I have been overwhelmed by the love I have received this Advent season. On Thursday evening I went to the Wolfe-Simon holiday dinner, which is the practice I just left this past August after 16 years. Usually the office staff exchanges Pollyanna gifts, and as the dinner came to a close I expected that would again occur, albeit without me. Much to my stunned surprise, instead they handed me an envelope, into which they had each placed $25, to support my efforts at UP. I could do nothing but cry as I felt their their love so palpably. Here’s the practice I left, leaving a void, and they show me nothing but love. Similarly, my former colleagues at Penn School of Nursing chose to contribute financially to the UP Wellness Center. Again tears in response to the love. I am not going to lie – this has been an extremely difficult autumn for me emotionally – leaving 2 professional settings which have meant so much to me. My seeking the change did not lessen the pain. When I went through my Credo conference 5 years ago I distinctly remember Gay Jennings, our vocational faculty, saying that we might be called to leave a situation, and not to underestimate the extent of grief that that might bring, even as you know it is the right thing to do. How that resonates with me now. I am thankful to feel love, not resentment, from those whom I sometimes feel I have abandoned.
There is a saying that keeps popping up in my mind as I reflect on this season of change and the work I am doing at UP. I learned it on the first mission trip I took with youth from First Presby 5 years ago, to Pine Ridge, South Dakota, where we worked with the Oglala Lakota Indians. Mitakuye Oyasin – the literal translation is “all my relations” but the meaning extends beyond that English translation to the concept that we are all connected in an intricate web of existence. Everything is interrelated – nothing exists in isolation. In Christianity we speak of how we are all connected by the Holy Spirit, singing, “Blessed be the ties that bind, our hearts in Christian love”. In literature we read, “Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” When this truth is named the responsibility to help one another becomes irrefutable. If one person in Camden is hurting, we are all hurting. If I am the recipient of love, I have all the more to share.
As Christmas Day barrels down upon us, I love the imagery Christmas evokes. God comes to us in the form of a helpless child, unable to survive unless imperfect humans provide all God needs. “God’s own mission among us became completely dependent on us,” says Henri Nouwen. The answers we need are within us, we already have what we need to change lives. We need only pray, open our hearts, and listen to what is said to us. “People look East and sing today: Love the Lord is on the way!” (thanks, Sharon :))