Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Each Other's Toil

"A Single, Simple Flower in the Garden"

Yesterday was "Trash Pickup Day" around our neighborhood. The trucks come around pretty early,  so when I sit in my garden for my morning sunrise quiet time,  I  hear them barreling through the streets - trash cans banging against the trucks, loud pounding on the pavement, followed by the sounds of other trucks going around the neighborhood cleaning the streets. 

When I first moved here, I somewhat resented this early morning invasion of my quiet time, wondering why on earth they had to begin their work so early in the day?  Yesterday as I sat listening to the invasion of the trucks,  it struck me that they were actually creating quite a beautiful and even harmonious sound. What would life be like without them? 

Years ago, when we were living back East, the sanitation workers went on strike. After more than a month of no trash pickup,  the neighborhood started to look pretty shabby - the sights and smells of rotting piles of garbage everywhere were definitely affecting the quality of our lives and even threatening our health. 

Who would have ever thought that it would be such a joyous day when those "taken for granted" sanitation workers ended their strike and returned to help keep the neighborhood clean and beautiful once again?

Yesterday, I heard the sound of trucks removing trash and cleaning the street in front of my house just  like they do every Tuesday. It was such a "beautiful" sound. What would life be like without them?

I am struck by a phrase from "Night Prayer" (Compline) contained in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer."

Grant that we may never forget that our common life
depends upon each other's toil.

I so very much like this phrase because I'm always forgetting about how truly dependent we are upon each other. Our lives literally depend upon each other's toil.  

When I walk into the local supermarket later today, I "expect"  to see a rich abundance laid out before me- fresh fruit and vegetables, meats, eggs, bread, cheese and milk and poultry.  I usually just take it for granted that all these things will be there when I walk into that store- there to sustain us, to keep us alive. 

But all this abundance doesn't just somehow mysteriously appear on the shelves of that store. Farmers and workers have planted and harvested, truckers have delivered it,  clerks sell it. Such an intricate web of dynamic interdependency.

Our common life depends upon each other's toil

The Buddha teaches:

Meditate, live purely, be quiet,
do your work with mastery.

I love this simple yet profoundly wise teaching. I recite it as a mantra this morning as I think about all those many everyday ordinary people out in the world who, at this very moment,  are quietly doing their jobs - cooking in restaurants, tending their crops, driving their trucks, keeping the drinking water clean, picking up the trash, caring for the sick in hospitals and clinics.  They are doing their work with mastery, and because of them I am kept alive

Our common life depends upon each other's toil

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