"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves." --Rainer Maria Rilke (©julenisse/Fotolia)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Goodness is Out There if You're Looking...

The following piece of mine appeared in the Huffington Post Religion section on December 6, 2012

8:07 PM – 12/ 6/2012
Preparing My Heart for the Birth of Christ -- An Advent Reflection

I saw firsthand today the goodness in people, which tends to happen if I stop thinking about myself and pay attention. What I saw today was exactly what Jesus would have done and it helped me re-form my Advent intention.

I was walking in the park with my dog, Bella, as we do most days. We passed an old man, sleeping in the grass, which isn’t unusual in our city, where there is a sizable population of homeless people. The man was roused by the beep-beep of a horn as an SUV pulled up along the curb by the park. The two people in the car beckoned the old man to come over. As he approached, the passenger reached out and handed him one of those white, Styrofoam carryout containers, a sizable one, perhaps the only meal the old man would have this day.  And then they drove off, poof, like a couple of superheroes, which they are in my book.

Wow. That, I thought, is an outward and visible sign of pure goodness. I saw humanity in its best possible light. I knew then, that I needed to open my eyes. Open them wider, open them more often, to not only notice, but seek the good, look for kindness in others. That probably means I also need to stop being so annoyed, so personally offended, when someone walks too slowly in front of me on the sidewalk, or leaves their shopping cart in the middle of the grocery aisle, or neglects to pick up their dog doo.

Usually for Advent, I take on a special meditation book—Henri Nouwen’s a favorite—and our family lights the Advent candles at dinnertime. (Although we moved a few months ago and I have no idea where the Advent wreath is at the moment!) Often we have served meals or bought gifts or some other type of charity work. In all honesty, though, I have wondered about my motives. Is this for the poor? For Christ’s sake? Or is it to make myself feel like a hero?

This exercise, though, this noticing, feels like a new and intentional way for me to prepare my heart for the birth of Christ. The internal stuff, the private prayer and meditation, the candle-lighting, is important of course. But if Christianity is really about being in the world, which I believe it is, then what better way to spend my Advent than cultivating an awareness of God’s children in action and, for every good and generous act, giving Him the glory for what I see? 

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