Tuesday morning I went to visit with a new hospice patient and his family in a town here in Vermont I'd never been to. I found myself driving new roads and seeing new scenery, but feeling the same thing I've felt hundreds of times since I moved here twenty-two years ago: this place is pretty goddamned spectacular. And I realized that I have two of the greatest jobs in the world. I get to drive all over this inspiring landscape to be with people during one of the most scared times of life, and on Sundays I get to stand up in front of a bunch of really kind humans and tell them what I saw.
That's what preaching is, I've come to understand: bearing witness. I go out into the world and become what Episcopal priest and writer Barbara Brown Taylor calls a "detective of divinity," and then I go back home and give evidence of my findings. How great is that?
On Tuesday morning what I found was one of the sweetest gentlemen I've ever met, 95 years old and resting very peacefully in his bed, lovely blue flannel shirt keeping him comfortable, hands crossed across his chest, shining blue eyes that looked directly into mine each time he came out of his half-slumber to engage with me.
He was very funny and just fine with all of it: where life had taken him and where he is today. I asked him about his wife, who had died already.
"What did you love about her?" I wanted to know.
"Everything," he answered.
"Where did you meet?" I can never help but ask.
"At the beach, in the summer," he answered, as if choreographed.
"She's my angel," he said, with his eyes closed.
"What would you tell anyone who is in love these days?" I dared venture.
"Just love her, " he sighed. "Just love her."
See what I mean? The best job in the world.
I see and I record, in words, with photos, in my mind's eye, and hopefully, in my heart. I don't want to lose any of this. I'm hoping my body will become a living repository, composed of layer upon layer of stories that remind us of God's funny and dazzling grace in this world.
We need it.
I saw it in the group of refugees from Bhutan who arrived in Burlington on Wednesday night. Weary, not just from traveling, but from a life that had betrayed their simple desire to live in peace where they were born, they touched-down in Vermont and were greeted by family and friends who had been waiting for them, in some cases, for many years. Palms together in prayerful reverence, they bowed and welcomed one another with a quiet, "Namaste." I had come to loathe that phrase, absconded with, as it has been, by privileged white people in yoga studios and slapped, as a sticker, on bumpers of cars, and when I finally got to see its intended and rightful use, I was in awe. I was humbled and inclined to tone-down my loud and physical American-ness for a change. I watched these colorful, elegant humans, grateful to be with the people they love, bewildered by an escalator, weighed down by duffle bags carrying all they had left, eager to sleep, no doubt. I wondered what their tomorrow would be like.
God's grace. In the airport.
I see it every day, everywhere I go: evidence of God, a God that never stops trying to get us to stand still and look. I cry all the time; it's all too beautiful for my heart to handle most days.
I saw it yesterday morning, when my son, Sam, emerged from his fancy fast car and walked across the grass to say good-bye to Coco, who was leaving for two weeks on Martha's Vineyard. The Carhartted, gruff, tired, almost-20 boy-man, held his little sister and the love between them and the sadness they were both feeling at her departure were right there.
What a week.
I witnessed it all: the devotion of a kind gentleman, ready and waiting to be reunited with his wife, his angel; the anticipation of displaced souls, waiting for family and friends from far away, all of them building a new version of home in a strange land; the deep, constant love of brother and sister.
There is nothing in any of that that is not God. It's as simple as that. It's love. See if you can spot it out there today.