A new month has arrived, and vestiges of summer are giving way to gentle nudges of an approaching fall season. Summer doldrums no longer give us an excuse to be lazy in the heat of the day. Neglected overgrowth in what was once a promising garden, and unattended building repairs and improvements around our small farm are haunting reminders that other things, outside our realm, have too easily become a priority. Or maybe it’s the undisguised truth that we’re getting older and tackling tasks requiring physical exertion and endurance are no longer the “one day projects” we once imagined them to be. I conveniently blame the absence of a working mower, the pre-occupation of my partner with “more important work” behind a computer, phone, or weed-whacker to move his non-profit forward, as well as a part-time job requiring my absence several hours a week—– all reasons why a list of “to-do’s” hasn’t yet gotten done.
Add to this trying to do the “right thing” by visiting aging parents recovering from injury or showing an interest in the needs of grown children, as parents are compelled to do, and it’s no wonder the question comes up: Have we expanded our circle of concerns too far beyond home? And are we taking care within our own realm, or over-extending ourselves, resulting in sloppy domestic policies? I imagine, on a global scale, this is also the question diplomats and representatives are asking.
For a few weeks now I’ve been the listening ear to a host of riders on their way to various medical appointments. Being assigned a van with a broken radio has had its benefits, making listening and conversing with clients, one on one, a necessity during long drives to and from their destinations. I’ve been careful not to pry, but it’s amazed me how freely most have shared their life histories, or volunteered information and community histories some might consider too personal to trust with a virtual stranger. I would hope I’m not the only one to welcome their stories with a deliberate sense of respect and confidentiality, partly because my job requires it, but more often because I’m realizing: Everyone has a story to tell…..and everyone, at least in America, is entitled to “tell it like it is or was”, from their own vantage point. One of many reasons I aspire to communicate through writings.
I’ve also learned I‘m not so different from them in my inherent focus on observation, analysis, and commentary…..or silence. But one thing is clear: taking care of the things that concern us, within our own personal space or community, is common to us all. (Someday I intend to compile their stories in a book entitled: Conversations in Transit , but until I gain a little more distance from their characters and concerns, I’ll return my focus to writing about what concerns me, in a realm that might seem small to some, but registers on the “critical care” barometer for me.)
As some of you may know, I am a horse lover. Now, particularly, a very special horse, whose given name is Lady Latte. (Someone else had the brilliant idea to name her after a favorite beverage—also something I consider a staple food item: coffee and milk, sweetened with honey to be precise). She is now 3 months pregnant with a very special foal we’ll simply call a futuristic “black runner”. (Google this if you’re not sure what I mean.) Every stride she takes, every move she makes, every silhouette she creates are magical to me. I confess, she comes as close to an idol as anything I’ve ever cared about in my half century life……after four young adult children, now taking flight! So, needless to say, if she seems content, I am content. If she is hurting, I feel it and want to do whatever I can to make it better.
This has been a season for the renaissance of a care-giving spirit, who has nudged me like my mare when she wants attention, eagerly soaking it all in when I yield to its call. For three days now I’ve been nursing an invisible abscess causing an area between the sole of her foot and indentation below her fetlock to be feverish. Seeing her limp across a field, lifting her right leg gingerly as she came to my call, strikes at the heart of my “rise and walk” prayers for her, or any hurting animal in God’s creation.
But there are also related projects and concerns that need attention, if the spirit of care-giving is to be granted a place to inhabit and abide. Stall walls need to be scrubbed and sealed, the corral and open stall need to be scraped and refilled with hardening gravel and crushed limetstone, sides of the stall need to be partially enclosed, and cement pads for the front of the tack room door and to support a heated water trough need to be poured, and fields need to be reseeded—-all before late fall and winter’s arrival. I KNOW what to do, but feel limited in my power to ACCOMPLISH all of this on my own. I realize every day my dependence on others to help is without question. How to get them involved is the challenge. The amount of loyalty I can buy is limited. So I must somehow engage a sense of destiny, belief in a dream, and an invisible promise of favor as the plan unfolds. Visions need hands, arms, feet, and legs, as well as thoughts and prayers, to succeed.
When time is of the essence, and windows of opportunity are fleeting, it’s tempting to push past and cast aside those who drag their feet, procrastinate, or decide for their own reasons NOT to participate in a plan intended to accomplish goals. The dilema is not a matter of “mine is better than yours”, but how to have mutual respect and co-exist in our shared domestic realm, without discouraging the greater good that might be gained from community involvement in any project whose scope and influence go beyond our personal borders.
I wonder if it’s possible that our visions/missions/focus could somehow be mutually beneficial, instead of exclusive and divisive. I pray for guidance to somehow be supportive of others’ “raison d’etre”, as well as true to my own sense of urgency and mission-mindedness when it comes to investing heart and soul in projects with a purpose. It seems to me that if we take care of the things within our immediate realm, we will be better prepared to deal with the powers and forces coming at us from the outside to discourage and block the flow of what is good, right, true, and of good report.
“Taking care within our realm” means unapologetically doing what we are called to do, thereby providing examples within our spheres of influence that will break down dividing walls of hostility, and give us all a greater hope in things to come. Stories need to be told, but first, testimonies of redemption and overcoming the odds need to be lived.