The Art of Going
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive” – Howard Thurman.
When I was young, a blizzard buried our small town in Maine. The high winds moved the snow around like a white hurricane causing six-foot snow drifts; burying houses and cars and fences and fields. Big wet flakes descended in sideway spirals, tree tops weighed heavily upon the ground as if curtseying, and power lines did a reverse rainbow. The Public Broadcast System called it a “white-out,” and warned everyone to stay inside.
This morning, the house was colder than I’d felt it in a while. My bedroom didn’t have heat (none of the bedrooms ever did) and it was especially frigid. I jumped out of bed and ran to my brother’s crib. He was standing up gnawing on the railing. I sat on the couch blowing into my hands to warm his fingers and toes, and watched with expectation as my older sister fiddled with the kerosene heater, and when I didn’t see the red glow of fire, I knew it was out of fuel.
When Mother heard the kerosene can was empty, she hissed and sighed, and traipsed down the hall, throwing on her jacket and boots. She grabbed the car keys off the hook and swung open the front door, only to be met by a wall of snow that had drifted overnight. My older sister chuckled and tossed Mother the broom. We watched with amusement as she beat the drift like a dusty carpet or a piñata until a body-sized hole appeared. From the couch, I could hear the car sputter, and cut off; sputter, and cut off.
When the car wouldn’t start, Mother marched inside and straightway down the hall. I wondered what she was doing as she weaved in and out of the stacks of tittering flea market boxes, bags of hand-me-downs, plastic crates filled with books, and miscellaneous wot-nots that cluttered the narrow hallway. “Aha,” she said, as she retrieved the Ryder sled in the back corner. Her cheeks were red and blotchy, and she flinched when removing her gloves. “Get my electric blanket and plug it in behind the divan,” she instructed, “Keep your brother warm till I get back.”
“I’m going with you,” I said, bouncing up, and handing my brother off.
“No,” Mother said, “you’ll freeze to death. Wind chills below zero.”
“I don’t care. I’m not letting you go alone,” I said, throwing on my snowsuit and winter gear.
Tom’s Convenience Store was a three-mile trek on a good day with some considerably large hills. Without further delay, we stepped out into the blizzard with the sled and empty kerosene can.
Mailbox by mailbox, we slugged along in the blinding snow and against the brisk wind that like to have pushed us backwards. My inner canals throbbed and my cheeks became numb, but I tucked my chin in my neck, licked the snot funneling from my nose, and kept going.
Nearly two hours passed before we made it to Main Street in Canaan. We passed the antique shop on the corner, a water wheel, a 30-foot rocket ship, the Purple Cow restaurant, and the volunteer fire department. My heart leapt when I spotted the kerosene pump, and Tom’s flashing sign. With lethargic and non-cooperating strides, we made our way up the street.
Inside the store, I wanted to kiss the floor, but I held a warm cup of cocoa instead…
Go to Yourself
“Twenty-years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover” Mark Twain wrote.
A rabbi said, “There are sparks of holiness scattered throughout creation. Our purpose is to find and extract them.” Sound strange? No, not really, children do this naturally, like when they collect fire flies in mason jars to watch them twinkle in the darkness. It’s no coincidence that Jesus wants us to become as a little child.
In Genesis 12:1, the Lord tells Abraham to get thee out of thy country, and away from thy family, and out of thy father’s house. Most English translations use the words “get thee out,” but according to Rabbi Lubavitch the correct translation from the Hebrew would be, “Go to yourself.”
The word “Going” in the Torah (or the first five books of the Bible) has the connotation of moving towards one’s purpose. Go to yourself, meaning towards your soul’s essence and your ultimate purpose for which you were created. It’s the finding and extracting the sparks that lead us to our true self.
When I was a junior in high school, I was elected to attend Dirigo Girl’s State. It was a summer event where all the female delegates gathered at the University of Maine in Orono, and reenacted town, county, and state government. The girls were divided into two counties—Courage and Honesty.
For two-weeks, we lobbied, made posters, rallied, and campaigned. I can’t recall which party I was, but I do remember having to wear a bed sheet as a toga…ugh! After one of the evening rallies, I noticed a group of girls huddled to the right side of the auditorium, so I made my way over. There was a girl sitting down, and I could see she was crying. Other girls stood around her. “What’s wrong?” I asked.
“She was raped,” a girl said, “she’s talking about suicide.”
Instantly, I was compelled to approach her. I pushed through the huddle and sat down. “Me too!” I said to her, “I was raped.”
“You were?” she cried.
“Yes, I was, but if I can overcome, so can you!” I put my arm around her and consoled her. In that moment, I extracted a spark in order to bring light into a dark place.
Furthermore, I’m reminded of a parable that’s not in the Bible. It’s about a woman whose child dies. She wraps her dead son’s body in a cloth, and then wraps him around her body. The grieving woman goes in search of someone that could bring her son back to life. She goes to the witch doctor and faith healers, but no one could help her. Finally, a tribal elder said, “There’s a holy man high up in the mountain’s, he might be able to help.” Three days later she finds the man, knocks on his door, and says, “Please, give me back my son!” He takes pity on her and says, “I can help, but I’m going to need a potion. This potion requires the ingredient of a mustard seed. Not just any mustard seed, but this seed must come from a house that has not been touched by the Black Sun of Death as you have been touched.” The mother went into the village, and from house-to-house, but wasn’t able to find one house that had not been touched by darkness, death, or suffering. And as she hears the stories of suffering, she is able to come to grips with her own loss, until she is finally able to bury her son in the earth.
Recently, I started a blog. You may be wondering why, since there are so many blogs in the world already? Because I felt compelled to. Because it’s my way of finding and extracting the sparks in creation in order to be a light in the darkness. In this pursuit, I’ve been going house-to-house with business cards that have my blog information on them, and I’ve been asking people to subscribe. It’s hot, exhausting, sweaty, difficult, and rewarding. You might be thinking, “that’s just plum crazy!” It might be, but I’ve found “the thing” that makes me come alive.
Nevertheless, in going door-to-door, I’ve made some wonderful new friends, who have shared with me their stories of loss, and suffering, and pain; like Ms. Mamie, who is 89 years old and lives alone. She shared with me that her best friend died the day before. We cried and prayed together, and most importantly, I’ve gone back to visit with her and brought my dog, Truitt. This is a bright spot in her day. Ms. Mamie lights up when she sees us.
Finally, despite popular opinion, God doesn't want perfection, He wants progression!
Just ask Terah.
Long before God called Abraham, he called his father, Terah, to go into Canaan. Terah started to go, but settled in an in-between place called, Haran. Abraham's journey wasn't perfect, but it was complete! Don't you settle! Get out of the in-between and go follow your passion! Why? because your passion is your purpose! Keep in mind that God isn't expecting perfection from you either! There are sparks of holiness in the elements of creation that only you can find and extract. It's never to late to start moving toward your soul’s essence and the ultimate purpose for which you were created, but why wait another day?
Moreover, I'm reminded of the verse that says, "Whom will I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me." The best way to get unstuck is to just get going. So if you've been stuck in a rut and haven't extracted a spark in a while; remember mailbox by mailbox will get you there, so grab the sled, get the gas can, pick up the paint brush, dust off the piano, start the book, compose the music, go house-to-house, share your testimony, but whatever you do just get going today, so that twenty-years from now you are not disappointed in the things that you didn't do!
I Am M.O.R.E than a conqueror…and you can be too!