Earth is crammed with Heaven,
and every common bush afire with God,
but only he who sees
takes off his shoes.
-Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Last week we saw the truth of what we have become. Multiple incidents of racist and extreme violence perpetrated, rendering current and former leaders threatened by bombs, two people of color killed in Kentucky, and eleven Jewish worshippers gunned down in Pittsburgh. It was a culmination of fear, an uprising of conspiratorial rhetoric resulting in bloodshed and terror.
And next week we have an election. Groundbreaking turnout is already being reported throughout our nation, people on both sides with vehement belief that their’s is the right side. I voted early. My ballot is received and accounted for. While I recognize the importance of my vote and voice, I didn’t know the magnitude and impact of my small act until now.
How do we grieve last week and await next week?
How do we be in this messy middle?
It seems to me all I’ve got is love. All of it, every tiny scrap of it, boils down to love.
As a person of great privilege, I have resources and power I can leverage. I have a family and a job, but I also have flexibility. I’ve got time. I have time to linger on a run. I have time to meet friends for coffee. I have time to ask my children about their days when I drive them around. I have time to bake a cake. I have time to study a book with friends. I have time to watch a show before bed. I have time to write.
I have time to love.
My friend and I ran early this week, catching up on our thoughts and impressions of last week’s events. On the last few turns, winding through the neighborhood, we took note of the dipping temperature. A storm was blowing in. A woman with a Labradoodle took interest in our doodles and before we knew it she was pulled, tumbling to the ground. She knocked her head hard on the concrete.
While I corralled three dogs, Tammy skillfully got to work assessing damage, checking on the swelling right wrist and temple, asking inquiring questions to determine any cognitive impairment. Another woman ran across the park, assisting where needed. The three of us walked her home with great care, back to her ailing husband.
We had time. We leveraged our flexibility, consoling and caring for our new friend, making sure she was situated with frozen peas and corn to stifle the swelling. After exchanging phone numbers and stories we each returned to our days and lives.
I know we all have a lot going on. I know there are sports and jobs and meetings and upcoming holidays. I know the roads are busy and the people crabby. I know the easy answer is to match frustration with irritation and anger. I get it.
But the truth is, those of us with the privilege, we have to use it to make the lives better for those who don’t have the same. Privilege is our gift to leverage. Well spent privilege is the underpinning of love.
I have a tendency to believe I need to make a larger impact, that staying small and focused on my home, neighborhood, and town isn’t enough. I think it’s a temptation for many of us, to think we must do big things, that only big things count. But I disagree. Our people are right under our noses. If we tilt our heads over and to the left, we will see our neighbors. And the way of love will absolutely make itself known.
My people are here – sleeping in my bed, eating at my table, drinking my milk, attending my church, frequenting my grocery store, trick-or-treating with my kids. My people are lifting weights and running on treadmills, they are strolling by my house and driving in the car next to me. My people are adjusting my spine and examining my eyes and selling me beer. We have countless opportunities each and every day to love our neighbors. It’s not groundbreaking. It’s not exhausting. It’s not overwhelming. It’s easy and it’s obvious.
I’m tired of the addiction to importance. Just as each of our votes matters, so do each and every one of our attentive smiles and kind words and courteous waves. We make the world better one act at a time. Let’s remember the impact we make just by noticing.
In God’s economy, small is the new big.