Grace in Community

Those of you who know me personally know that I should have stock in some tissue company because it takes so little to bring tears to my eyes.  While there have been days in my life I have cried because I was angry and days I have cried because I was sad, the past year and a half or so, I have most cried for two reasons. One is when my body has been in pain, which fortunately has not been very often.  The other, is that my cup is overflowing with experiencing the Creator’s love. One of the situations which always leaves me feeling humbled is when I am blessed with the experience of grace in community.

It is that kind of moment like January 1, 2000. It seemed like that day everyone was in love with each other.  It was as if we got the idea behind The New Seekers song that said I want to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. It seemed as if on that day, people talked to each other and treated each other with dignity and respect. For some reason that day, we forgot to treat each other like strangers. I remember people who never spoke to me being loving and kind.  It was one of those moments when I witnessed people acting together as one body.

There is this Buddhist teaching which talks about how if Buddha ever returns he will not come back as a person, but as a community.  There is something powerful about community when it is formed with an intention of being love.  You can be sitting at a table of strangers, but when love is present, you recognize each other as being part of the same human family. There is grace in community.

Perhaps that is why so many of us were taught the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  I have come to understand this Golden Rule in slightly different terms.  I have come to realize that what I do to others, how I treat others, how I speak to others, is a reflection of how I interact with myself. If I treat others in love, then I am treating myself in love. If I speak in love to others, then I am also speaking love to myself. If I interact in love with others, then I am also interacting in love with myself. Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Because I want this world to be more loving and peaceful and to sing in perfect harmony, this is what I am intentional about doing in my own life.

It is one thing to know that the ability to experience grace in community is possible in theory. It is a humbling experience when you get to experience it in reality.  May 22nd was one of those moments in time for me. As many of you know, the last decade my body has undergone a number of changes and it has been a few years since I have been able to climb A stair, never mind more then one. For me climbing one stair has been as challenging as someone else climbing a mountain. I have been working on reinventing my body, as Deepak Chopra would say, to enable me to walk to my mailbox and back. While this may not seem like a huge accomplishment for most people, it is for me.

I do not let my body keep me from doing things I want to do.  I am one who perseveres and presses on.  On May 22nd, I arrived at a facility I was told had a wheelchair accessible ramp that I would be able to walk up to enter the building.  I was confident I would be able to walk the 100 feet or so from the parking spot to the inside of the building. Then I arrived and there was not an accessible ramp and I found myself looking at this mountain of stairs.  For me, a mountain is 5 stairs.  I could feel the fear building up inside me for a moment as I wondered how I was going to get in this non-accessible building. Then I began to feel the love of those around me. People who knew me and those who did not circled around and offered their love and support.  Their love spiritually and physically lifted me as I climbed those five stairs.

My body was so grateful to reach the top and sit down. While my body was still wondering what it had just done, my heart was overflowing with the love which had lifted me up. The night was filled with moments of love and grace. However, it was coming down those same stairs at the end of the night which I remember the most. As I clung to the railing, people surrounded me physically and spiritually and let me know when I was solidly planted on each step. Most people know when they are on solid ground, but with no feeling in my right leg, I never know when my foot is solidly on the step. Each step is literally an act of faith. It was the love and support of the community I was with that evening that allowed me to ascend and descend these stairs and make it safely to my car.

To some it might not seem like a significant event, people get in and out of cars and go up and down stairs all the time.  For me, it was one of those moments that allowed me to experience grace in community, the transformative power of the Creator’s love, and to know that when we choose to we can learn to sing in perfect harmony as a world. To those who shared their love with me that evening, thank you.