“I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

Edward Everett Hale

Monday, 26 June 2017

Every Picture Tells A Story

A friend of mine shared the picture below on Facebook:

And my mind instantly interpreted it as the front bean hugging the rest. Then I looked again, and perhaps it is trying to hold the rest back, or to protect them from whatever is behind it. Or has just jumped from on high, and landed on them, squashing them flat. It is amazing how the human mind can interpret pictures in so many different ways. Hugging? Crowd control? Protective parent? Flattener? This little bean could be anything!

It made me wonder how often we judge situations in an instant, rather than standing back and taking a "long, loving look at the real". Every time we see something, or hear something, our mind jumps to an instant conclusion, which is very often wrong.

I am grateful to my friend, who was only sharing her garden's produce, for the reminder, to look at least twice, before jumping to conclusions.

Friday, 23 June 2017

The Next Right Thing

It's a funny old thing, life. Every morning we get up, wash, eat breakfast, and then face the day ahead. But how often do we actually appreciate each day, moment by moment? And how do the choices we make, moment by moment, affect how our days go?

Wayne Muller, in his wonderful book A Life of Being, Having and Doing Enough, asks: "What is the next right thing for us to do? Where in this moment, shall we choose to place our time and attention? Do we stay or move, speak or keep silent, attend to this person, that task, move in this or that direction?"

I don't know about you, but to me, this seems to be such a simple approach to life, much less stressful than being worried about a thousand possible alternatives. You just concentrate on the Next Right Thing - give that your time and attention, and then go on to the next one.

But I'm very conscious that "simple" does not mean the same thing as "easy". This moment by moment approach to our lives *is* elegantly beautiful in its simplicity, but it is by no means easy to do. Because it means that we have to be conscious, awake, moment by moment, so that we make our many small choices with awareness, rather than blindly, depending on how we are feeling at the time. Actively considering each choice, moment by moment, actually sounds quite like hard work.

But it is the most important work in the world.

Because if we look at our lives, really examine them, we can see that they *are* the result of all the choices we have made, in the past days and months and years. It is a gradual, moment by moment process, yet the results of it have shaped our lives. All of us are where we are now, today, because of our past choices. And where we end up, tomorrow and the next day, will depend on the choices we make today.

Samuel A. Trumbore wrote: "Each moment of wakefulness has so many gifts that offer energy and delight. Yet too often they seem unavailable, as the weight of our troubles press down on us ... Even in moments of great danger, the direction of attention is a choice. Fear can dominate the mind, binding it like a straitjacket. Or love can unbind it, and open it to resource and opportunity. ... Holding reality and possibility together is the holy, hope-filled work of humanity."

May we all choose love, may we all choose to follow the Next Right Thing.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

The Gift of Laughter

I have been feeling quite sad just lately. Two important parts of my life are coming to an end (which is right and good, but still makes me sad) and my prevailing mood has been one of gentle melancholy, which has made normal functioning feel like pushing a rock uphill. I've kept on keeping on, but it has been an effort.

So this evening, I took Terry Pratchett's wonderful book 'A Slip of the Keyboard' off the shelves. It is a posthumous collection of his non-fiction pieces, and is full of gems. I was reading it with quiet amusement, chuckling to myself occasionally - he writes so beautifully, on a wide variety of topics.

Then came a sentence which made me laugh so much that the tears were rolling down my cheeks: "That was because we realized that the Race for Space had been a mad bout of international willie-waving."

I am giggling again as I type - it is possibly the best description of international power politics that I have ever come across. It took several minutes for me to control my mirth sufficiently to explain to my bemused husband what was so funny.

But since then, I have felt so much better, so much lighter. Truly, a good laugh restores the soul. Thank God. And thank Terry.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Embracing Equality

I have been watching the new BBC3 series Queer Britain with fascination. I have many LGBT friends, who are just that - my friends - simply because I like them as unique individuals.

But the topics which each of the programmes have covered - faith, body image, homelessness, and ethnicity, have never been so clearly defined for me within the LGBT context. So I have learned much, and have new insights about what it means to be an LGBT person in the UK today.

Some of the stories have been heartbreaking - it seems that discrimination in all its nasty forms is alive and well, not only among heterosexuals, but also within the LGBT community. The issues of body image and race have great potency - one black lesbian woman commented sadly on the latest programme: "I feel like a triple minority - black, lesbian, and female."

And I thought: "Sh*t! She's right - I get that." Because as a straight, white woman, I am only too aware that I shelter behind two bastions of often unconscious privilege, but can understand from the inside what discrimination against women looks like. And can understand what having body image issues feels like, although I had not formerly appreciated their particular significance for many LGBT folk.

Ultimately this is all about judging people by how they identify themselves or how we identify them - by what they look like, how they dress, the colour of their skin, their age, and their sexual orientation. Whenever we judge people by what they *are*, rather than for their behaviour, we are guilty of being non-inclusive, on the grounds of gender, sexual orientation, skin colour, age, size and [dis]ability, to name the most common nasty behaviours. Which seem to be all to prevalent in UK society today, no matter what we look like or whom we are attracted to.

Why do we do this to ourselves, to each other? We are all human beings, each one unique, each one worthy of love and justice and respect, each one with unique gifts to offer. As my friend Yvonne remarked when I shared this post with her: "everyone is an unique combination of beauty and diversity, and we should celebrate that. And each form of oppression of that beauty and diversity is different, with its own distinct history which is different in different places, which is why we need feminism, and LGBT liberation, and Black liberation, and the disability rights campaign, ... rather than a single munged-together "human" campaign."

We need to be aware of ourselves and each other as "unique combinations of beauty and diversity" and to respect and appreciate the struggles that each of us goes through to be recognised as such.