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One Simple Gesture

One Simple Gesture

Hello, everyone.

An all-consuming passion in my life is the program “Music and the Spoken Word,” which features the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the meditations of Lloyd Newell. Our local cable company gets BYUTV, so I am able to watch it every Sunday morning. It essentially is my church, and I do not allow anything to interfere with my viewing of the program.

On last Sunday’s program, Lloyd Newell gave a meditation that is so appropriate for this time of the year. Here it is in its entirety. I will comment afterward.

“One Simple Gesture”

given by Lloyd D. Newell

November 25, 2012

For years a certain family was plagued by resentment. Various members refused to speak to each other, weddings went unattended, and children were growing up without knowing their cousins. The years had given family members plenty of time to justify their behavior and blame the others for their injuries.

And then, in a sudden impulse of generosity, a young aunt sent a package of school supplies to her brother’s children. It wasn’t expensive; it wasn’t grandiose. It was just one simple gesture.

But like a drop of rain on parched, cracked soil, it caught the attention of a family thirsty for kindness. A thank-you note was written. A phone call was made. A caring comment was spoken. Feelings began to soften. And now a holiday feast is being planned. The prospects for healing and forgiveness are bright. And it all began with a small investment in just a few notebooks and markers.

Of course, reaching out with compassion across a bitter chasm is not easy. It may even seem impossible, and it always requires patience and persistence. But often just one simple gesture of kindness is enough to set in motion a series of actions that convey love and goodwill, balms that can soothe any wound.

We see the powerful impact of small gestures every day. The people who thank returning soldiers at an airport, a group of teens who visit patients in a hospital, even a young girl picking up the keys dropped by an elderly woman. These simple gestures seem small, but they stay forever in the hearts of the people they bless.

like sunlight shining through a small crack in a dungeon wall, one small gesture can bring warmth to cold hearts. By responding to even the smallest of generous impulses, we just may witness a miracle that not only softens the hearts of others but also brings unexpected joy into our own.

– – – – – – – – – –

Lloyd Newell could have written that meditation about me and my family. My grandmother died in 1959. There were hard feelings expressed at the graveside service. My mother and my Uncle Bill, for whom I was named, had a falling out. The following June, we drove through Kansas City within 2 blocks of their house. I could even see the roof of their house from the highway. We did not stop.

The following year, I graduated from high school. Among my gifts was a check from Uncle Bill. I wrote a thank-you letter, in which I said that I missed the bonds that I had with him and my Aunt Betty and my cousins when I lived with Grandma. He wrote me back. I answered that letter, and he in turn answered THAT letter. To make a long story short, not only were those bonds of old restored, they were deepened and strengthened. I made numerous trips to their house – and I might add that Uncle Bill made some trips to Union Station to pick me up on some very bad roads, without making any complaints. I can’t begin to count the times that I have thanked God for letting me write that first letter. And I can’t count the times that I have thanked God that Uncle Bill was open to what I said to him in that letter.

Something similar happened just this year. A year ago, I wrote a memoir about our grandparents. My cousins did not know them like I did because they raised me. One night the thought crossed my mind that the cousins would never know their grandparents if I did not write some kind of memoir or family history, so I did so. When it was done, I printed out copies and sent it to my cousins.

I still don’t believe what happened next. E-mails started flying back and forth about having a reunion. We were not estranged; we simply had not been together in one group since our grandmother passed away in 1959. We all agreed on a weekend in September and started making travel arrangements. I was so anxious to see them all again that I ordered my train tickets as soon as we agreed on the date. That was in April! The September weekend came, and I made the trip back to Iowa. My favorite boy cousin met my train in Ottumwa, and instantly he and I turned the clock back 50-60 years. When we were all together, we all essentially picked up our relationships where we had left off in 1959.

I have mentioned that since Carol died 5 years ago, her family hardly has anything to do with me. So when our reunion happened in September, it was, to use Lloyd Newell’s beautiful simile, “ like a drop of rain on parched, cracked soil” to me. It was a weekend that I will not soon forget. We also got to visit with two of our remaining aunts – my mother and our Aunt Bonnie. I was part of a family again, and it was the most beautiful feeling that I have felt since I lost my Carol.

Indeed, in e-mails to two of my girl cousins, I made the comment that it was wonderful to feel like a family member instead of a liability. They both wrote back, saying essentially the same thing: “You are not a liability! You are family! You are our patriarch. And don’t you EVER forget it!”

All of this raced through my mind during and after the program last Sunday. I could not help remembering how that letter to my uncle in essence made me a member of their family, and how my writing that memoir played some kind of role in bringing us cousins back together again.

Lloyd Newell carried on this thought about friendship and fellowship in his meditation on December 2. Here is the last paragraph of his meditation:

“Unfortunately, not everyone can be home for Christmas. But even if our loved ones can be with us only in spirit, Christmas is a time to cherish the warmth and affection of family and friends. It’s a time to share with those we love our most precious gift—our time. Whether it’s the joyful laugh of a favorite uncle, the contented smiles of grandparents, the excitement of children, the embrace of one who is home at last, or the traditional reading of the story of the babe in the manger, Christmas is best celebrated with people we love. “

Newell echoes the sentiments of Folliot S. Pierpoint as expressed in his hymn “For the Beauty of the Earth:”

For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth and friends above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild.

Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

Back in 1963, Edward Pola and George Wyle wrote what I personally consider to be the most moronic, most idiotic, and most asinine piece of Christmas schlock ever written: “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Given the personal losses I have experienced between Thanksgiving and New Years during the course of my life, I could not disagree more. On the other hand, Kim Gannon, Walter Kent, and Buck Ram in 1943 wrote what I consider to be one of the 2 or 3 finest Christmas songs ever written – “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Both songs celebrate the idea of friends and loved ones gathering together and celebrating the season.

When the Supreme God created us, he built into us the desire – I would say need – for contact and fellowship with others. That is why some people consider someone being alone at Christmas to be absolutely unthinkable. Yet some of us are destined to be alone on that holiday. There are many reasons for this. Maybe the family members are on the outs, as the family in Lloyd Newell’s meditation were. Or maybe circumstances dictate a person’s being alone, as in the case of the soldier in the song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Or maybe a person’s spouse has died and the in-laws don’t want anything to do with the person. That DOES happen; I know from experience.

Evangelical Christians get their noses out of joint if Christmas does not hold first place in a person’s life. But what is Christmas anyway? To them, it is the birthday of “Jesus.” But as I have shared in other diaries when I have referenced the “Jewels from Jesus,” he has some serious problems with our having others in our lives ahead of him. Read about it in Matthew 10 and Luke 14. And it has been my experience that it is Christians who are the ones who are likely to ignore those of us who are liabilities. And being ignored makes this “the most wonderful time of the year?” I don’t think so.

In Lloyd Newell’s meditation, a young aunt took it upon herself to make the first move by sending school supplies to her brother’s children. One thing led to another, and now, the family is planning a reunion – and hopefully a reconciliation. In my case, I wrote the memoir about our grandparents for my cousins. I don’t know where the idea came from, but it culminated in a beautiful, glorious weekend in Albia, Iowa, the last weekend of September.

There is a video that has gone viral on the Net. It shows a New York City cop buying a pair of shoes for a homeless man. The cop’s name is Larry DePrimo and the homeless man has been identified as Jeffery Hillman. According to an article in the New York Daily News, what DePrimo did is merely the norm for that family. I have no idea whether or not the DePrimos attend church, but I would not be the least bit surprised if they did not.

What an attitude! DePrimo could not have cared less whether people wished him “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” It did not matter to him whether or not “Christmas” got the degree of respect that Evangelicals feel that it deserves. All that mattered was that he saw a fellow human being walking around without shoes at the start of the coldest part of the year, and he determined to do something to ease that situation.

So let’s assume that the writers of that stupid moronic song were right, and this is indeed “the most wonderful time of the year.” What makes it so? Is it the birth of God’s bouncing baby boy? HAH! You gotta be kidding! Is it because of all the fellowship and fun? If one is fortunate enough to have that dynamic in his life, then yes it is. But what about the rest of us? I believe that it is the belief that in this crazy world of madness and mayhem, there are still some courageous souls who still give a damn – who care about the conditions that their fellow men find themselves in.

I do not know for a fact whether Lloyd Newell’s meditation family exists or not. But does it really matter? The point of his meditation is someone making a small gesture to bring a family back together again. The point of Larry DePrimo’s gesture was to show someone who had in all likelihood abandoned hope that someone cared, that someone DID care.

And that is what those of us who are alone need most of all. We don’t need all the crap about some baby born somewhere or all the balderdash of some moron in a red suit who has not evidenced any kind of relationship with a razor or a barber for ages. Like Jeffery Hillman, we simple need to know that we matter to someone – that someone cares about us.

Back 60 years ago when I was a boy, the Christophers used to have a TV show. Now who are the Christophers? According to Wikipedia, they are “a Christian inspirational group that was founded in 1945 by Father James Keller. The name of the group is derived from the Greek word “christophoros”, which means “Christ-bearer”. Although the founders were Maryknoll priests, and the Roman Catholic orientation is overt, The Christophers preach a doctrine of religious tolerance and intend their publications to be generally relevant to those of all faiths.” The programs that I watched as a boy always began with a male singer singing, “If everyone lit just one little candle, what a bright world this would be.” Their slogan was “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” It apparently still is, because at their homepage there is a statement announcing “over 65 years of lighting candles.”

Wouldn’t it be wonder if that were the focus of the church as a whole today? The Christophers are a sectarian non-sectarian group. They are Catholic; yet their message is for every man. What a contrast with the Evangelical church and its belching about a “war on Christmas!”

So as we proceed through this “most wonderful time of the year,” (?) take your eyes off that fat bundle of blubber whose entire vocabulary is limited to “Ho ho ho,” or the “babe born in a manger,” and look around you. Pay attention to those around you who are alone or who are estranged from you or whom you have not communicated in months or even years. I remember a wonderful story I heard in a sermon a long time ago. A married couple was driving down a road. The wife remarked to her husband, “Remember, dear, when we used to sit so close to each other in the car?” The husband, who was driving, replied, “Well, Honey, I am not the one who moved!”

So are you the mover or the “movee?” Were you the one who started the argument or the unwilling victim? Is it too late to “snuggle up in the car again?”

According to Lloyd Newell’s meditation, it is never too late. All it takes is for one little gesture. In the meditation, a young aunt made the first simple move. That first move can be many things – an e-mail, a batch of fudge, a phone call on Christmas day. It doesn’t have to cost anything except the willingness to be the one to reach out, and the willingness to embrace the other person. When we cousins got together last September there was much talking and hugging. And let me tell you, those hugs and handclasps were sent from heaven. That first simple gesture you make can be sent from heaven as well.

To paraphrase the theme of the Christopher program: If everyone made just one simple gesture, what a bright world this could be!

Think about it, please.

Have yourselves a blessed day and a wonderful holiday season.

Bill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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December 1, 2012 - Posted by | Miscellaneous, Religion | ,

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