Traveling, being away from home, when terrible things happen is always disconcerting. Not being able to reach out to your steady friends and family, to have the grounding of what is familiar, shakes a person in ways that at other times can be processed in a more metered way. Being far from home, hearing the news of the horrific events in Las Vegas from a stranger whose voice and inflection sounded so unlike your own, gives a jolt that messes with all your vulnerable edges. It always seems to me that it is easier to be with tragedy when you are in a place whose fabric you know like the back of your hand. Maybe others experience this differently but this is true for me and it always surprises me the degree to which I am unnerved.
Hearing this news as I did, in such a lovely and peaceful place as the island of Iona, also caused me to begin to reflect on something quite different. I began to notice, not what is wrong in the world but what is right. I didn’t do this to deny or minimize the horrible, the violent, the incredibly sad events. I did it because I was also being confronted moment after moment by kindness, beauty, wisdom and deep acts of faith. I began to notice what holds a greater truth that can sometimes get hidden in the chaos and ugliness we have been experiencing lately.
Looking all around me, I saw the brilliant green of a landscape that knows at least a little rain nearly every day. It seems, because people expect this gift from the sky, most are prepared and do not complain or dread its arrival. They see it as the necessary companion of green fields, rolling valleys and rainbows. Having been blessed with an abundance of rainbows over the last days, another thing that is right in the world is that it seems nearly impossible to tire of seeing them. Rainbows are “awe” inspiring…and awe is always right and good. Most of us could do with more awe.
Nearly every day I have eaten food that came from within a few miles of where I sat down at a table. Gardens grown by those who likely also cooked vegetables recently clinging dirt and fish pulled from the sea by fishermen in small boats whose livelihood has likely been passed down for generations makes for a just and sustainable community. The food was not only fresh but inventive and artful on the plate that carried not only nutrition but pride. If I was inclined, as some are, to take photos of their food, I would have a camera full of meals.
What has been ‘right’ with people I have met? To a person, nearly all have been kind and helpful. Many have offered an empathetic word for what has been happening in our country from hurricanes to violent tragedy. Some have offered prayers on our behalf. None have dispensed judgment or been disrespectful. Conversations have been thoughtful and questions open. Last night our young waiter told us of his university work as a student of geography and disaster control and relief. He spoke of volcanoes, hurricanes and floods and their impact…I felt confident in a future for our world in the guidance of hands like his. All right and good.
Outside our windows, from rooms, trains and buses, sheep grazed offering their Zen master calm and presence in the moment. Cows linger near by sheep and they coexist with peace and harmony sharing the grass that helps make the rich milk and cheese we have enjoyed. Overhead birds swoop and dive, occasionally landing on the head of a sheep to eat insects off the sheep’s head. What an arrangement!
Last night we walked streets that were lined with buildings built in 1400 and 1500 and the wall that rings the city of Chester claims its origins in 70 A.D. These stones have seen much of the pain and anguish that humans can ladle upon one another. And yet they stand tall and continue to also be at the ready to welcome visitors and strangers. Inside one of them we could see a group of women of varying ages gathered around a table piecing together what appeared to be a quilt. Learners and teachers around a common lesson…throughout time this has been true.
The headlines are harsh and we need pay attention to them. We need offer our hearts to those who have lost loved ones and work to corral the love of guns that provide tools for such violence. And from blended knees in prayer and behind computer screens, at work and play, and in places of worship, we would do well also to remember all that is right in the world. In that remembering, may our gratitude be great and our resolve to continue to create more of what is right for the healing of the world.