Goodness is the only investment that never fails. Henry David Thoreau, poet, writer
Moments ago, I was chatting via email with my friend, Dr. Gene Sharratt. Gene mentioned the previous journey-to-the-good-life blog, the thoughts that stood out for him. This is what Gene does. He takes every opportunity to find goodness…especially in others’ work. (Don’t ask me where Gene finds the time. He is without a doubt the world’s wildest action figure…always on a major meaningful mission…and it just energizes him. Or maybe he’s the 8th Wonder of The World. No joke, this is dang close to true.)
Here in the Cascade Foothills, the Wenatchee Valley, Gene started a Kindness Counts yearlong initiative which he called a grassroots movement. Well sorta. It would have never happened except that Gene is connected to everyone you ever heard of. In our emailing I reminded him of that last Kindness Counts meeting.
A woman attended who had evidently been on the periphery…observing. When Gene went around the table asking people some last thoughts, she said something like this, “I see part of what you did. You brought attention to all these acts of kindness that are always going on.” Indeed, she hit the nail on the head, the kindness initiative highlighted, made us pay attention to, the goodness we may have missed as our brains registered only the world of war and rancor.
As thoughts of the kindness counts year resurfaced, I told Gene that he was doing way more than his part of bending the arc toward goodness (reference to the previous blog).
And now... I have just signed off from the email. Switched to opening Father Gregory Boyle’s book, Forgive Everyone Everything. And low and behold...
“Love Goodness” is the title of this short devotional reflection. Boyle is writing about one of his “homies.” (Boyle is the founder of Homeboy Industries, the largest and most successful gang rehabilitation program in the world. How Boyle says who he is and what he does is “accompanies ex-gang members as they rebuild their lives.”)
Boyle's story is about Horacio. And it’s about a baptism. Over the years, Boyle has baptized all of Horatio’s children. This baptism is for kid number five.
Boyle watches Horatio “masterfully corral everybody, the kids, the suegra (mother-in-law), and his siblings, and deftly bring the proceedings to order. He’s a pro. A scrappy gang member with overly pronounced ears – he’s so skinny it makes you wonder how he managed to defend himself on the streets (Trust me, he managed).”
Then Boyle shares what one of the other homies has said about Horatio, “He is a mansion. He has many rooms. And Boyle agrees that Horatio is an “incandescent soul.” Boyle becomes “filled with the utter fullness of Horacio’s bright goodness.”
Then a memory pops up of the poet Mary Oliver’s words: “That you have a soul – your own, no one else’s – that I wonder about more than I wonder about my own. So that I find my soul clapping its hands for yours more than my own.” Boyle realizes that is what is happening... his soul is clapping its hands for Horacio’s soul.
Boyle takes Horatio aside afterwards.
“You know what I was thinking about…all during the baptism?”
“That I gotta stop having kids?”
“Cuz I’m thinkin’ a gettin’ a vasectomy.”
“No dawg…I was just thinking…how thoroughly good you are and what a beautiful job you’ve done with your life. Serio.”
And then come the reciprocal tears. Boyle, being the priest that he is, considers a bible verse. Micah 6:8 which outlines succinctly what to DO with our lives. “To act justly. To love mercy. To walk humbly with your God.” Then Boyle writes that he recently saw a translation of the second part of that verse, “To love goodness.”
Love, he suggests, is more than wanting Horacio to meet his potential or even get a vasectomy. It just wants to zero in on his goodness. Maybe it’s not so much about “doing good” but loving goodness. Honing in on it.
How cool is that? Loving goodness. Of course, that starts with spotting it. Seeing what is already there. Getting swept away with it… reveling in it.
That's it for today. A short little post (trying to make up for the last 8 minute one), and it’s a lot for me to ponder...love is not some much about doing good as about zeroing in on goodness…allowing our souls to clap for another’s.
Last words. I picked up Father Boyle’s book today because John woke up yesterday on the wrong side of the bed. He said he wasn’t “in his love place.” About thirty minutes later, he reappeared. With tears in his eyes. “I just read some of Boyle’s book.” He was back in his love place. That's why the book was calling to me today I guess.
No matter that we are approaching Valentine’s Day, and I and maybe you are not exactly in our love place …like most humans on many days; maybe by reading about Gene and Horatio and Father Boyle and hearing the thoughts of Mary Oliver...allowing in...the very idea of our souls clapping for each other...noticing how it’s done, can help.
How might we journey together to The Good Life by zeroing in on the goodness… allowing our souls to clap for each other?
(I would love to hear when you felt someone's soul clapping for yours or when your soul has clapped for another's)