This I Believe
My belief epiphany came to me as I sat with a young man I’d known since he was a child. It came on a Wednesday evening, and it settled in me like this.
Willie was a good cop. Suspended, pending review, for shooting a fifteen-year-old in a lost neighborhood, he kept to himself at our church dinner munching my oatmeal cookies. It was awkward, but I sat beside him, waiting in case he needed to be touched. We exchanged nervous smiles and he stopped chewing. I could almost see the energy crackling all around him, and indeed we exchanged a little shock when I put my hand over his, but I kept it there. Together we were in a moment that didn’t seem to be going anywhere and didn’t need to. If either of us spoke it would change, so we didn’t. But our minds did.
I don’t know where Willie went, but I was traveling back through memory. I wanted to latch on to occasions when the moment was still. I thought of a newspaper headline: Martial Fervor Devastates Population, then a follow-up a few days later: Marshall Fervor sues Times. Sometimes the saddest story makes me laugh, but only in a moment that’s big enough to hold it. Air strikes expand a moment. Loved ones dying is a pretty good tonic for the racing clock hands. Of course, meditation contains one’s thoughts in a context of expansive stillness, but even the smallest moment offers itself to awareness.
My daughter suffering the rejection of two playmates made me calm, and when the job I wanted eluded me, I entertained failure, then began to see doors and windows opening everywhere. Though the weight of the world rested on my shoulders, it was not heavy or more than I could bear. When the hummingbird came to the petunias I basked in its business, and though it zoomed away, our moment remained intact.
So it was as we sat in our fold-out chairs in the gathering space, my hand covering Willie’s. “Thank you,” he said, bringing us back to our moment. We were no longer, as Yeats said, “shuddering at eternity, but eternity weeping and laughing over a moment.”
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