sick and fragile, homebound elderly. Kids graduating from high school. End of the year appreciation for those who minister in the church. Trying to get a quorum for Vestry.

I'm having a hard time keeping everything 'straight', as it were, in my head.

No wonder I'm suffering, a bit, from 'writer's block'.

I just came back from a long walk, just to clear my head.

As I walked, I found myself meditating on the story of the feeding of the five thousand - or four thousand, depending on whether or not you read the different versions in Matthew (15:32-39) or Mark (8:1-9)or the stories in Luke or John.

The versions in Luke (9:10-17) and Matthew (14:13-21) relate that the disciples reported to Jesus after they had apparently taken an inventory.
"When it was almost evening, the disciples came to him. "There is nothing here," they said. "It's already getting late. Send the crowds away. They can go and buy some food in the villages."

Jesus replied, "They don't need to go away. You give them something to eat."

"We have only five loaves of bread and two fish," they answered. (Mt. vs. 15-16)
John (6:5-15) notes the source of the bounty:
Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up, "Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?" (vs.8-9)
Only Mark (6:31-44) reports:
"And He said to them, "How many loaves do you have? Go and see!" And when they found out, they said, "Five, and two fish." (vs. 38)
I love that Jesus never said, "Hang on! I did a miracle at Cana, I can do one here. Let me wave my hands and - "Poof!" - enough food will appear for everyone!"

Neither did he say, "Wait a minute! I've got an idea! I'll write a grant, we'll start a CDC (Community Development Corporation), which will give us government money to buy food at low cost for us to distribute to everyone."

And, and, and . . . we should also be able to get some government money to expand our kitchen and put in an elevator and renovate our bathrooms so the Temple conforms with government regulations for accessibility for the disabled."

"It will be an independent 501C3, so we can hire a staff and get all this work done and no one from the Temple will have to lift a finger unless they really want to."

No, he said, "Go and see!" 

Okay, okay. I'll turn down the volume on my 'snark meter'.

But, you catch my drift, right?

I don't know whether or not I am - we are - dealing the slowness of summer, or apathy or information overload or burnout or, perhaps, "compassion fatigue" of which my 'writer's block' is just one manifestation.

Or, perhaps it is the arrogance of self-reliance, which is the Great American Illusion. (Although, arrogance seems to have infected some parts of the Church of England, of late. And British Petroleum. And, apparently, Cornell.).

I only know that I hope to use some of these days to take some inventory on what I have and what I can use.

I guess I'm learning this from spending some wonderful (albeit occasionally difficult) time with my kid brother who was diagnosed last year - at the age of 56 - with Alzheimer's Disease.

We went to the Mall the other day. I was in desperate need of a mani/pedi (hey, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do). We agreed to separate - he to go off to the record store (now, that dates us, eh?) while I went to the Salon. We would meet in 45 minutes at the clock near the center of the Mall.

I was there at the agreed upon time. Fifteen minutes went by. No brother. I called him on his cell. No answer.

Fighting a strong, rising wave of panic, I called his wife on her cell phone. She had warned me that sometimes, he "wanders".

"You've got to call him a few times," she said. She reminded me that, in addition to having lost half his eye sight in both eyes (due to the "plaque" from the Alzheimer's occluding the optic nerve), he's also lost some of his hearing, so he can't always hear his phone ringing.

So, I called him. Again. And, again. And, yet again. Another 15 minutes went by before he finally answered.

"Hello?" I said, trying to sound calm.

"Hey," he said, adding slyly, "Did you forget me?" And then, he giggled at his own little joke.

I am awed by his ability to keep his sense of humor. And, his humility.

I asked him, later, over lunch, how he copes. I mean, this is a man who always worked a gazillion hours of overtime and then came home and did "projects" around the house.

"Well, look," he said, "I got out a year ago. They shut down the plant where I worked a few months ago. All those guys have nothing but unemployment. I got full disability and I can access my pension in a few years. And, I got the best medical coverage in the world. In a way, you know, I'm really lucky."

My brother has always been the pragmatist. I have always been the dreamer.

He spends most of his days walking. He walks miles and miles and MILES. Seriously. He does it for the exercise and to keep himself busy, but he also does it to keep his mind active and alert. Much to my relief, my sister-in-law tells me that the town police and neighbors keep an eye on him.

It's what he can do. He can't read. He can't drive. He finds watching hours of daytime television boring. He does play some games with his almost four year old grand daughter which he sometimes finds challenging.

He and his wife did buy a used swing set for her, which he and his sons set up in the back yard. He spent hours painting it, which brings him great satisfaction, every time he sees it when looks out the kitchen window.

He does what he can with what he has. And, he is an inspiration.

For me, he's that little boy in John's version of this gospel story. The one with the five (or seven) loaves and two (or some number of) fishes that fed everyone.

I asked him, once, what the most important thing he's learned since he was diagnosed. "Ask for help when you need it. Take it graciously when it comes. Try not to be disappointed when it doesn't. Be thankful for something every day. Do something for someone else as a way of saying thank you for your life."

I made an excuse to get up and get us something to drink so he wouldn't see me cry.

My brother will never do anything great like feeding 5,000 people. Or, even 4,000. He won't start a CDC to get that done.

He won't perform any miracles, even though his life could use one right now. Instead, he'll just live the miracle that is his life.

Miraculously, miracles will happen around him.

Like, a big sister rediscovering the power of laughter and the inspiration of humility.

I can't think of two more powerful forces to deal with the evil of apathy - or the reality of overload, burnout or compassion fatigue. Or, the arrogance of self-importance.

I'm thinking that the church - especially the Anglican Church, or British Petroleum, or Cornell - would do well to learn a few things from my brother.

Never mind. Right now, I'm just trying to "go and see" for myself.

And then, expect a miracle.


Jeff @ James Hill said...

I wish I had your type of writer's block. I find your words to be brilliant all of the time.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Jeff. My brother is my inspiration. Isn't he just amazing?

Karen H. said...

Thank you for sharing your brother's grace & wisdom with us today. You & he have blessed my day immeasurably.

RevMama said...

Thank you, Elizabeth - and thank your brother too for his words of great wisdom. Just exactly what I needed to hear today. Now I'm going to find a Kleenex to wipe some tears away. You and your brother touched my heart.

Kemlynb said...

Thank you for sharing your brother's story. I like that you tied it to Jesus feeding 4 or 5 thousand people. That parable has always reminded me of the Stone Soup story. If we share what we have and appreciate what others bring to the table, we end up with an amazing meal.

David |Dah • veed| said...

I like the new theme. It is more relaxed. Subtle.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, sweetie. It was time for a change and Blogger made it very easy.

I've still got some tinkering to do, but I do like the subtlety of it.

susankay said...

Elizabeth -- you seem to have already learned this -- lucky and blessed you -- but one thing it took me some time to recognize with my father with Alzheimers was that he was still making his sardonic jokes. Sadly, I had discounted his comments too early, and missed some chuckles.

Your reports on your brother make me tear up. And I thank you for that.