carrying grief and gratitude together

On Saturday, Andy and I soaked in the beauty at the Fort Worth Botanical Garden.  It was a perfectly gorgeous morning, full of color and light.

In Texas, we have two growing seasons--spring and fall--with a drought in between.  As soon as the temperatures drop below 100 in September, all the flowers breathe a sigh of relief and re-bloom.  While Vermont enjoys peak leaf season, we get second spring.

At the same time (you'd think this was planned or something) the Monarch butterflies migrate south for the winter like clouds of flying stained glass windows, fueling their flight to Mexico on the fresh blooms in Texas.

 photo: Andy Bruner 

photo: Andy Bruner 

I've said it before, and it continues to be true:  beauty fills up the dark places in my soul and brings me profoundly to rest and gratitude.

Saturday was that kind of a day:  a gratitude day.

And then we went to church on Sunday morning.

As we were singing the last hymn before the sermon, we heard scuffling and shouting out in the lobby. 

"I want to talk to the pastor," someone screamed.  "I have the right!  I have the right!"

The doors to the lobby burst open, and directly behind us, we saw three police officers subduing a man who continued to shout and struggle.

Our church service continued after a few minutes, with the pastor reassuring us that the man would get the help he needed.  I heard the sirens just a few minutes later.

But my heart just broke wide open for this man, for his illness, for the struggle he faces. 

I know what the psych hospital looks like for him.  I know the lack of after-care services he'll find here in Texas, where we persistently spend the least in the nation on mental health care.  I saw one stat that rated Texas 51st on mental health spending for those in poverty.  Apparently it's better to be mentally ill in Puerto Rico than in Texas.

I know all this, and it tears me up inside.

I don't know how I get to be so fortunate, while others are so devastated by life.

 photo: Andy Bruner

photo: Andy Bruner

The world is so beautiful.

The world is so terribly, terribly broken.

I struggle to hold those two things together in my heart, all the time.

"The work of the mature person is to carry grief in one hand and gratitude in the other and to be stretched large by them. How much sorrow can I hold? That’s how much gratitude I can give. If I carry only grief, I’ll bend toward cynicism and despair. If I have only gratitude, I’ll become saccharine and won’t develop much compassion for other people’s suffering. Grief keeps the heart fluid and soft, which helps make compassion possible."  Francis Weller

While I love that quote--and it's helped me a lot over the past couple of days to consciously carry grief and gratitude together--it also feels like not enough for me to figure this out for my own peace and mental health.  

John Donne said this, in 1624:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

It impacts us when part of our Body is unwell.  

We are all diminished by the pain and suffering of others.  

Even if we manage to hide that from ourselves most of the time.

As Methodists, we pray this prayer, and never did it feel truer to me than on Sunday morning.

Merciful God, we confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart. We have failed to be an obedient church. We have not done your will, we have broken your law, we have rebelled against your love, we have not loved our neighbors, and we have not heard the cry of the needy. Forgive us, we pray. Free us for joyful obedience, through Jesus Christ our Lord. - Methodist Hymnal

Want to do something to help?  Here's a great place to love our neighbors, through donations or serving a meal:  The Well Community in Dallas, where staff members serve alongside community members to provide support to those with chronic, debilitating mental illness.  

I'm not affiliated with The Well or paid to solicit donations; it's simply the best place I know of, when it comes to the daily care of those who need it so badly.  And if, like me, you feel like "somebody needs to do something"--well, here are some people who "do something" with great love and dedication, and we can support them in their doing.

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