One of my favorite hymns, A Rose in the Winter Time, is also one of the first hymns I learned. It was, in lyric and song, what represented Unitarian Universalism to me: “And I’ll bring you hope, when hope is hard to find. And I’ll bring a song of love, and a rose in the wintertime.” I never knew who the “I” was in this hymn. Was it me who was to bring the hope? Was it the person singing alongside me who would bring hope to me? Was there some (capital B) Being out there whose actions I sang of? Maybe it was the song of the earth and the promise of things alive in the deaths of winter.
Perhaps it is parenthood, or adulthood, or, like I believe it to be, personhood, but it continues to become harder to feel the world and not want to cry out “Who is I?” and look around hoping with hope that someone or something appears. The trial has begun against the officers charged with Freddie Grey’s death. Laquan McDonald’s shooting death has played over and over on every news channel without warning or suggestion that some hearts may not be able to handle seeing the death of a teen on their screen. My CNN app continues to ping as the death toll rises in California as an active shooter finds himself in a facility that assists adults with developmental disabilities. Planned Parenthood says it will not close its doors though the nation mourns the deaths of those recently lost in a similar attack. Who is I?
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel has taught me many times about the bold and quiet promise of hope; hope that is active (rather than the passivity of optimism) in the midst of fear and despair. This man who walked alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, he spoke of this time as “praying with his feet.” Reflecting on this later he said it was a practice in “radical amazement.”
Today and in the weeks to come I will practice “radical amazement” by looking not only to the harsh and heartsick realities of this world, but also to the places where there is good, where there is life, and where there is intentionality to make the good and the life tangible and felt.
I will not only practice “radical amazement” I will be the good and the life by being that intentionality and as such, pray with my feet.
I will recall the words of none other than Mr. Rogers who reminds us, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news,” he said, “my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
I will sing. I will listen to who is singing. I will look for color among the dead and dying things. I will read the psalms and lamentations. I will write my own.
It was Heschel who also said, “The opposite of good is not evil – it is indifference.” Today I invite you to feel the world. Feel its ugliness and its heartache. Cry alongside the mourning. Be the mourning. And then stand and pray, whatever that means for you, and walk. Don’t translate. Don’t extrapolate or argue or explain. Just stand and pray, whatever that means for you, and choose radical amazement rather than radical terror. Choose leaning in rather than disconnection and protection. Look hard at your computer screen and your TV screen and your newspaper paragraphs and look for the helpers. See them. Name them. Add them to your prayer on your feet. And then sing. For you are the “I”. And I am the “I”. And we are the “I”. And there are those who sing this offering in places we’ve yet to know. Look for them. Hear them. Prepare your vases for the roses.