Tuesday, October 26, 2010

On the El and Thinking

Highways and public transit are
the root system of the business district.
Each day the trains and traffic pulse the same.
Over hundreds of square miles of land,
well beyond the city’s drip line, they stretch
to take in life and make the tower grow.

Years ago Anderson wrote of this giant
who then crept through the nation’s quiet fields
slowly taking hold of our talent, our creativity,
our gifts of heaven. Over time we came to
him with increasing willingness—with progress
in our minds and science
on our side and money to be made.
And we forgot about life.

This morning I dissolve again into
the grey day’s workforce.
I am a brooding nutrient
packed into a stuffy vessel tottering on
elevated tracks toward the tall buildings
at Lake Michigan’s shore.

Each time the train car stops it reveals
the frightening silence of working people
on their lonesome way. A few times
I dare to look the other human beings
in the eye. Without speaking we
ask one another, “If we are all
doing our part to help something live,
why do we feel so dead?”

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Inspiration From a Smiling Child

This evening a little girl sitting in a grocery cart smiled at me. She was probably one and a half, with dark hair hanging in curls beside her dark eyes. Her mother was deliberating between boxes of cereal as I strolled past with my plastic basket full of groceries, my hand gripping my shopping list scribbled on a note card. The girl watched me. Her stare, curious and innocent, and the freedom with which she moved brought tears to my eyes for just a second after I passed by.

What made the moment poetic? I think it was her simplicity. A child knows very few things. Chief among these are her own hunger and thirst and the safety that accompanies familiar or friendly people. She does not know about budgets, sale prices, the four food groups. Her mind does not grow weary analyzing the ethics behind or her diet or guessing at the thoughts in the minds of strangers. She has not yet learned the fear instilled by the governing forces of a society or the shrewd art of dealing with people. In short, she knows and believes in goodness, and from this simple belief all of her actions flow.

It takes a long time to regain the kind of faith we had as children. For those who have not embraced the promise and truth of Christ, restored trust in Goodness and the restful and free life that grows from it may never come. And of course, we who are reborn in faith still face continual hardships that batter down our hope in the goodness of God. The weight of getting on in the world descends and divides us so that few of our actions are linked to a clear motivation or a single, deep conviction.

Nonetheless, to have the simple trust of children is part of the Christian hope. The Lord draws us to rest in himself. He heals us over and over from the wounds inflicted since our memories began, and through it we hold to the truth of the good Father and the coming good Kingdom. Even through the stings of suffering and the drudgery of living, our lives can resemble the beauty of children at play. They can inspire the same kind of startling wonder as the little girl who smiled at me in the grocery store.