Every now and then a poem, a speech, an essay, a piece of writing that comes from the heart, rich with understanding and wisdom, puts everything into perspective. It soothes the anxiety, offers hope, and inspires one to act.
Like many others, I sometimes succumb to uncertainty in a way that darkens my soul, especially when I can’t escape the latest alert about another wave of brutality and inhumanity somewhere in the world. I keep reminding myself what matters is what happens out ahead of the windshield not what’s in the rear-view mirror. One more thing. I know I must act, I must do, to the best of my ability and breadth of my wingspan, however wide or narrow it is.
Courtesy of Galen Guengerich, the minister at All Souls Unitarian Church in New York City, I pass along to you, in its entirety, a reflection that moved me deeply when I heard him speak recently. I hope it touches you as well.
“A snowflake, a blizzard of one, weightless, entered your room/And made its way to the arm of a chair where you, looking up/From your book, saw it the moment in landed. /That’s all There was to it. No more than a solemn waking /To brevity, to the lifting and falling away of attention, swiftly, /A time between times, a flowerless funeral. /No more than that Except for the feeling that this piece of the storm, /Which turned into nothing before your eyes, would come back, /That someone years hence, sitting as you are now, might say: “It’s time. The air is ready. The sky has an opening.” --Mark Strand, from A Blizzard of One, winter of the 1999 Pulitzer Price for Poetry
Over the past weeks, many of you have spoken to me about how powerless you feel in confronting the retrograde forces of enmity and bigotry that have been unleashed in our world. You see the anger and sense the pain of people around you. You see people who have been left out and left behind, who have no livelihood and no prospect of finding one, who suffer physical and mental illness, who have no sense of purpose and no place of belonging. You sense the pain behind the anger, the hopelessness beneath the violence, and the despair beyond the devastation. And you feel as if any effort you make to address these deeply-entrenched and vastly-daunting problems will come to nothing.
My gift to you this holiday season is a snowflake of the spirit. It’s true that any effort you make to heal out needy and broken world will inevitably feel insubstantial—almost as if you did nothing at all. But as a snowflake, you become part of something vast and powerful. There’s another storm somewhere—a storm of love and justice, a storm of hope and healing. And your snowflake is a piece of it.
And when you stand up for what’s good and what’s right, when you reach out to comfort and to heal, when you press on with conviction and courage, your single snowflake packs the power of an entire storm. And who knows what might happen years hence as a result.
Especially now, it’s time to be a snowflake. It’s time to be a blizzard of one. Say to yourself, “It’s time. The air is ready. The sky has an opening.”
I can’t imagine better words, better advice, to bear in mind as we head hopefully into a new year, one snowflake at a time.