Anthony de Mello, Cynthia Borgeault, Richard Rohr and others write often about the relationship between awareness and spirituality. Awareness equates to being willing and able to sit in one’s peripheral vision and invite the images to expand into one’s spiritual consciousness. If so, one never needs to look far for sources, causes, and visions for prayer, nor for evidence of the Divine.
This Saturday morning, my personal loneliness was transcended being with five other men for breakfast. One man’s affection for his son who was present and who is differently-abled manifested love of a deep and unknown origin. I look up in time to make eye contact with a little girl at the table next to us who smiles and squeals with delight that someone has noticed her and smiled back to her. Her parents and grandparents are confused. The waitress, usually effervescent, sticks out her tongue to say good morning but clearly isn’t herself. What’s wrong? Motorcycle accident has left her with broken ribs. No usual hugs on the way out. A trip to Wegman’s brings a delightful encounter with the butcher. And, miracle of miracles, I’ve purchased Mother’s Day cards for Vickie eight days early. Aware that today permitted time to browse, so I did. Need to find a card with a Black Lab. A trip to Smoker Friendly brings a delightful visit with the person at the cash register. Swapping stories of flying, I’m aware that I’m still recovering from the turbulent flights of yesterday and the twice-circling of Erie Airport before landing with my knuckles white by then. All three places visited Saturday have “help wanted” signs out front. With full employment, who will be interested in these jobs and what will they pay? Interesting challenges.
Driving, I see from a distance a young boy is shooting baskets on this beautiful day. Approaching it’s clear he has Downs’ syndrome but can dribble the basketball with grace and efficiency and has a pretty good jump shot. I wonder about his parents and whether they hope to live one day longer than him or not? Further down the road two very old adults begin the work of gardening for the year. I imagine they have done this preparation countless times and have their own routine. I wonder if they sit and enjoy creation also? They weren’t smiling. A bit further along and there are the tree trimming trucks preparing for some work in the neighborhood here in Erie. All the assistants are young white men. I say this only because where I live they would be Hispanic men and generally not young. All the while awareness deepens about leaving St. Stephen’s and the grief about that ending and the perennial confusion about how relationships between clergy and laity continue when clergy leave. With this insight comes the awareness that I’ve not prepared myself to leave. The young man in the other apartment where I live, the son of the owners, ignores their rules and smokes in his apartment. His Mom wants me to call her. I don’t. The smell makes my eyes water; why don’t I call?
All of the above in less than two hours and I’ve probably only sensed 10% of all that was taking place. Awareness requires time and breath and space and prayer and solitude. So many poets write about settling into all that surrounds us. Mary Oliver is the best. Her poems cannot make me slow down. Not even reading them. But a desire to connect with the Source of Life offers the invitation to expand awareness and absorb levels of God’s most beautiful creation.
The Rev. Alvin Johnson is Canon for Congregational Vitality and Innovation for the Diocese of NWPA.