Innovations in medical science provide technologies that digest and analyze astonishing amounts of medical information. Treatments and techniques, elegant in detail, are put to use immediately, seemingly increasing our healing capacities at an unstoppable pace.
And yet, the speed of the human heart remains constant. No matter how small the incision, or how benign the chemotherapy, the human soul will forever ache for time – time to find its way, to step carefully through the garden of impossible choices, to seek the reassuring nourishment of good, honest company.
“If money goes, money comes.
If money stays, death comes.”
– Muslim (Urdu) Proverb
In 1989 Roger Montoya left a successful career as a professional dancer in New York City. At the age of twenty-nine, after studying, performing and touring with celebrated dance companies – Alvin Ailey, Parsons, Paul Taylor – Roger returned to his childhood home in Velarde, New Mexico.
Growing up in a rural village in northern New Mexico, Roger was loved and nourished by his parents, Jose Amado and Dorotea Montoya; nurtured by excellent teachers; and blessed with opportunities rarely available in such remote, financially distressed areas. Roger showed extraordinary promise. As a teenager he earned a; place on the team representing the US and Canada, traveling to Romania, France and Denmark. At 20, he received a merit scholarship to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center in New York City, which led to an astonishing life as a professional dancer, performing all around the world.
When we started Bread for the Journey in 1987, I was barely two years out of the seminary.
I graduated from Harvard Divinity School in 1985, and moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico. I was blessed to find a spiritual home in a newly formed, passionate church community, started by an inspired – and inspiring – group of people. Most were deeply engaged in serving the complex needs of the multi-cultural community of Santa Fe. I was soon called to serve as their part-time pastor and spiritual director, to walk beside them, to help deepen their mission and work.
It’s an unremarkable day, a Sunday, and I pick up the San Francisco Chronicle to read while eating lunch. I find myself engaged with a story of a 12 yr. old girl sold into sex slavery by her auntie. I’m reading it and the sorrow in this story feels like it takes a bite out of my heart. Immediate pain. I don’t even know this young child or her auntie, but I don’t need to. At that moment, I feel her pain, her family’s pain, and I understand how deeply connected I am with everyone, no matter where they are, or who they are. It’s a profound moment and I use it. I make a conscious decision to stay with what I’m feeling and not distract myself, which is to say I do not to abandon myself.
I decide to gather some flowers from the garden and make a little altar for her. Staying with my feelings doesn’t mean I have to make it harder than it already is. I can bring flowers into the room.
I cannot tell you how often I type the word “Live” when I want to sign off my emails with “Love,” as in Love, Marianna. The I and O are next to each other on the cell phone keyboard, and my chubby thumb is clumsy. Maybe if I lost an extra 10 pounds, I would say what I mean.
Or maybe what I actually mean to say is Live.
As in be alive. Now.
If you find yourself going mad, go to lunch and keep driving till you get to the beach or mountain or field of wildflowers that brings you home to yourself.
If someone you love has gone away, or never came, grieve till you get to the bottom of it.
If singing is your thing, do it once every day. More if you’re brave enough to keep feeling alive.
If you have finally figured out & named that little, unique thing you love about someone, tell them.
I had an accident a week ago at my health club (Laugh. It’s okay. I get the irony.) I, unknowingly, stepped onto a treadmill that was on and moving at a fast clip. Someone had walked away without turning it off. What???
I was suddenly in a free fall tumble trying to grab something, anything, to regain some control of my body. No such luck. When I landed on the floor, one leg was twisted between two treadmills, my head hit the floor and I felt jangled. Everyone jumped off of their machines and a crowd formed with people asking a lot of questions to determine how badly I was hurt. I couldn’t really move for several minutes, but not because anything was broken. Read more