Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

More thoughts on prayer and crafts

As I prepare for my in-laws coming to town, I have been doing small crafts - a birthday card and braided bookmark for my mother-in-law, a little crochet purse for my husband's cousin who is leaving to go back to the midwest. And as I braid, crochet, fold, and glue, I sometimes leave the radio on to have something to think about other than, "okay, now catch the loop, turn..." or the fact that I'd like to pick up a tapestry needle to try naalbinding with.

I remember once visiting a contemplative convent as a girl. The mother superior explained the schedule the sisters followed - from waking up very early, taking exercise in the yard, watching the early morning news to add some more names to the prayers for the troubles of the world, to the long hours in the chapel, either kneeling or prostrate before the altar, taking turns so that the chapel was never empty, the prayers never stopping.

Now, I fully confess that a lot of the time, the most prayerful response I get out of the radio is thinking, "Oh, for heaven's sake, just cut it out already!" But this morning, with the yarn pulling through my fingers, the rainbow forming at the end of my hook, I listened, really listened to the interviews they were doing, with a Lebanese mayor, an Israeli official, and just people on both sides of that border. And I heard pain, I heard both sides need for respect. And I wanted to say, why is it a reporter from America that is getting this from each of you? Why isn't this coming out as you speak to each other? Why are each of you distancing yourselves from the violence that is growing around you, pretending it has nothing to do with you?

And I found myself slipping into prayer, asking what I can do to alleviate this suffering, to bring just a drop of peace to a world rushing headlong into myriad wars. What I can do doesn't feel like nearly enough, but there's an old story about the Baal Shem Tov that speaks to me as I think about "enough" - Once, he had a certain prayer that he said in a certain place while lighting a fire in a certain way, and when he would do this, it brought a little comfort into the world. Well in the next generation, his students had forgotten exactly how he lit the fire, but they prayed the prayer in the same place, and that was enough. Many years later, the exact place was lost, and all they had was the prayer, but they prayed it, and that was enough. Finally, even the exact words of the prayer were forgotten, but we still tell the story, and it is enough.

I am not enough to stop others from taking up rockets and tanks and bombs and guns, but perhaps as we continue to bear witness to peace, and the whole world begins to choke on the blood, others may begin to join the chorus calling for an end.


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