on showing up

Water Me Well

11:18 AM

"I'm Fine" by Rachael Ibanez


Overwhelmed. This is the word I'm hearing everywhere I look right now. 

Currently, Hurricane Harvey is washing over Texas, and I am trying to process images of children, their jammies wet and muddy, as they are towed down the streets of Houston in boats. As I write this, 7 million people in 18 counties have been impacted by this storm, and it isn't over yet. 

Almost entirely eclipsed by Harvey has been the painful surge of angry racism that continues to cause argumentative and too-often-unproductive ranting as we take inventory, again, of our national identity. How do we leave our disturbing past behind while continuing to learn from it? To heal?

While these storms rage at the national level, I am equally undone by messages on my Facebook page from smaller communities of people who are hoping to inspire prayer and financial support for their friends and families who are up against leviathon-like personal struggles. One family I know personally is healing from within the sudden aftermath of a brutal car accident involving three children; dad drove the kids to school Wednesday morning, and 5 days later, the family had to say goodbye to their precious 8 year old daughter. They are currently mustering the strength to support another child who is struggling toward recovery. Overwhelming.

How on earth do we respond to these hurricane floods of pain, loss and need? In a world that is often chaotic and at times, desperate, how do we decide where to put our energy, our resources?  

In today's meditation on what he refers to as "Cosmic Forgiveness," Richard Rohr takes a birdseye view when he says,  "The forgiveness we truly need goes beyond forgiveness for this or that transgression. Ultimately, we each need universal, cosmic forgiveness for being who I am and for reality being what it is. The struggle to forgive this simultaneously broken and unified field of reality breaks us through to nondual consciousness."

Not surprisingly, I am reminded to begin with acceptance, and end with love. 

We're supposed to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, and somehow, this idea seems more urgent than ever as the waters continue to rise. It also feels like a really big target. I find myself asking, again, this week...this hour...who is my neighbor? I believe that in the original historical and cultural context, the term neighbor refers to the one who is near. I suppose this means that if someone is calling for help, I respond. I show up. I do what I can, and I do at least what I would want someone to do for me.

Maybe I can't physically be planted inside a Texas shelter right now, reading bedtime stories to frightened displaced children, or in Missouri grieving with this sweet family while they try to recover after the sudden excruciating loss of their little girl.  But I can still open my heart, write a check, and participate with organizations and individuals who can offer boots-on-the-ground comfort and relief. 

I do work at my local shelter, preparing and serving food. I've done it for years. I just sign up and show up. If I'm honest, I know I am not helping all that much. But I am making a sincere attempt to connect with people in my community who have suffered tragedy and loss, my neighbors who struggle every day just to survive. I smile, I ask how they're getting through their day, and I wash dishes after they eat. It's something. 

A woman I know who has signed up to serve at the shelter with me tells me that she was once part of that population, homeless and street bound for over a year. Somehow, she put one foot in front of the other, found all of the good services available in our county that might help, and walked gratefully through the tedious paper trail until she was placed inside the care system where she could receive support and inexpensive housing. She shows up, too, finding ways to serve even with very limited resources. She is doing what she can. 

And when knee surgery slowed her down for awhile, I made soup and paid her a visit. No big deal.
  
Sometimes, the one-who-is-near stands on a street corner with a sign in his hands. My tender-hearted daughter Rachael, and her kind husband Daniel, were recently confronted with a displaced homeless man who has been devastated by his own rising waterline.  Rachael felt like the wind had been knocked out of her when she saw his child, a toddler, sitting in a stroller nearby, waiting for dad to find shelter for the night. It was devastating to try, even for a minute, to imagine the panic this father must live with trying to machete a path to survival for he and his child to walk on. Mother and father to their own two year old, Rachael and Daniel stopped to talk, and mostly, listen; they of course mentioned the resources with which they were familiar, attempting to offer solutions. Many of these services wouldn't stretch to cover adult and child, or wouldn't address many of the particular (dire) needs of this little family. 

After making a call or two to try and find help, Rachael and Daniel went back into the store and bought diapers, juice boxes and some food, and paid for a night in the motel that the small family had made into a temporary living situation. They knew this would barely scratch the surface, and it broke their hearts that all they could offer was the proverbial "fish," not pond or pole. But they did something.

Even though I cheer when I read about a veterinary doctor flying to Houston to support organizations who rescue animals after the deluge, I'm pretty sure that I need to continue to fulfil my duties here at home. For me, reaching out with an open heart to the-one-who-is-near to me here and now is the most profound choice I can make. This is where I am, so this is where I can try to tune in to any cries I might hear from the rooftops nearby. 

Written in the late eighties, "Water Me Well" lives in an old journal, a poem and a prayer of sorts that acknowledges my need for an evolution of the soul, for Cosmic Forgiveness. I am aware of the apparent contradictions as it focuses on both too much water, and too little. As a metaphor, the power of water to both destroy and restore us reminds me of my powerlessness in the face of things I can't control or contain, and this week in history, it reminds me of my commitment to begin with acceptance and end with love.

I need you to water me well,
I want to have my own story to tell                                                           
A song for the soul in the darkest night, 
guiding them onto a kinder light 

I want to raft the river where it runs 
picking up passengers as they come 
Carry them on while the water's white 
giving them rest till the ends in sight

Water me well - tend to your child
Teach me tender - chasten me mild
Pour me out empty - then, Oh, satisfy me
Draw me an ocean, but water me well.


I wanted then, and even more today, to be someone who just shows up.

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