On Thursday, Henry Freeman, who serves on the board of the Henri Nouwen Society sent out an email and asked us to share it if we’d like. I have been wondering if I should or not. Then I met my neighbor in the alley behind our house and he was beaming. I asked him what he was smiling about, and he said, “I have forgotten how beautiful our neighborhood is.”
JB works two jobs in two separate areas of Los Angeles. If he’s not working, he’s commuting back and forth or sleeping in between shifts. Most of the conversations we have had over the years have been via text – with me often asking if he will return the basketball that always finds its way into his yard every time my kids shoot hoops.
JB’s comment, and really his smile, is a perfect reminder of how much beauty there is in our world, not just in the physical landscapes but also in the people we share this space with. For far too long we have been divided and angry at one another – we’ve pushed people out of our lives because they don’t think or speak or look like we do.
This virus has been a great equalizer, tearing down the walls we’ve built around ourselves. Now we find ourselves shut out from the world. It’s like God or Mother Earth has put us time out. We probably deserve this time out, and most likely we need it. We’ve wasted too much time focusing on ourselves that we have missed the beauty that is right there in front of us. Part of that beauty is connecting authentically with others, learning from our differences and finding solidarity in our suffering. Which is why I have decided to share Mr. Freeman’s email with you. He writes,
Both Mr. Nouwen and Mr. Freeman’s words hit home. Many of us have been in self-isolation long before the corona virus began. And most of us have forgotten how to “be with” ourselves, muchless another person. We fear being authentic, intimate and vulnerable. We can’t let our guard down and let people in, because we have been self-centered for so long that we’ve forgotten how to be hospitable.
So God gives us a time out. A time to stop and see the beauty that is in you and all around you in others. A time to reach out to others whom you miss, or have pushed away. Maybe there is someone you know who is alone, or who you need to make amends with. Maybe you can do something nice for a co-worker or a neighbor that might brighten up their day. I would encourage you to use this time during the pandemic not just to see the beauty around you, but to be a part of that beauty for others to see.
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”