A Shared Umbrella


The insistent ring of the alarm. Heavy eyes, still swollen partially shut with sleep. Awareness that it is Tuesday, and I must wake up. The slow methodical movements of my body on autopilot knowing what has to be done to go from sleepy-eyed to one of the many productive people rushing through mass transit to make this machinery called the ‘economy’ work.

All of this for what? For a paycheck? For retirement? For a new dress? For a re-built transmission on our car? For an electric bill? For kids college? There are days when it feels so trite. So nothing.

To add to these bleak thoughts, it’s been raining. Hard. Not short showers where the sun blinks through as though crying a little and then bursts forth into smiles; rather it’s downpours where the bottom of your jeans get wet, your purse is soggy and water seeps through your shoes. It smells like rain and all the trash of the city is mashed together under foot.

Umbrellas are everywhere and instead of people bumping into people, it is umbrella on umbrella, small spokes getting caught in other small spokes. Most have their own umbrellas, but occasionally you will see people sharing, heads bent together to ensure maximum coverage. While those of us who are alone are walking quickly, impatient with the raindrops and downpours that stymie our progress, those who are sharing are often laughing or talking intensely.

Along with the sharing of umbrellas comes the inevitable sharing of life.

Several years ago, while still in high school, my son Micah did a project for a video contest. His skill and technique have improved ten-fold, but I still loved this, one of the first projects he did for competition.

Called “A Shared Umbrella” it tells with few words and many actions the story of a teenage girl, defeated and done with life. At her window, high in an apartment building she looks out at a bleak city scene of rain and sorrow. Pills are poured out in her hand, she’s ready to end her struggle, her struggle with life and with pain.

She looks out the window and sees two strangers – one dressed in a suit and tie, a business man off to work; the other dressed in old clothes, clearly without money. They are both waiting for the same bus. The business man waits with an umbrella, the poorer has none. And then in an unexpected act of humility and kindness the business man walks over and holds out his umbrella, sharing it with a stranger, offering a shield against the rain pouring down. They stand together until finally the bus comes carrying both off to their respective lives.

Just this simple act is enough to give the girl hope. If an umbrella can be shared among unlikely people, then life may be worth living. It is a small act of redemption in her bleak world.

I love his piece. I love the images, I love the graphics, and I love the story.

Offering protection and hope through sharing an umbrella is seemingly so simple; why do I make it so hard? Especially today, when nothing feels redemptive, least of all sharing an umbrella.

Today as I walk in the rain, I am acutely aware of my humanity and frailty; ashamed of my blah spirit and my feelings that none of this makes any difference; aware too of the humanity of all around me.  And with that awareness, tired as I am, I want to offer hope; I want to share my umbrella.

But first – can I have some sun?

Dry Earth

raindrops leaf

The rain began on Sunday and it hasn’t stopped. While Saturday was bright, sunny, and warm, Sunday dawned cloudy, and by afternoon torrential rain was falling. The temperature dropped by 30 degrees.

The earth was dry and parched. Large blotches of brown grass began filling up the spring lawns in city parks and outside suburban homes. The earth is drinking in this rain like it is dying. It can’t get enough. There are barely puddles because the ground is absorbing it so quickly.

While I don’t like the wet and cold, we need the rain desperately. The earth begs for it.

I think about dry earth and I think about dry souls; how one needs water and the other living water. I see the earth respond to the rain and when the sun comes again we will see sunlight sparkling off brilliant colors.

I have had many times when my soul has been like the dry earth, desperate for rain. Souls dry faster and take longer to water than the earth, partly because the one with the soul doesn’t always see the need.

My soul has been dry lately. I go to pray and I struggle with concentration. I go to read the Bible, and the words blur before tired eyes. Yes – my soul has been dry. The difference between the earth needing rain and my soul needing living water is this: the earth must wait for the rain. It can’t produce it, no dance before the gods will make it rain. Since the beginning of time we humans have tried to manipulate the heavens into doing what we want, into giving us what we desperately need. But it doesn’t work that way. It rains when it rains and no amount of sacrifice will change that.

But living water for the soul? That is readily available. It is in the prayers said through the centuries; it is in the Bible, whether it be leather or cloth bound, large print or red-letter edition. It is in the fellowship of the saints, it is in the Church. This living water is available – but it also takes action on my part. It takes recognition of the dry and willingness to go to the source of water.

So as I trudge through the streets, trying to guard my face against pelting rain, I think of these things. I think of the dry earth, even now soaking up the blessed rain. I think of how redemptive rain is to this earth, saving it from drought. And I pray for my dry soul, that I will be willing to go to the source where there is abundant and redemptive living water. And I pray that as my soul drinks in that water, it will sparkle with brilliant colors from the Son.

Photo Credit: http://pixabay.com/en/drops-of-water-raspberry-leaf-green-352435/

Advent Reflection – Raining Tears

As often happens in life, one day there’s a party and the next there is grief. The other day there was a party and all felt sunny. One day later, the sky was the grey of winter and rain fell steadily. As I was walking to my local drug store I walked over cigarette butts, paper leaflets trapped in puddles, and wet leaves mixed together on the sidewalk, all evidence of life in a city. I was glad for the rain falling on my cheeks; it gave me grace to weep tears that I didn’t want seen in public but came on like a sudden summer storm. I felt like I was raining tears.

All around me I saw evidence of a world broken. It was in the glum, moodiness of passers-by. It was in the grocery cart pushed by the homeless woman, piled high with bottles and filthy blankets. It was in the impatient honking of a car, angry at the vehicle in front of him. Had the vehicle kept on moving, it would have hit two people in the cross walk – and then there would have been more brokenness.

The tears had come from looking at a set of 45 images that represented this past year. Almost every picture was evidence of sadness, loss of life, and a shattered world. As the tears flowed I asked the age-old question: Are you good, God? In the midst of all of this, are you good? It was raining tears as I asked the question.

And so I went back through the images. Could I find even a glimpse of redemption in any of these pictures? Could I see something that sparked hope? I resolved that when I got home I would look through the pictures again with the a different lens, a redemptive lens.

Instead of just seeing coffins, destruction, and crisis I saw beyond the images, to the sidelines or back stage. In the midst of death, was mourning – redemptive evidence of someone who loved. In the midst of buildings ripped from the ground from a tornado was a person – redemptive evidence of a life spared. In the middle of sadness was the redemptive and inexplicable joy that comes from human connection. One image showed Christians guarding Muslims as they prayed in Tahrir Square, ensuring no one was disrupted –  a redemptive image of compassion and care that could transcend different belief systems.

The tears continued to fall but they became redemptive tears renewing my vision and enabling me to see the marks and manifestation of God=breathed redemption.