This post originally appeared as a weekly column in The Finger Lakes Times (NY). It can be read by following this link as well: http://www.fltimes.com/opinion/denim-spirit-small-acts-of-love-loom-large/article_6194c526-e8ac-11e6-8046-370d0012b617.html
In these days of outrage, love still blooms.
Even as the reputed racist and anti-Semite Steve Bannon replaces the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the circle of national security, someone wants to coo in your ear that you are special. It is a whisper that you, yes you, are beloved.
The new President signed an order that instigated chaos at airports around the world. It violated our Constitution and longstanding tradition of welcome, and also gave those predisposed to dislike us anyway, another reason to see the United States as a renegade hostile world power. Even so, and still, you need to tell that someone you love, that he or she lines the trellis of your heart with blossoms of affection and joy.
It is true that healthcare for twenty million people is hanging by a wire above a dark void. It is held there with cruelty by a Republican majority of legislators, who have proven over and over and over again to be guided by either malevolent hearts or harebrained ideology that leads to disaster for most and riches for few. Nonetheless, beneath and within the outrage, we need to breathe slowly and see the small swatches of beauty budding in acts of kindness between strangers.
While I am a (large) white, Anglo-Saxon, Christian, heterosexual, middleclass male, and so one of the less vulnerable among us, these days of outrage shake my faith and rattle my persistently hopeful theology. Still, like you, I need to pause and look at the ones I love. I need to see the warm shades of humanity in the iris of their eyes. I need to feel the warm softness of their skin. I need to stand within the radiance of their body’s energy, feel their chi circulating, and even reaching out to touch mine.
As ugliness imbues the institutions of government, even more do we need to look strangers in the eye, open the windows of our soul, and make them strangers no more. One at a time an acquaintance becomes a friend, building relational allies that buttress us against official rhetoric espousing fear and prejudice. Thus, our hearts remain open even as officials and their policies snarl hatefully around us.
In this devastatingly gray winter, a burst of sun from between the clouds ignites relief and evokes the pleasure of a random deep breath. In the dark, the smallest flicker from the littlest candle sheds enough light to show the way. Touching and being touched by those we love restores us in times like these. Soft words, whispered or gently intoned, conveying fondness to someone we like, buoys them and us as we swim toward hope. Simple, unexpected, even nonverbal acts of kindness energize the giver and the receiver alike, in these times when so much service and advocacy are required from us.
In these days of outrage, touching one another with our eyes, standing close when it is invited, offering encouragement, sharing affection, reiterating support and respect, opening an acquaintance to become a friendship, treating the other as beloved, finding quiet and gentle ways to affirm one another, are all small acts of love with deeply graceful impact. Take a deep breath, and conjure up your next opportunity to practice a small act of love.
In these days of outrage, take a deep breath and practice love.
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