The Peace of Wild Things – Wendell Berry
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
The world wears heavy on me today. What looks to be the final push for Aleppo claims the news today, but Afghanistan is also in shambles, people are fleeing Eritrea, Libya, Pakistan and the list goes on. I have immense concern surrounding our incoming president and his Secretary of State nomination does nothing to quell those concerns for our future. As a friend quickly reminded me, there is much good as well and I agree. The prognosis on the world is not entirely dismal. There are so many things, people and situations that restore hope and take my breath away, reminding me that there’s hope for humanity and that we have a good Creator.
And yet, today it feels heavy. After a couple months in Europe the term refugee has faces and names. People I may never speak with again, but who have captured and broken my heart and whose resilience has also given me hope for the future of humanity.
I did nothing to solve the refugee crisis, fix Syria or any other country or even solve one single individual’s situation. I did a lot of laundry, (sometimes) kept a minor semblance of order to the chaos of shower and laundry queues and cleaned a fair amount of showers. I played peek a boo with smiling toddlers and laughed with the kindest 12 year old boy ever and his mother while we figured out how to fit his twin 3 week old sisters into baby carriers someone gracefully donated and allowed us to gift to his family.
I was often exhausted and not always the kind, gracious person I would like to be in the midst of bathroom squabbles. I did very little to relieve suffering and nothing to solve the actual systematic problems, but for several weeks it felt good to be exhausted going SOMETHING.
Now we’re back home. I participate in small ways in welcoming refugees to Oregon – a minuscule proportion of the globally displaced and I read the news and it breaks my heart. But where to go from here is the question on my mind most often lately. I’ve been musing over 4 arenas of response, but have no great answers. My current percolating thoughts are below, not in any linear progression, the four areas are more concurrent and overlapping and mostly documented for my sake.
Rest – Rest as in Wendell Berry’s poem above. I so often come back to his Mad Farmer Liberation Front when I’m trying to center, but this one I’ve discovered more recently and been returning to often. It was on my mind this morning as I got in my first run since leaving Greece on a cold sunny Oregon coast day. Rest with intention. This is part of our goal in this phase of life. We’re trying to rest, to pause and to strategically plan what comes next. Where we spend our time and invest and where we live. I’m working to pause before I say yes to things and carefully consider how I spend time. To practice health and to practice intentionality.
Pray – My friend Astrid grew up in East Germany and has mentioned a couple of times in her writing how Americans occasionally mention praying for the wall to come down and that that wasn’t something she prayed for growing up – it was unimaginable to imagine life without the wall. She says “I am glad someone in the world stepped into the gap. Because whether you believe prayer helped the fall of the iron curtain or not, a great and unexpected thing happened. Not praying, I received. And this magnificent gift changed my whole life. I think they call that grace.”
I want to be someone that prays for the unimaginable, because great and unexpected things do happen that change the entirety of people’s lives. And so today I pray for peace in Syria – for the safety of the 100,000 people remaining in East Aleppo. I pray for peace in Afghanistan, Eritrea and South Sudan. I pray for those who have lived their entire lives in refugee camps and I pray for our incoming president.
Engage – The husband and I have had several conversations lately about how to engage well within our relationships in arenas where we disagree. My go to has been to exit conversations and call it a form of keeping the peace. But more and more that is feeling unacceptable in some realms and we’ve been discussing how best to engage, to stand firm for what we believe and do so well. Our recent travel creates easy openings into conversations that I would love to use better as does the recent election.
Act – Currently this is limited to attempts to be better educated, some small donations we make and some time I put into helping people at our church make connections to help welcome refugees locally. For the moment, we’re intentionally keeping this small as we rest, pray and consider where to fully invest our time and resources.