Saturday, July 19, 2014

Mustard Seeds

"One Little Flower"
-At the Desert Retreat House"

Recently I had a conversation with someone who expressed her deep frustration at being unable to "do anything" about all the brokenness going on in the world today. She reads stories about the immigrant crisis in America, she gazes at those images of bodies and debris from a "shot-down" plane scattered across a field in the Ukraine, she hears reports about Israeli teenagers murdered and Palestinian children bombed on a beach, she steps over homeless people sleeping on the sidewalk when she goes to work,  and she laments that there is nothing she can do about any of it.

In some sense, there is a kernel of truth in my friend's frustration. After all, no one of us can "fix" the looming immigration or homeless problems, stop the war in the Ukraine, or resolve the "long-held" animosities between Palestinians and Israelis; and even if we did do something like help an immigrant family or attend a peace rally, we feel that would really be only an insignificant "drop in a bucket."

So most people just shake their heads at all the chaos and the mess, perhaps feeling sorry for those who suffer, and maybe secretly thinking, "I'm glad this isn't happening to me."

While no one of us can fix all of these problems or stop all the suffering, I actually think there is something each and every human being can do in response to all the brokenness in the world today. We don't need to just sit back and watch it all. 

Jesus taught his disciples:

The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that someone sowed in the field;
it is the smallest of seeds,
but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree.

The Buddha taught something very similar:

Do not underestimate good.
Drop by drop the water pot is filled.
Likewise, one who is wise is filled with good, gathering it little by little.

My guess is that most people severely "underestimate" the effects of what they do in everyday ordinary life - either for good or for ill.  As the Buddhist Master, Thich Nhat Hanh, so wisely teaches, human beings are "interbeing." We are a complex web of interdependence, and so, any one seemingly unimportant action of any one person ultimately affects the whole complex web.   

I think about my own life:  if I  say something nasty to my spouse, lash out at the person at the cable company who is unable to fix my internet, or curse at the driver who cuts me off, I know that each and every one of these actions has a rippling effect - sending out a wave of negativity that contributes to the brokenness of a broken world.  

In similar fashion, when I forgive someone who has injured me, reconcile a broken relationship, even when I do something seemingly insignificant like thanking the cashier or giving that homeless man a little extra cash, I am, in fact,  changing the world. I am "healing" a broken world. 

I do not underestimate what even a drop of "good" can do. Every little "drop in the bucket" is filling the water pot. 

I am a tiny little mustard seed- so are we all. Every day I do my best to sew the seeds of love and mercy, forgiveness and compassion into the fields of my every day life,  and these tiny seeds grow into great shrubs that become trees. 

1 comment:

  1. Well I have a 7 bedroom house. I took in a homelss woman that wss hanging around church because I thought I could fix her depression. I gave her a room for 2 years. She is about to "graduate". I carry cans of soup for the homeless begging.
    None the less I tbink efforts should be made to repair damage that causes people to flee their country. Gays are murdered in El Salvador and Guatamala. They would rather be with their famlies. Gang terrorism just for fun. Our own drunks and druggies. I sort of think Jesus was talking about the strength and purity of a childs belief ( I was so sure Santa Clause existed and that if I did as I thought an angel would do my wings would sprout) So in the face of all of this I firmly childlike believe and find creatively ways to help.
    My heart still sings