Healing Of All Kinds

Oh, my back and Oh my bones” was a running commentary from a fictional granny in the Ruth Fielding series of books, every time she arose from her chair.  I know the feeling!! A small group of us were in conversation one day, reciting a litany of our ills, and one person laughed and said: “This is an ‘organ’ recital!” We only needed funny music to put on a show involving walkers, canes and medications! I think we share our bodily woes to assure each other that we are not alone in our growing disabilities.  As we laugh and commiserate together, it leads to a healing of our spirits if not our hearts and joints.

It is the 4th of July weekend. This gives politicians a golden opportunity for rhetoric and sounding patriotic. There’s a lot of talk about star-spangled banners, citizenship and forefathers. Flags will be flying everywhere, from government buildings to personal flower pots and porch railings.  There will be parades, speeches, fireworks and festivals.  Hopefully, there will also be gratitude that we live in a country where, in spite of mistakes and injustices, there are many blessings and freedoms not found elsewhere. And because of these blessings, it is our responsibility to work at healing the mistakes and injustices.

Looking back on the history that created July 4th, we know that: “Freedom is a hard-bought thing —- A gift no man can give; For some a way of dying, for most, a way to live.” *   This seems particularly true as we see the Ukraine desperately battling for its independence, as we ponder our struggle over two centuries ago, and as we contemplate the more recent riot-driven attempts to change life as we know it to some contorted and reactionary vision of a few.  History tells us that some heroic struggles seem, against all logic, to require war; others call for responsible action (voting, discussion groups, volunteering) for change, and sometimes, we simply need to be alert to what is happening and hold out a helping hand.  Freedom may mean different things, but it never means the license to be selfish nor does it mean we have the right to either blatantly or subtly, squeeze life, liberty, justice and the pursuit of happiness from others to get what we want.

There are those who, almost proudly, declare “nobody is going to tell me what to do!”   This happened during rationing in each World War and almost always when there’s a crisis.  This is an adolescent, selfish and uncaring response when we are called to do something that inconveniences us but is of benefit to others. We blindly scream about our “rights”, not caring that we are mangling the rights of others. New Hampshire’s slogan of “Don’t Tread On Me” is a two-way street; no one should be treading on anyone else. 

If we are honest, we must admit that there are numerous battered and broken things needing repair—– in addition to our roads and bridges —  Attitudes!!  We are the United States, but right now, the united part is undeniably wobbly. Having lived for nearly eight decades, I have observed a variety of social behaviors. In the last twenty years average behavior has deteriorated, language has “crudified”** and people openly flaunt their disregard for other’s needs and feelings, as though this was a virtue. Suddenly, there seems to be a proliferation of spoiled brats in leadership positions as well as just around town.  Without care, and even, occasionlly, some sacrifice of “rights”, America and its freedoms can vanish, just as did Sparta, Byzantium, Rome, Carthage, etc.  Truly,” Freedom is a hard-bought thing.”  

It is easy to allow frustration and despair to creep into our lives even in this beautiful summer weather. In fact, watching the news can turn us into curmudgeons faster than accumulating birthdays. The antidote to this, not found in a doctor’s office, is remembering the many good people, working hard and doing their best to live out the principles that have kept us together for over 200 years.  I am able to look around at family and friends, and see individuals who are heroic in their own ways; contributing to goodness of the whole.  Small good deeds accumulate and bring healing. Just to mention a few…..One friend is volunteering at vaccine-providing clinics, another is washing a friend’s hair because the friend has a broken arm. Some volunteer to help when food is being given out by our local Pantry, rain or shine. One person stops by a very ill friend’s house to do little tasks like washing dishes, tidying, reading to her and praying with her. One, in retirement, is tutoring youngsters who might well fall through the educational cracks. I like this poem because it calls us to think about the vibrations that go out because of what we do:   

                 

                                                         WHICH ARE YOU?

“I watched them tearing a building down, a gang of men in a busy town.

With a Ho-Heave-Ho and a lusty yell, they swing a beam and the side wall fell.

I asked the foreman: ‘Are these men skilled, and the men you’d hire if you have to build?’

He gave a laugh and said: ‘No, indeed!  Just common labor is all I need.  I can easily wreck in a day or two what the builders have taken a year to do.’

And thought to myself, as I went on my way; which of these roles have I tried to play?

Am I a builder who works with care, measuring life by the rule and square?

Am I shaping my deeds to a well-made plan, patiently doing the best I can?

Or am I a wrecker who walks the town, content with the labor of tearing down?”***

In real life, an “unskilled” laborer does have skills that can be just as important as an architect and both are necessary for their own unique tasks. In this poem they simply provide metaphors for the qualities that make us either builders or wreckers in our behavior and world view.  

It is SO easy to criticize those in leadership positions; I’ve certainly done it!  We seldom think that it is arrogant on our part to make a judgment about a position we’ve never been in; about something we’ve never experienced.  We should certainly be discerning about a person’s leadership qualities and integrity, but to critically micro-manage from afar is rather presumptuous. We recently discussed, in the Friday women’s group, how fine is the line between judging and discernment. It takes far more character — and inner honesty —- to affirm, build and support. This nation (as all nations) has many faults, and to get where we are, we’ve used methods that have not only been tarnished; some have simply been cruel and wrong. But even with our faults, there are few other countries where one has such freedom to be who we choose to be. We can criticize our government without fear of reprisal and can lawfully assemble for everything from concerts to political debates to pinochle games, protests or prayer groups. Our legal system may need help, but at least there is a legal system. Our artists are not thrown in jail and except for a few misled ding-dongs, our books are not censored and burned.  

There are specific laws against inciting riots which some might consider an infringement on freedom of speech. However, riots stem from selfishness, anger, destruction, and blind stupidity with a total disregard for the rights of others. There is never a good reason for a riot; rioters don’t care about the innocent; they just want to destroy.  And senseless destruction is how a nation can vanish in the wind.

As we celebrate this 4th of July, if we are to overcome the virus of selfishness, greed, lack of awareness and — to quote my father —- sheer blockheadedness, we need to think things through.  We all have biases that restrict fair thinking and we all avoid — even oppose — changes that make us uncomfortable, fearing what we don’t understand. We all have some very human frailties. But if we are stuck in resentment and focused on only what we do not like, there’s no room for gratitude for all we have that is good.  It might help to remember that as builders, “we are {should be} all fixing what is broken.  It is the task of a lifetime.” **** 

I recently attended my school’s Alumni Banquet. My class graduated around 60 people; I believe the 2022 class numbered 363; big change. By some miracle, my unreliable brain even recalled the Alma Mater as soon as we began singing it, and I found myself superimposing 1960 faces on the 2022 faces around our class table. I know the core within each of my classmates is just as young as it ever was — although hopefully, we all have a little more wisdom.   My awareness of how important our schools are in our communities was re-kindled; how very much we should be supporting them, volunteering in them, mentoring kids, and affirming teachers as they try to turn out educated, compassionate young people who understand our history and who think ahead; people who will be healers. “Not gold but only man can make a people great and strong; Men who, for truth and honor’s sake, stand fast and suffer long.  Brave men who work while others sleep, who dare while others flee —-they build a nation’s pillars deep and lift them to the sky.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson*****  

Happy 4th of July!!!

Carol Bossard writes from her home in Spencer. She may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net.

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*Jessamyn West—American Author of short stories and novels — most famous being “Friendly Persuasion”.  This quotation is from the poem, “Song of the Settlers”.  1902-1984.

**A new word invented by me!!  You won’t find it anywhere else.  😊 

***Poem found in an old book; author unknown but obviously very wise.

****Abraham Verghese from Cutting For Stone.  He is an American doctor of internal medicine at Stanford Medical center, and a writer.

*****Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Quotation is from essay, “A Nation’s Strength”.   Emerson was a philosopher, writer of essays and poetry and a graduate of the Harvard Divinity School.    1803-1882