Sometimes people respond to what my co-workers and I do* with wide eyes and statements such as, “that must be so rewarding” or a simple but heartfelt “WOAH.” I am equally appreciative for and made uneasy by such responses. I appreciate them because yes, the work we do is very rewarding (and tiring, and entirely too rare). I am sometimes a bit uneasy when people respond in such a manner because I don’t want to see things in a binary way, as though I have meaning and fulfillment and am part of something amazing when “on the clock” and then am just passing through the rest of the time, surrounded by mediocre but nice enough family and friends.
No, it’s all rewarding, all a joy, and all worth paying attention to. Thích Nhất Hạnh says that the things we often overlook are, in fact, miracles. I’ll buy that. Saturday afternoon I spent some time with my brother and his family. The highlight of this quick trip was my time with my nephew Matthieu, a drooling bundle of joy who will be walking any day now.
It’s easy to look at my nephew and want to snuggle up to him and call him a blessing; a miracle. He’s blameless. He’s helpless. Not everyone is so easy to give another look or look at more closely. As I close my eyes I can quickly think of some people in my life who I need to look at with precisely such lenses of grace: The older lady I encounter every now and then who for no apparent reason suddenly wants nothing to do with me although we used to be quite close, which hurts, the young men who frequent the place where I work whom I walk by as quickly as possible because they say degrading things about women that make me not want to speak to them, nevermind extend relationship to them, and even my neighbor who walks her cat around the neighborhood in a stroller.
All of these are walking, talking, miracles. They are all as beautiful as my nephew. It is for me to recognize that; not for them to prove it to me.
“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh
*If you’re relatively new to my story, I am an associate pastor in Raleigh, NC to a congregation of folks primarily made up of people experiencing homelessness. I work with some amazing people, without whom I would be lost.