I originally posted this reflection on June 23, 2008 after attending my best friend’s father’s funeral.
A few weeks ago, I told you all about the book This I Believe which is based on the National Public Radio series of the same name where Americans from all walks of life- famous and not so- read an essay over the radio that completes the thought that begin’s the book’s title. The essays are very brief capsules of wisdom that uniquely capture the essence of our lives…
From Sarah Adams: If I have one operating philosophy about life, it is this: Be cool to the pizza delivery dude; it’s good luck.
From Eve Ensler: I believe in the power and mystery of naming things.
From Rick Moody: I believe in the absolute and unlimited liberty of reading.
From Victor Hanson: I believe we are not alone.
From Brian Grazer: I believe in disrupting my comfort zone.
From Martha Graham: I belive that we learn by practice.
From Cecile Gilmer: I believe that families are not only blood relatives but sometimes just people that show up and love you when no one else will.
From Deirdre Sullivan: I believe in always going to the funeral.
I mentioned the book because I was about to teach a workshop for a group as part of a four day retreat that revolved around this very book, this very premise of articulating what one believes. My job was to lead them to their belief statements. To help them grab on to which story and belief they would share and then begin the drafting of that belief statement.
Their statements were remarkable– so much so, that I remember many still now:
I believe in the power of a Christmas carol.
I believe in the backyard garden.
This I believe… Nerds Rule.
I believe in the power of the underdog.
I believe in listening.
In preparing for the workshop, I toyed around with many of my own beliefs, reducing them to the one sentence soundbite that might later lead to my own individual belief statements about each.
Here are some of mine:
I believe in the power of voice.
I believe that exposure changes everything.
I believe that a little cupcake goes a long way.
I believe that our passion is our purpose.
I believe that powerful learning happens with an emotional connection.
I believe that life keeps handing us the lesson we need to learn until we learn it.
I believe that even when you don’t know what to say, you show up.
This past week was both breathtaking and heartbreaking. As it has always been, seeing my dear friend and her family filled my well. But grieving the impossible loss of my friend’s father, a man who was so many respected and loved, is the kind of thing that will split you open. As her brother said in his eulogy, he would take this grief any day over not having ever known this man, his father. When we left the church, the procession streamed out onto the Mississippi streets, winding miles and miles out to farm land, and I was reminded about a beautiful custom that still happens in some smaller Southern towns (maybe it happens elsewhere, too– I’ve only seen it in Vicksburg, Mississippi and Charleston, South Carolina). Every car on the street pulled over and stopped for the duration of this incredibly long processional. People on sidewalks took off their hats, covered their hearts. No one looked impatient. Not one person was on a cell phone as I drove by. They were people of all ages, all cultures, stopped. I wondered for a moment if I would have known at 16 to pull over and show this amount of respect– the way I saw one shirtless teenage boy do in his pickup truck. For miles, we drove by stopped car after stopped car. After having spent the entire day before with the dozens and dozens of family members who were tenderly holding each other in so much love, after watching a visitation line wind through the church with people who waited three hours to tell the family what this man had meant to them, after one of the most lovely celebrations of life that was the memorial service, after all of this, riding down that long road with every car pulled over, every walking person halted, every police officer stopping traffic with one hand over his heart, I was so very humbled by the magnitude of what his life meant and also by the magnitude of what every one of our lives really means. In that spirit, I add one more statement to my list:
I believe that every life is worth stopping for.