Saturday, November 2, 2013

Tenderness

The Desert Retreat House

Sometimes certain words seem to go out of fashion - "tenderness" seems to me to be one of those words. Maybe the word connotes weakness or vulnerability and in a culture where strength and invincibility are such highly praised virtues, no one wants to think of themselves as being "tender." 

Last evening my wife and I went to dinner together. It was a perfect late Fall evening. We sat at tables in an outdoor patio. The cuisine was French. It was one of those story-book settings.

The tables on the patio were placed quite close to each other, and so it was almost impossible not to interact with the people sitting next to you, or at the very least, overhear every else's conversations. 

A young couple was sitting nearby as the waitress produced a dessert of some type with a little lit candle. The young woman was celebrating a birthday. As the dessert was placed in front of her, she literally broke into tears and cried, "I didn't think anyone even knew it was my birthday today." The people surrounding her suddenly burst into applause, all of us wishing her well.

I don't know why, but somehow that tiny little slice of life lived out in that simple few-second scenario at a sidewalk cafe, was perhaps one of the most tender moments I have ever experienced in a long while. 

 It was as if our harsh, hard world of self-centered competition stopped being so harsh and hard even for just a few brief seconds; and we all became vulnerable to one another as strangers became friends even if just for an instant as we all basked in the glow of a simple little birthday candle on top of a slice of cake. 

I've been thinking a lot about "tenderness" and the lack of "tenderness" in everyday life these days. Almost every day "tender" moments like the one last night are played out in the everyday ordinary experiences of life; and I wonder how many times I have missed or dismissed those "tender" moments because I didn't want to appear vulnerable or weak? After all, real men don't cry.

Every morning I sit in my garden and mindfully meditate. I try to clear my mind and make myself available to the moment - to the "here and now" where I am aware of interconnection and interdependence - aware of an abiding Holy Presence. In a very real sense, every morning I make myself vulnerable. I  give up control and allow myself to be pulled out of myself.

I hope that my daily discipline of vulnerability is making me more "tender" and more aware of all the tender and poignant moments available every day. The more I can practice  the "discipline of vulnerability," the more I will be able to recognize and welcome those tender moments in life, like sitting with strangers on a sidewalk patio and rejoicing along with someone who never thought anyone even knew it was her birthday.


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