Periodically something will happen to remind me to be grateful for all the work that others do. Work that seems impossible to me. Work that scares me and fills me with an admiration and awe that fills my whole chest till I think it will explode. At these moments I am reminded of the ways in which we are all given gifts and not one of us has all the gifts it takes to live out any day, any year, any life. We are beholden to those around us to pick up the slack and to do things that need to be done. There is great freedom in this….even for those us who have like Anne Lamott….’tiny, control issues’.
These realizations came flying over my head last week while I was visiting one of our dear ones at a local hospital. Having made my way through the twists and turns of the hospital hallways, those mazes that can send any sane person running for the nearest door, any door, I found myself outside once again breathing in the fresh air, thankful to be outside and headed toward my car. At that moment of relief, I heard overhead a loud, thumping, chopping sound and looked up to see the emergency helicopter. I watched as, slowly, this enormous, flying machine hovered, seeming almost to stop in the blue, summery sky. It inched down, down, over, over, until it landed gently on a proportionately tiny piece of the hospital’s roof. It seemed impossible to me! How could any human do this? And how could any human be calm enough to land this huge hunk of metal while also carrying the cargo that was undoubtably someone in severe need of medical help? I said a prayer for those inside and those waiting to receive them.
Getting in my car, I thought of that helicopter pilot and was thankful for their gifts and training, something so beyond my abilities or imagination. Then I thought of all those others whose work seems impossible to me……sky scraper window washers….surgeons….deep sea divers….astronauts…..jack hammer operators….semi-truck drivers. And then there are the others whose work brush my life every day and whose skills and gifts are so different than my own and who make my life easier, more enjoyable….the cashiers….highway construction workers…coffee baristas..cooks and wait staff….mechanics…receptionists….the faceless person who delivers my newspaper in the dark hours of the morning. I gave thanks for all those whose gifts and work I so often take for granted and reminded myself how intricately woven together we are.
In the Christian scriptures the apostle Paul reminds us that we are each given gifts and skills to offer to one another and the world. These gifts are sometimes visible early in our lives. Other times they emerge or are honed through education, training and diligent practice. Often we are surprised by the gifts that can emerge in us and can find ourselves denying their presence, maybe frightened of what naming and claiming them might mean. But the truth of the matter is that the gifts and talents, the skills and training we discover is our passport to being a human in community. How we are able to act on and offer those gifts makes for a rich tapestry of life.
Every day we are beholden to countless people. Some we are aware of and others stand at the margins and in the shadows. Today might be a good day to begin paying attention to all the gifts that show up in each day, ways in which the offerings of others brush your life. Starting with the food on our plates is always a good place….what and whose gifts made breakfast, lunch and dinner possible? Imagining all the hands and lives that went into any meal can be a staggeringly humble experience. Taking the time to say blessing over the planters, the producers, the harvesters and the haulers can stretch a meal time by many minutes, even hours.
Once the meal is over, we could turn our hearts and minds to all the others whose gifts are offered each day. Before we know it the day is filled with blessing for all to whom we are beholden. And we can’t forget the helicopter pilot……