773. Lifted Faces and Flashing Eyes

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From the blog archives (February 11, 2016), a post about the human spirit:

I’ve been reading a book by Elton Trueblood, Alternative to Futility. Trueblood, a Quaker theologian, wrote the book in the late 1940s in response to the prevalent sense of futility in society around him despite the end of World War II. In many ways he could have been writing today.

This paragraph jumped off the page at me:

“Joy has gone out of much of our lives. Millions go through the motions as though they were waiting for a catastrophe. What we miss, almost everywhere, is the uplifted face and the flashing eye. Men [and women] cannot live well either in poverty or abundance unless they see some meaning and purpose in life, which alone can be thrilling.”

Trueblood goes on to describe societal ways in which the human spirit can be renewed. While some of his suggestions and ideas are a bit dated, this key – and timeless– theme emerges: the need for communities to be a place of renewal for each other.

In a chapter called “The Habit of Adventure.” he wrote:

“Here then is our clue. The method which succeeded before must be tried again and we must not be dismayed by its amazing simplicity. The best chance for the renewal of the human spirit in the twentieth [read: twenty-first] century, as in the first, lies in the formation of genuinely redemptive societies in the midst of ordinary society. Such fellowships could provide a sense of meaning for the members within the societies and, at the same time, maintain an infectious influence on the entire culture outside.”

Through my little blog and my little books, I’m trying, in a small way, to offer this to you. A space of community and camaraderie in which we lift our faces and not only open our eyes, but flash them, as Trueblood wrote. I like that image of emanating light. It’s my hope, and assumption, you have other real-time spaces in your life for this renewal: churches, family, friends, book groups, special interest groups, and so on. There are also opportunities for such spaces online, and I hope you’re finding what you need wherever you can. Please consider letting me know how I can do better at providing such a space. Also consider letting me know where else you find community and and camaraderie that encourages you to lift your face and flash your eyes - if I get enough response to this I may include them in a subsequent newsletter or blog post.

Thank you for taking the time to read. As always, I appreciate it so very much.


[Photo: taken of a new walkway along a nearby creek. I love how the sun is flashing off the metal coils.]

772. A Sign Pointing the Way [to the Beach]

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One afternoon this past week I got up from my desk to take a walk. I walked down a street I'd never been before and something caught my eye and delivered joy. In the corner of a yard, just along the sidewalk, but nearly hidden by garden overgrowth, was a small metal sign that said "BEACH." The letters were cut-outs, which made the sign particularly hard to see given that the foliage behind it showed through (see the banner photo). My guess is many have walked right past it as I would have also if some unknown something hadn't caused me to look in the exact right place and in the exact right way. Above the word was a figure that appeared to be in motion, ready to leap from a board (diving or surf?) or simply from the sand into the water. Under the word was an arrow pointing the way.

I wondered about the arrow given as there was no beach across the street or on the next street over. It struck me first as wishful thinking, but then I thought some more and indeed there is a beach in the direction of the arrow if you go down a few blocks then find your way either to a walking path or the road alongside a lake and wind around a bit before coming to a rather small parking area and follow another path down to a nearly hidden beach.

The sign in the yard had a hint of something to be found. A sign of something good in the direction it pointed. A spark of joy, a promise, a silent companion on the road.

Keep your eyes open!


[Photo: taken of the BEACH sign. A spark of joy, yes?]

771. Maid: On Caring for Those Who Serve You

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"Rent plus groceries plus utilities plus laundry plus insurance plus gas plus clothing minus an hourly paycheck of barely more than minimum wage and the scant assistance parceled out by the government with spectacular reluctance — the brute poetry of home economics recurs throughout Land’s book."

A book review by Emily Cooke in The New York Times last winter, quoted from above, prompted me to read Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive, a memoir by Stephanie Land. Land is a young woman who made many mistakes that cost her in significant ways, including connecting with and getting pregnant by the wrong guy and at the wrong time. Raising her daughter on her own and needing to earn a living, she became a maid who worked for a cleaning service and also for her own clients.

Read this book if you ever wonder about who is behind the ads for cleaning services or ever wonder about the woman who cleans your office space or perhaps even your home, if you ever see or think about the woman who cleans your hotel room. Land writes of her very difficult life trying to provide for her daughter, trying to keep her warm in the winter, trying to provide enough food. She writes of the struggle to care for her when she's sick because the means aren't easy to come by, neither money for cough medicine nor paid time off to stay home with her.

When I was in early grade school, my mother had a "cleaning lady" come in sometimes to help clean our three-bedroom rambler. I'm not sure exactly why her help was needed and it didn't last long. In fact, I don't remember much about it, but here's what I do remember: every time she came, my mother set the table to serve her lunch. I can still picture the plate of food on the cloth placemat and a beautiful paper napkin, usually a floral design, folded on the left side of the plate. I remember my mother served her. I remember that she and my mother would sit in the living room and talk. I also remember having to clean my room before she came. More than a means to obtain a clean house, those few months or however long it lasted taught me something important about caring for people, a topic about which I still have so much to learn. Land wrote of a few similar caring customers and her deep gratitude for them, but far too many were of the sort that she had to endure in order to be paid.

Who is the person waiting on you or waiting on me at the grocery store or the drug store? The person bringing the mail to your door? The man handing me stamps at the post office? The woman pouring your coffee at lunch, or the woman picking up my dirty towels from the hotel room floor, leaving behind perfectly folded towels, clean and fresh?

Many years ago I read something written by Margie Haack, co-director of Ransom Fellowship and author of the quarterly, “Letters from the House Between,” about tipping hotel maids. I'm sorry to admit that I'd never before thought of doing that. But I started right then leaving cash and a note of thanks and have been doing so ever since. Sometimes I get notes back, with thanks and often a hint of surprise, as if no one before had ever left them a tip.

Let's make life easier for each other, not harder. More kindness. More respect. More sharing. I have a long way to go in this myself, and am so grateful for those in my life who have taught me and those who continue to teach me, like Stephanie Land has done in her book.

Read Maid. Look at the faces of people who serve you and care for them. Leave a tip next time you stay in a hotel.


Related post:


[Photo: taken of a view within the Minneapolis Central Library]