Pokégone

Not so many months ago, people were running around local parks looking for this elusive Pokémon or that, jumping fences in pursuit of cyber characters. There was much talk about the genius of this hybrid activity that was getting young folk and others out of houses and into the fresh air. I’ve noticed of late that fewer are on the hunt. It might be attributed to the weather, but still we have had a warm fall and it seems that the rage really has been ratcheted down in our parts. It never really made a big impact on our daughters, who are the age of its biggest fans.

My daughters did not play Pokémon in its heyday. While their friends enjoyed the game, they missed out on it because they didn’t think we could afford it. This was, a conclusion they came to on their own and in part, it reflected our decision in those days not to have cable. Consequently they could not watch the animated shows, nor did we have the Game Boy necessary to support the video games. Interestingly, they never asked about it, and it passed us by.

While it is true that we didn’t have a lot of money in those days – I was a graduate student and my wife was at home with the girls – their self-understanding at that time of our family as poor interests me. In some ways, they were correct. We didn’t have a lot of cash, and we lived frugally. But the girls never went without what they most needed, and we were even able to enjoy summer holidays some years. For the four years of my studies I had a bit of money from scholarships, a part-time pastorate and student loans. Our shekels, when scraped together, kept us above the poverty line. All the same, we lived well and I have fond memories of those days.

I remember, in particular, my last year in my program as a full time student. I split up my time with writing my dissertation, preaching on Sundays and caring for a small community, and teaching a theology class. I recall it as one of the finest years in my life, doing all the things I loved with hardly a meeting to attend. It was a rich life in many ways – at least for me, but one year was enough. It was time to move along.

Eventually we got cable, which we have since ditched. All the same, Pokémon never caught on – perhaps it was too late. Eventually our daughters came to realize that poverty and riches can be measured in diverse ways, and our place in a so-called first world meant that we are too often differently needy. And yet, slivers of light showed us and show us still that God gives us each other, as well as ways to live with some meaning and hope in our world and as well as the divine Self in Word and world. At the intersection of faith and love, hope shapes us into believing that a different way is possible: the coming Reign of justice, kindness and humility gives us something more substantive to seek than cyber characters. It drives us out of our pews and off of our haunches into a world where deep mysteries light our way and holy moments sustain us in dark times.

Treasure in Heaven

Wet leaf, framed by pavement

bleeding blue;

Chipmunk, startled by human eyeing

its surreptitious caching;

Sky so clear that it waters

eyes with beauty;

Child smiling at seeing me

seeing her;

Paddle in still water, and

the soft sweep of canoe;

Laughter around table, sweet

breath upon cheek;

Words that work soul as soil;

Bread and wine taken and taking in;

Water washing;

Silence.

These – all – treasure in heaven and so earth.

Hoarding’s End

“Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now” Annie Dillard, The Writing Life, p. 78.

This is not only good advice for writers, but for all artists, for scientists, for believers, for all.

Some of us hoard our way through life:  waiting for the right moment, the right person, the right opportunity to give.  But that tendency is at cross purposes with a true gift – at least a spiritual gift.  A spiritual gift comes unbidden from a spiritual giver who is not looking for a perfect person, but a person in need.  When need announces itself it is time to give: a word, a picture, a gesture, a hug, a hope.  Now the astounding thing about giving gifts in this key is that the giver gets more than she gives.  Jesus said that it is more blessed to give than to receive, and we can only imagine that he spoke from experience.

Of course our experience isn’t only that it is hard not to hoard, but it is also exceedingly hard to receive (taking, of course, is much easier).  To receive, to receive the blessing that attends generosity’s upending of parsimony, that is difficult indeed!  We are embarrassed by the wonders that wind their way to us when we give.  It may be more blessed to give than receive, but it is surely more humbling to receive than to give!  Yet the paradox is that when we give, we receive and so find ourselves in face of the realization that we were truly poor when we hoarded.

Give.  Truly this affords us a richer life – but it comes at the cost of being counter cultural. After all, many voices announce scarcity as the state of affairs in our world.  Yet the astounding testimony of those who visit the so called “two thirds world” is that those who have the least give the most.  Those who have next to nothing know that what sustains us in times of trial is community and community comes by sharing: our goods, our words, our wonder, our fear, our faith.

How might you move beyond a posture of hoarding this week?  Will you dare to share a poem with a friend?  A meal with a stranger?  A hug with someone who hurts?  “Give it.  Give it all.  Give it now.”