Celebrating the Precious Gift of Life
On Monday, January 15, we Americans pay tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who gave his life working for the equality of all peoples. Friday, January 19 is the annual March for Life in Washington, DC. Both days celebrate the precious gift of life. Here are two true stories that also speak of the beauty, mystery, and sacredness of life.
“Piano Duets”: This first story comes from William Bausch’s book, The Word in and out of Season.
Margaret Patrick had just moved into the senior center and was being introduced to the other residents in the large dining room. Margaret, who is Black, noticed a piano in the room. She mentioned that she used to play the piano a lot before she had her stroke. Now her right hand was useless. One of the staff members said, “Wait here” and scurried away. In a few minutes, she returned followed by a white haired woman using a walker.
The staff member introduced Margaret to Ruth Eisenberg, explaining, “Ruth used to play the piano too, but like you, she’s not been able to play since her stroke. Ruth has a good right hand and you have a good left hand. I have the feeling the two of you can do something wonderful together.”
And the two women did. On that first day they sat down at the piano together and played Chopin’s waltz in D-flat. Bausch writes, “Side by side, the two sat on the piano bench. Two healthy hands—one with long, graceful black fingers, the other with short, plump white ones—moved rhythmically across the ebony and ivory keys.”
Soon they began to entertain audiences at churches, schools, rehabilitation places, and senior centers. They quickly learned they had more in common than music. Both were widows and great-grandmothers. Both had lost sons. But neither could give without the other. Margaret said, “My music was taken away from me, but God gave me Ruth.” Ruth said, “It was God’s miracle that brought us together.”
* * * * *
“Helping the Stranger”: this story, from the book Small Miracles by Halberstam and Leventhal, is attributed to Greg O’Leary which is a pseudonym.
Greg O’Leary, a middle aged man, was walking down a dark street in his neighborhood one evening when he heard muffled screams coming from behind some bushes. He slowed down and listened again. He froze in fear when he realized he was hearing the sounds of a struggle: grunting, panting, crying, the tearing of fabric. Someone was being assaulted.
“Should I get involved?” he wondered. He was not athletic, young, or brave. What if the attacker attacked him? Shouldn’t he just run for help? But something made him stop to help that night. Once he had made that decision, he says, “I became strangely transformed.” He ran behind the bushes and pulled the assailant off the woman. In doing so, he fell to the ground and the two men wrestled for a few moments until the attacker jumped up and ran away.
Out of breath, O’Leary could make out the outline of a woman crouched behind a tree sobbing. He got up slowly and said to her gently, “It’s okay. The man ran away. You’re safe now.”
There was a long pause and then he heard her words uttered in wonder and amazement.
“Dad, is that you?”
And from behind the tree stepped his youngest daughter, Katherine.
* * * * *
Some questions for reflection:
What factors enabled Margaret and Ruth to bridge the racial divide between them?
What factors enable some people to help total strangers despite their fears and feelings of inadequacy?
What are some of the divisions that need “bridging” in your personal life? Our country? Our world? What are some ways we can begin to bridge these divisions?
We give life to others in many ways. Margaret and Ruth gave life to each other through their love for music and their need for each other. O’Leary gave life to his daughter by daring to help a “stranger.” How might you give life to someone today?
I’m giving you a choice of two songs, both entitled “Thank You for My Life.” This first one is a simple song by Nashville Singer-Songwriter Ed Tossing. It’s 3 minutes long. The second, by Oksana Rus, is not a song per se, but rather beautiful piano music and the words of a prayer set against some gorgeous pictures. It’s 5 minutes long.
Ed Tossing song:
Oksana Rus prayer:
Would you like to share a thought or two below—about the stories… the questions… the songs? We’d love to hear from you!
In my personal life, I’m exceedingly impatient with even minor “crosses.” Not a good tendency, not one that conduces to peace. In the United States in 2018, I’m tempted to say, there are too many divisions to count, and too many persons in high places intent on exacerbating those divisions. True enough. But timeless wisdom counsels, “If you would make the world better, make yourself better.”
I could do much better about speaking against the casual comments and attitudes that, however subtly, corrode human amity and dignity. I could also examine my own self for vestiges of attitudes that are not wholesome. I grew up in the ’70s in a largely white neighbourhood of Boston where fear predominated over understanding all too often. I certainly don’t want to blame the neighbourhood for any of my personal failings, but many factors play a part in making us who we are.
“Less emphasis on self!” someone recently pleaded in another cybervenue. “More empathy!” Indeed, one of the most potent questions asked by Give Us This Day’s night-prayer examen is “Whom have you helped or encouraged today?”
Sorry for long comment. Thank you for your reflections and for sharing those moving stories.
It is with a heavy heart that once again we had to listen to more painful, racist rhetoric coming from our political leader last week. The question for me as a Catholic Christian is how to build bridges not “walls” in the face of such talk. I pray the Holy Spirit will inspire us to see the humanity in all people and speak out against such injustice as we work for peace.
Dr. King was certainly such a bridge builder.
Sr. Melanie, Thank You! Such Beautiful Music brought tears to my eyes.
I listened to Dr. King speaking this morning about ” Character” I wonder what he would think today. If fact, I’m sure He wound NOT understand it either. I wish You a Peaceful Day! Lu
Powerful way to start the day! Thank you!!!!!!!!!
Beautiful stories today. Beautiful music. We are all God’s children. Let us love one another as He loves us.
Dear Sr. Melanie:
I cannot express how moved I was by both stories and both songs. The Ed Tossing song really hit home with me and I believe my tears were part of my healing. Nine and one half years ago, I went into cardiac arrest because of being 0ver-medicated at local hospital. I was resuscitated and have traveled a slow, painful journey to forgiveness. This song really hit home with me and I cried through the entire song. I am so grateful to be alive and I thank God every day for my life.
Good morning, Melannie ,
What beautiful stories. God’s love and goodness are shown in mysterious ways!
If only we could learn from the great and peace- loving man, Mlk.
The music is beautiful, also. Thanks again for letting God’s love shine through you, too! Josita
Dear Sister Melanie At 93 I wonder if the first story is truly that unusual. My belief is both black & white leaders fear if Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dream comes true it will mean loss of personal power. What do you think? The second story should remind us that any victim is always our sister brother son or daughter.Thank You for your blog & Living Faith prayers
Good morning to all participants. I am new to Sunflower Seeds. The stories and songs are very touching and provide much “food for thought.” I look forward to many more Mondays with this site. Thank you to all who contribute to creating Sunflower Seeds.
Thank you, Sister, for your powerful, touching blog this morning. And also thanks to all of those who sent in their comments–powerful, touching comments!
Amazing grace! Thank you!
Beautiful stories! Beautiful music-both! Thank you!
My message to myself: Be kind whenever it’s possible; it’s always possible.
Dear Sr. Melanie,
These stories are great and reminded me to thank you for the article in January’s Give Us This Day, that begins with “Life is a miracle.” (A reflection at the beginning of the book). Your reflections are always so thought-provoking and speak to me and many others I’m sure.
Beautiful and so uplifting….thank you for the January pick-up lifting us from the daily political news. You, dear sister are a treasure. Thank you and may the Good God continue to grace you with light and hope which you share so generously. God bless. Gentle days.
Your thoughts and those who connect with you give me
lots of hope–and lead to more courage. Blessings to all!
Such a beautiful, touching blog!
Thank you so much