Black bear climbing into broken vessel. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman
`A man should be like a vessel that willingly receives what its owner pours into it, whether it be wine or vinegar."--Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, 'The Spiritual Athlete
To me, this quote speaks of patience, which I seem to lack lately. I've now been struggling to find a safe place for my animals and I to live for nearly three years. I've lived out of boxes and slept on the couch for various ridiculous reasons for three years, and yet, the more I begin to think I am losing my patience and my ability to accept my fate, the more I find myself turning the other cheek to those who try to harm me and simply moving on with my life. Patience and acceptance go hand in hand.
The speaker, Rabbi Heschel, was a fascinating man, a Jewish philosopher and writer from Poland who lost most of his family to the bombings in Poland and in Nazi Concentration camps while he was at university. He escaped to the U.S. where he became an influential teacher to many who were eager to learn forgiveness, patience, and love.
Heschel walked arm in arm with Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Civil Rights march at Selma. Prior to the march, he led a delegation of 800 people to the FBI Headquarters in Chicago to protest the treatment of blacks in Selma. He was surrounded by sixty police officers when he presented his petition to the Regional FBI Director, but eventually they relented and allowed him inside the building. (Sixty police officers? How many armed men does it take to restrain an elderly Jewish philosopher?)
Heschel worked closely with Martin Luther King, Jr. to try and figure out how to repair the relationship between black and Jews in America. His daughter, Susannah Heschel, also one of the most influential Jewish philosophers of this century, continues his work to this day.
It is cold and rainy by the lake in Colorado, and still a beautiful day. It is a good day for reflection. A good day for prayer. And this is what I pray for you:
I pray that you shall not want for food and shelter for you and those you love.
I pray that you find a green pasture to lie down in beside a cool stream and listen to the water tumbling down the mountainside, splashing against the rocks, and know that this great beauty is a gift from God.
I pray that you find peace in your hearts and souls.
I pray that you find the right path on your journey, and... even if you stray from your path, as we all must do in order to learn the direction we must take, I pray that you find your path quickly once again.
I pray that you pass by the many dangers of life safely, and are comforted, and feel no fear.
I pray that you feel confident and capable when dealing with those who would try to harm you and recognize that they, too, are children of God.
I pray that you see that the cup is full and not half empty.
I pray for goodness and compassion for you always.
I pray that you recognize that God is everywhere, in everything, and wherever you are, you are dwelling in the house of the Lord, where you will always be welcome with open arms.
Dear Lord: In my moments of sadness, and selfish want, please help me to remember that men and women in the darkness of a foreign land are staring at the bright spots in the sky and praying they are stars. They shiver in the cold and wonder if each breath, this breath, this one breath, will be the very last. Lay your comforting hands upon their shoulders and whisper in their ears that there are many strangers, family, and friends back home who may never know their names, but will never forget their sacrifice.
The Last of the Light Brigade
by Rudyard Kipling, 1891
There were thirty million English who talked of England's might,
There were twenty broken troopers who lacked a bed for the night.
They had neither food nor money, they had neither service nor trade;
They were only shiftless soldiers, the last of the Light Brigade.
They felt that life was fleeting; they knew not that art was long,
That though they were dying of famine, they lived in deathless song.
They asked for a little money to keep the wolf from the door;
And the thirty million English sent twenty pounds and four!
They laid their heads together that were scarred and lined and grey;
Keen were the Russian sabres, but want was keener than they;
And an old Troop-Sergeant muttered, "Let us go to the man who writes
The things on Balaclava the kiddies at school recites."
They went without bands or colours, a regiment ten-file strong,
To look for the Master-singer who had crowned them all in his song;
And, waiting his servant's order, by the garden gate they stayed,
A desolate little cluster, the last of the Light Brigade.
They strove to stand to attention, to straighten the toil-bowed back;
They drilled on an empty stomach, the loose-knit files fell slack;
With stooping of weary shoulders, in garments tattered and frayed,
They shambled into his presence, the last of the Light Brigade.
The old Troop-Sergeant was spokesman, and "Beggin' your pardon," he said,
"You wrote o' the Light Brigade, sir. Here's all that isn't dead.
An' it's all come true what you wrote, sir, regardin' the mouth of hell;
For we're all of us nigh to the workhouse, an' we thought we'd call an' tell.
"No, thank you, we don't want food, sir; but couldn't you take an' write
A sort of 'to be continued' and 'see next page' o' the fight?
We think that someone has blundered, an' couldn't you tell 'em how?
You wrote we were heroes once, sir. Please, write we are starving now."
The poor little army departed, limping and lean and forlorn.
And the heart of the Master-singer grew hot with "the scorn of scorn."
And he wrote for them wonderful verses that swept the land like flame,
Till the fatted souls of the English were scourged with the thing called Shame.
They sent a cheque to the felon that sprang from an Irish bog;
They healed the spavined cab-horse; they housed the homeless dog;
And they sent (you may call me a liar), when felon and beast were paid,
A cheque, for enough to live on, to the last of the Light Brigade.
*O thirty million English that babble of England's might,
Behold there are twenty heroes who lack their food to-night;
Our children's children are lisping to "honour the charge they made -
"And we leave to the streets and the workhouse the charge of the Light Brigade!
*this verse was present in the first collection but was removed from the later editions.
Beecroft, John. Kipling: A Selection of his Stories and Poems, Volume II. Doubleday & Company. Garden City, New York: 1956,