In my first reflection for Beltane, I mentioned some of its characteristic foci, the aspects of the season that invite us to take note of particular areas of our own lives. I reminded us that it is a time of honoring earth and the fecundity of earth and the blessings she pours out abundantly on all creatures (although some of us use more than our appropriate share, but that is for another time).
Beltane is also the time of heroines and heroes. It is a time of hot blood and idealism, to be sure; however not all of our mentors and teachers are in the hot-blooded summer of life. Some have moved on to the winter season; some may no longer be present physically. Whether they are alive in body or not, we honor those whose words and deeds have spurred us to try new tasks, learn new skills, and see life a little more broadly or deeply. Beltane provides an opportunity to honor and/or remember those who call us to reach beyond what is comfortable and familiar, or what is easy; who expected us to live our best life; who taught us in ways we could never have imagined.
But there is more to it than just remembrance; there is more to it than merely following an admirable role model.
I am blessed to lead workshops and retreats, and to teach and counsel in ways that are overtly spiritual and searching. During many such events, the conversation at some point turns to a question like, If you could have dinner with any three people in the history of the world, who would you choose? Or Who is the person who has influenced the course of your life most profoundly? The usual suspects are invariably named in answer to the first question: Buddha, Jesus, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr, Abraham Lincoln, some current world leader. There are those who go with slightly less usual choices: Cesar Chavez, Simone Weil, Harriet Tubman, Marco Polo, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Francis of Assisi. But in contemplating the second question, something fundamental shifts; the answers become more interesting: my grandmother, my uncle, my first grade teacher, Mrs. Kelly who lived across the street when I was a child, my junior high choir director, my secretary.
The question I have for you this week is not, Who are your heroines and heroes? It is, To whom might you be a heroine or a hero? I wonder who has been watching you — maybe for years — trying to live in a way that would make you proud of them? I wonder if you have ever consciously considered how to be the kind of person someone would name when they are asked, Who is the person who has influenced the course of your life most profoundly?
If you haven’t thought about it, maybe it is time you did. Because (whether you will or whether you nil, as one of my wise elders was wont to say), you are being watched. Your honesty, your compassion, your gentleness with a mentally ill neighbor, your generosity of spirit, your humor, your wisdom, your random acts of kindness, are being noticed. [On the flip side, so is your stinginess with the person who delivers the paper and never gets a tip, or the fact that you let your dog dig up Mrs. Kelly’s plants, or that you never recycle. Assuredly, those are all things that could well be changed sooner rather than later, but they are not the parts of your behavior I want you to pay attention to right this minute.]
I am not perfect, nor are you…nor is Mrs. Kelly or your junior high choir director. Perfect doesn’t seem to be a defining criterion for heroic status. Other things are much more important: the word of encouragement when someone hits a wall, the smile for the person who held the door, vocal appreciation for a lovely pot of flowers on your neighbor’s front step or the teen who picked up behind the family dog or the grocery clerk who bags the groceries so your berries never get squished, waving someone else into the parking spot you wanted, or letting the person behind you with 3 items and a screaming toddler check out ahead of you. Someone is watching: your spouse, your teenager, your friend, that grocery clerk.
This week all I invite you to do is think about it. Think about whose heroine or hero you might be (it is often the person we least expect). Think about who you want to live a generous life for: a young family member, a parent, a colleague, a partner. It isn’t as hard as you might imagine; it just takes attention.
The late Scottish writer, Dorothy Dunnett put it this way,
…some live all their lives without discovering this truth; that the noblest and most terrible power we possess is the power we have, each of us, over the chance-met, the stranger, the passer-by outside your life and your kin. Speak….as you would write: as if your words were letters of lead, graven there for all time, for which you must take the consequences. And take the consequences.
Aspiration photo © 2013, Jonathan Wallen
Icon photo © 2014, Immram Chara, LLC
Text © 2014, Andrea La Sonde Anastos
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