speaking during meeting today. My mind
was a garden shed full of sharp tools
and inside, a kid
spinning a red balloon around his head.
Outside the window, a wood pigeon
perched in the same wintered tree the entire hour,
statue-still while the wind blew
all the bare surrounding branches about.
One Friend stood up and read Advice 29:
Approach old age with courage and hope.
As far as possible, make
arrangements for your care in good time,
so that an undue burden does not fall
on others. Although old age may bring increasing
disability and loneliness,
it can also bring serenity, detachment and wisdom.
Pray that in your final years you may be enabled
to find new ways of receiving and reflecting God's love.
That man sat down, and minutes later, another
spoke the Serenity Prayer: God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change
the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
A third Friend, after some moments' silence, reminded me
that though we are not all elderly, we might ask ourselves:
How old is your spirit?
Remember you are never only your untrustworthy body.
While your body ages, your spirit yearns to and can remain
young. In the silence I discovered my soul had grown old,
angered, crippled by politics, injustice, the pressure
ulcers and blisters on the balls of my Spina bifida feet.
A fourth Friend read us Advice 19: Rejoice in the presence
of children and young people in your meeting
and recognise the gifts they bring. Remember
that the meeting as a whole
shares a responsibility for every child in its care.
Seek for them as for yourself a full development
of God's gifts and the abundant life
Jesus tells us can be ours.
How do you share your deepest beliefs with them,
while leaving them free to develop as the spirit of God
may lead them? Do you invite them to share their insights
with you? Are you ready both to learn from them
and to accept your responsibilities towards them?
The fifth and last Friend to speak
quoted Damaris Parker-Rhodes (1977): There is a part of us
which from childhood is absolutely alone.
When we fall in love we imagine
we have found an ultimate assuagement of loneliness.
This is not so.
In a true marriage or a near friendship
what in fact is found
is a companion in loneliness.
And then, I swear, my eyes still closed,
I heard a child behind me hurtling into the hall
look what I made! Others followed her in,
one boy was squealing, and the room erupted
with laughter. I opened my eyes,
and you won't believe me, but out the window, I
suddenly saw a squirrel run through the branches
of the same tree the wood pigeon was in, and then
another squirrel chased him around,
through, and between the branches
for a few seconds until
they, and the bird, had disappeared.