The value of that we can’t see

Immeasurability

Do you remember Barney, the purple dinosaur? Barney and his entourage used to sing a song called, “If you’re happy and you know it…” There were two signs of happiness that followed this preposition, if one was happy. One would stamp their feet and/or cap their hands.

I was watching a YouTube video recently about some African American kids, from San Francisco, who went on a trip to Ghana, in West Africa. Ghana was the first African country to gain its independence (in 1957) from Britain. Its largest city is the capital city of Accra; a bustling metropolis that has many of the urban amenities of any western city. Of course, it still has the traditional African villages, where one steps back a bit in time when visiting. The American kids were quite impressed by the happiness and the attitude of gratitude they witnessed in the village children who had little, in terms of material wealth. This caused many of them to promise that they would have a different attitude about materialism and the fleeting attachment to things. Several of the kids talked about how the children were anxious to be in school daily and seemed satisfied with their life overall.

There’s a reality that many of us in the United States don’t realize, and that is that most of our poor have more materially than many of the poorest people of the world. We in the west tend to measure our level of happiness and well-being by how many material possessions we’ve been able to latch onto. We want the biggest flat screen television, the latest iPhone, a house much too large to hold all the stuff we don’t need. And, once we’ve achieved that prideful level of consumption, we often find ourselves hankering for more, or the latest versions of what we already have. We just don’t seem to able to achieve a sustained level of happiness, satisfaction, contentment that would allow us to stand fast and enjoy ourselves, our families, our friends and all that’s around us.

I’ve come to realize, at this point in my life, that outward manifestations of just how well a person is doing are symptomatic of things we can’t see, touch, smell. When was the last time you saw love, happiness, joy, contentment, satisfaction, or any state of mind that exhibited itself in some degree of euphoria? We can’t measure these emotional states, but we can see their effects on a person’s well-being.

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At this autumnal stage of my life, I often harken back to the days of my childhood, when I lived in dire poverty. Disposable income was not to be had. Subsistence living was the model for all aspects of my family’s earthly existence, but I recall my cousins, uncles, aunts, and all people around me laughing, and seemingly at peace with the little they had. Of course, an enormous number of things in life could have been better, but folk seemed to have had a way of making the best with the worst. Today, when I retrospectively look at those times, I think how there was an imbalance of a healthy mental/emotional state, compared to the paltry physical state in which many people around me existed. That might have been true, but the fact that I’m thinking about those days (with what some might call an inaccurate degree of romanticism) they convince me that life is best enjoyed by having an abundance of things we can’t see, smell, touch, or even quantitatively measure.

Just as I’m now finishing up this bit of musing, I’m reminded of a song Dionne Warwick sang, “What the world needs now is love…” That’s one of those immeasurable commodities that would exhibit great measurable results for us all.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Momma

Mom's hands

Mother’s Day is this coming Sunday, May 12. As I found myself thinking about my mother, who moved on to be with her Lord and Savior July 5 of last year, I went looking for a note I wrote to her back in May 2015. Actually, the note was more to me, since she was well on her way into the deepest, darkest room Alzheimer’s could design for her. At the time I wrote this note, I was spending some precious time with her, giving my sister, the primary caretaker a much needed break.

This note, for some reason, has much more meaning for me now than when I wrote it. I hope you can appreciate the state I was experiencing mentally and emotionally at the time. Here it is:

Momma, as I look at you, I see a foggy image of what you were. At 84, you still possess the natural darkness of hair you had at 48. At 64, I somehow don’t view your years beyond me as old. Momma, I talk with you, but the memory from which you draw topics retrieves points of reference from many years gone by. As you talk about these memories, you paint them with colors as fresh as if they were applied fifteen minutes ago. While your memories of events from fifteen minutes ago are quickly etherealized. Momma, I find myself stretching to be patient and understanding of your lately acquired mental acumen. I listen to the same stories at intervals of minutes that are much too short. You must have done the same for me, in my youth, some time ago.

Momma, when I visit you, you take much more time to prepare yourself for a visit to the house of worship, the place where you still light up as if you were already in heaven. After you’ve cleaned yourself up well, you often consume a lot of time in a search for your purse. We often find it under your bed, where you have placed it for safe keeping, seemingly even from yourself.

Momma, you often get confused; you get angry; you accuse those who love you dearly of doing things we would never do. And then, on good days, the momma of times past surfaces to show love, support, understanding and compassion that we remember with great fondness.

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Momma, I love you just as you are, as you loved and still love us. Your memory has been realigned, but your heart for the last 64 years has been the best momma to me.

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I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Faith: It’s a personal gift

Ebb and flow of faith

One of the things I hold dear to me is my faith. My faith is what exactly? For one thing, it’s based on a being far greater than I; one who’s described in ancient scripture as the creator of all that l can and cannot see. One, who if he decides to withdraw his support from holding all things together, the universe would cease to exist. I often think about this being, this entity that I can in no way truly fathom his state of being. I can only, through faith, believe that he exists, and that he has my best interest at heart. That’s the only way the existence of an all-powerful being can make any sense, to believe that he cares about me as if there was no one else on the planet. And, to believe that he loves everyone the same way.

I think sometimes that the sheer enormity of God’s being is too much for me to understand. In a strange way, it has becomes routinized. I get up each morning without concern for another twenty-four-hour solar cycle, and all the other physical occurrences that mechanically function with the precision that supersedes the workings of the finest Swiss watch. Being a member of a faith community, I often hear what I call “faith speak”: God is good and good all the time; Give God what’s right… not what’s left; A lot of kneeling will keep you in good standing; He who kneels before God can stand before anyone; In the sentence of life, the devil may be a comma, but never let him be the period… Those of us who have been a part of the faith community for some time, have become accustomed to hearing saying like these. They’ve become platitudes of sort, intended to project the depth and width of our faith. However, we hear them so often until they have become platitudinous, seemingly holding insufficient reverence for the celestial landlord of the little blue dot which we occupy. These sayings, oftentimes, seem no weightier than, “have a good day.”

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I often find myself in awe of the one I pay homage to for his work as creator/sustainer. I can’t always find the right words to communicate during personal prayer and meditation. Of course, scripture tells me that I need not worry during these times, because there is a spiritual connection that ensures my true thoughts and feelings are made known, whether I know how to say them or not. It’s that dynamic that makes it clear to me that my faith is more than platitudes. I can’t sum it up in little sayings intended to be truly heartfelt expressions of faith, but somehow sound like factory produced mantras for the masses, who lack appropriate words of their own, as do I.

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My faith is indeed more than platitudes, more than what others might want to offer as a definition for it. It was authored by God and given to me. He has honored me with exercising stewardship of it. I’m not always a good steward of it. I can’t seem to keep in a state continuous linear projection. My faith ebbs and flows; however, it’s mine, given to me by God, and I thank him for it.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.