While making nursing home and hospital calls one day, I visited several people who were on oxygen. A slim green hose ran from a machine to each person’s nostrils, piping in pure air to make his or her breathing easier. In each instance we prayed the Lord’s Prayer together in preparation for Holy Communion, our hands joined and our voices speaking together. I was struck by the strength with which each of these people prayed. Their bodies were weakened in many ways, yet the prayer flowed vigorously from their lips, as if the prayer as well as the oxygen was helping them breathe.
A friend of mine recalls that her mother always sat sideways in her chair during meals. Whether the table was surrounded by family members or invited guests, she was poised for action. She’d jump up if she’d forgotten something in the kitchen, if someone wanted steak sauce rather than the ketchup that was on the table, or if it was time to pass the serving dishes around again. This mom seldom relaxed enough to enjoy the food and conversation.
We were at the lake, my daily walking spot. I had brought a friend who needed to talk. Her head was down as if she were searching for meaning, hope and traces of God’s ways in the ruts of the muddy path. My head was down too, in silent solidarity. We walked. Suddenly I missed a familiar pitter-patter—my dog was nowhere to be seen.
Imagine that Congress has set up a committee to report on the disquieting events on the Jerusalem-Jericho road and their aftermath. Here are some excerpts from its findings: “The Inquiry is satisfied that the priest acted in a thoroughly professional manner. We are aware that he is a man of high profile in Jerusalem society, and that his first priority is to conduct his temple duties in a proper manner. Getting involved in self-indulgent gestures of solidarity is not recommended: such projects are invariably underresourced, nonstrategic and open to media misinterpretation."
Vacation time grips the imagination of Westerners. In Britain, it is now possible to buy an airline ticket on the Internet for a few pounds, then land in a European city for a quick break, boosted by the elixir of novelty and the thrill of just being able to do it. A different language, a different currency, a different climate and adventures await. And why not? The best way to understand your own culture is to live in another.