My friend sent me this photo recently. These are the shoes of a large group of volunteers who helped one of our youth at Advent complete his Eagle Scout Project: adding paving stones and benches and flowered landscaping between an old building and a new one that we have yet to occupy. My friend was deeply moved by the respect shown by this gesture — a gesture that was not required, but nonetheless was made by all the workers before they entered the building for lunch.
It has me thinking about other times in which we are moved from within to do something small, the net effect of which might be noteworthy enough to photograph. I think about these times as holy ground. Indeed this very blog is named after that story in Exodus 3 in which Moses takes his shoes off to be in the presence of God. They are moments we do not expect to witness that simultaneously restore our faith in one another.
There is a woman who uses a walker at our Sunday evening service at the beach. Our long-haired guitar player, Charles, has taken to helping adjust her walker so that it is easier for her to come forward during communion. He does it quietly, from the line that is forming, and motions for her to go first.
There is an 80-something veteran in my condos who faithfully raises and lowers an American Flag above our community deck at sunrise and sunset every single day — and he does it by the book: saluting, reverently. He keeps track of the precise time it was raised and lowered with an old pocket watch, noting the times in a small worn journal. Anyone out there when he does this, without being told, remains still until he is done.
There is a 3-year-old at our preschool who was nearly 3 months premature and so has had to do some catch-up developmentally. Recently, a woman approached our director to see if we would take her young child who had some similar challenges. The woman was shaken, in tears, as she explained that the preschool nearest him would not take him because of his disability. While touring our facility, our little one who was born premature ran up to her on the playground, took her hand, guided her across the playground to a balance beam on which he was sitting, and had her sit next to him. He continued to hold her hand as they sat together quietly.
I know these moments of compassion and respect may seem insignificant in a world filled with both unspeakable tragedies and heroic humanitarian actions.
And yet, they are noteworthy, I think, because people of every age, in homes by the ocean and fields by the farm; in schoolyards and rehabilitation centers; in church basements and in desperate city neighborhoods, do them every single day with no prompting from outside themselves. They are noteworthy because they make us stop and notice and like drops of water that eventually fill a rain barrel, they have the ability to restore hope in our weary souls which seem to take a beating all too often.
They are noteworthy because they do not depend on knowledge, experience, or money. They spring from the heart. The heart — that part of our being onto which God has not just written, but carved the divine commandment, so that we might not forget it. The commandment is not a law that divides us in fear; It is an invitation that draws us toward peace. And the invitation is simply: Love One Another.
We do it most easily when we don’t over-think it. We do it best in fact, when we sense a need and respond without thinking. And whether we are the doer, the receiver, or the witness, these moments of holy ground are as restorative to us as a walk on the beach.