December 29, 2010

Who Hasn't Sorrow?

This past year has been a sad year for the families living on our block. A few days before Christmas, our neighbor two doors down, John, died. Earlier in December our neighbor, Ben, a high school senior, was in a roll-over car accident. Ben was a passenger in a van headed to a high school basketball game. Ben is recovering from some pretty serious injuries. The mother of my next door neighbor on the other side, Pat, recently had a stroke and now lives with Pat and her husband. Earlier in the year my neighbor Lisa lost her mother, and the lady who lives across the street from me also died, and most of you know that my wife, Susan, also died in March.

You'd think that our street would be overcome with sorrow and self-pity, but I didn't perceive it to be so. Everyone put up the usual Christmas decorations, lights were lit in every house each night of the holiday season, and all-in-all it was a reasonably merry Christmas. Are we a callous and un-caring bunch? I don't think so.

Brent Auernheimer recently sent me a link to a blog by Barry Vaughn in which Vaughn retells a Buddhist parable of a mustard seed. In the parable, a woman named Kisa loses her only son. She is overcome with grief and begs the Buddha to raise her son from the dead. The Buddha tells her that he will raise her son from the dead if she will bring him a single mustard seed. Initially Kisa was elated, because this would not be hard for her to do, but then Buddha added that the mustard seed had to come from the house of a family who had never suffered any sorrow. Kisa went from house to house throughout her village inquiring if they had ever known sorrow, and at every house she heard them recount their stories of suffering and sorrow. At the end of that day Kisa sat down on a hill overlooking her village, and as the sun went down and the moon and stars rose in the sky, she noticed that lights were lit in every house in the village. Kisa realized then that everyone experiences sorrow, and that what we learn from our own sorrow is how to open our hearts to the sorrow of others.

Vaughn's telling of the Buddhist parable is in the context of a Christian sermon to the effect that nothing, not even sorrowful events in our lives, can separate us from the love of God. I am also thinking that sorrowful events in our lives should not separate us from the love of each other, particularly the important people in our lives.

No comments:

Post a Comment