I’m glad no one walked into the room as I was feeling my face. I’d just read a surgeon’s words regarding our world’s newest face transplant patient, “I must tell you how happy she was when, with both her hands, she could go over her face and feel that she has a nose, feel that she has a jaw.” I found the description so beautiful…
And so I just sat there thinking; with my hands feeling my face, sensing it’s contours and texture, contemplating its various parts and functions, taking stock of the fact that everything is working, everything is there. The flared edge of a nostril… the unshaven protrusion of a chin… soft skinned cheekbones… healthy pain free teeth… and lips to kiss my wife and kids with.
Most of the time (when I think about it) I complain about my face; too fat, too much skin, too wrinkled and discoloured, too long a forehead. I don’t re-call ever feeling thankful for my nose. I’ve never expressed gratitude for my jaw.
This woman who’d received the new face had apparently suffered a catastrophic accident, losing 80% of her face as a result. Can you imagine living with the horror of that reality? And then to be given this miraculous second chance; how redemptive is that?
How can I ever be a facial ingrate again?
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feeling my face
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, December 20 2008 @ 03:19 PM PST
Beautiful. It’s always wonderful when we are reminded to be thankful for
EVERYTHING, from the smallest things to the large things to the things we take
The US sub-prime mortgage mess is now saddling us with hundreds of billions of dollars of global losses, global markets are trembling, banks are scrambling to find their balance, our personal retirement funds are taking a hit, and now we’re second guessing the wisdom of that recently acquired line of credit.
We feel victimized by what’s happening, but should we? Aren’t we the ones who let this happen? Why shouldn’t we pay for what we’ve done?…
Putting the blame on the recklessness or naiveté of some blue collar, hourly wage worker in Cleveland is no excuse. Sure, he was the one who didn’t read the contract, got caught by a deceptively low interest rate hook, ended up losing his job, missing his mortgage payments, and then falling into foreclosure; he and a few million others.
But we can’t put this all on him. Nor can we lay it all at the feet of manipulatively greedy lending institutions. Sure they baited and switched their high risk clients. Yes, they failed to do their due diligence. And no doubt, they covered their high risk tracks by deceptively repackaging and spreading out their bad debt, selling it to us.
But hey, who can blame them. They saw a market and met it.
And this is where our personal culpability comes in.
Ultimately we’re the ones who allowed for a manipulative lending system to even exist. We’re the ones that insisted on ever higher returns from our mutual fund managers. We’re the ones who averted our eyes, and didn’t ask the tough questions, who signed up for those returns that were too good to be true.
Face it we created the market for all of this greed and loss. And now we’re paying the price.
The same kind of math played out with the toxic Chinese toy disaster; we insisted that our big box retailers continually lower their everyday low prices, and were then horrified to discover that our kids had been poisoned.
We went to the mall expecting to pick up that “label” outfit for a song and were then appalled by the eleven o’clock news images of a ragged 11 year old Bangladeshi girl sewing glitter onto the same haute couture top we just bought.
We’re the ones who by, swiping ourselves into oblivion, and never once considering concepts like self limitation or delayed gratification, are now stressing over unprecedented personal debt levels.
We insist on cheap energy, oversized homes, big cars and expectations, and now have to listen to the planet scream back at us, “Enough!”
What’s it going to take for us to listen; total financial, ecological and sociological breakdown?
Let’s face it. We’re not innocent victims at all. These are the just desserts of a hyper-consumer driven culture operating without an appropriate conscience (or speed limit!).
Maybe we should take this time to pause and read the signs.
Instead of spending all of our energies freaking out about how to stop the bleeding and get on with life as we know it, why not pause for a second, take an honest look around. Are we headed in the right direction? Is this the best way for humanity to flourish? Is the bigger, better deal always the best for us?
Perhaps we’re not made for unlimited growth.
When is enough, enough? What’s wrong with receding once in a while? Is it really a sin to stop and be satisfied?
If you stand back and look at our world – at your own life – you have to wonder, “Given our current modus operandi, are we ever going to get to a point where we feel satiated?”
It seems to me that so much of what now ails us is the direct result of our inability to understand the concept of sufficiency.
A few months ago I attended a lecture, where Dr. Bob Goudzwaard (former Dutch parliamentarian, Apartheid dismantler, World Bank advisor, and all round global mover and shaker) introduced a very simple image of the sufficient life. In addressing the monstrous global maladies of economic injustice and environmental degradation, he spoke of a tree. A tree, he said, is a wonderful teacher of the “richness of sufficiency.”
It knows when to stop growing. It understands that any attempt to extend beyond its natural limits will result in less, not more; death, not life.
They say that mature trees clean the air, breathe in CO2, and breathe out life giving oxygen. They also take nutrients from the soil, and then replenish that same soil. They know to give back, stay in balance, and when to stop.
Perhaps we should do the same.
We were sitting in the Fats Bar and Grill on Tenth Street when he did something unforgettably beautiful. Half an hour earlier I was preaching a sermon on how the city is a refuge for the last, least and the lost, and he was dumpster diving just outside of our church doors…
His name was Gord, and our beers had just arrived at the table, without coasters.
At first I didn’t know what he was doing as he searched through several of the pockets of several of the layers of clothing he was wearing. But then he found a neatly folded handful of white paper towel pieces. Taking one he folded it into quarters and placed it under his beer glass. Then he did the same for me. I don’t know why but it felt like a holy moment. He was taking from what was his, and via the sacrament of a shared meal, giving unto me. His fingers were a grimy black, so filthy next to the paper towel pieces. They moved very slowly and deliberately; perhaps still frozen from the hours he’d been out in that morning’s blizzard. Separating just one piece of paper towel from the rest for me; knowing that his new found friend should never drink a beer without a coaster.
That had to be my first experience of homeless hospitality. How deeply humbling.
You see, as I came out of the church – when I first saw him there – all I really wanted to do was give him some change. But I had none. So I got in my car and left. I had to go shopping for a gourmet meal we were having with friends later that night. But I couldn’t get a 100 metres down the road without thinking, “You’ve got to help this guy John, it’s freezing outside.” So I turned around, parked, and asked him if he’d wait there for a second while I go to the ATM; but for some reason the stupid machine didn’t work either. Finally I gave in, went back to him and said, “Wanna go for lunch?”
He rode his bottle and can laden bicycle there (in a snow storm) and I drove. As I waited for him to arrive I couldn’t help recall what I’d just preached, especially the point about how urban diversity has the potential to enlarge us. Living in a city – the epicentre and epitome of difference – you can do one of two things with the vast diversity you face; you can separate and stereotype others and keep them at arms length – leaving yourself small and in control, or you can engage the difference head on – get past your uncomfortableness, move beyond your camp mentality, and humbly have a conversation over lunch.
Whatever the difference is – sociological, racial, economic, educational, political – there’s nothing that genuine face to face interaction can’t draw closer; if you let it. And it’s true; you do become a bigger person. More like God. More in the image of the one who made you; inclusive, gracious, full of loving kindness and mercy, deeply passionate for all kinds of people (people he made!).
In that morning’s sermon I mentioned how God’s concept of the city taught me more about who God is. I’ve always thought I had a fairly decent understanding the Trinity; fully one and yet distinctly three different persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But the city shed more light on what the Trinity really means; especially on the ‘distinct’ side of things. Recognizing the diversity of the city (and the world for that matter) got me thinking that the three persons of the Trinity may be infinitely distinct from one another, even as they are wholly one. I’ve always considered them somewhat distinct; still fairly similar, not all that different. But who says that’s true? Perhaps the power of the Trinitarian definition of the nature of God lies in the fact of infinite diversity in complete unity?
That makes the city one of the most compelling teachers of who God is. And it helps me understand why He would describe heaven with urban terms; with the glory of all the nations, all peoples represented there. All at the same time, in the same place; preachers and bottle pickers included.
Last Sunday, when I was driving home from church – taking that last turn onto my street – I saw a man pushing two strollers – one was filled with a large bag holding empty pop cans and bottles. At first I drove by him (like I often do)… I feel like the priest in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan every time I do this… then I thought different.
“I should help this guy,” I said. So I pulled over to the curb, emptied my change box of its loonies and toonies, turned the car around and drove a half block back to the man. I pulled my car right up to the curb where he was walking. I stayed in my car as I spoke to him…
First I just offered him the $11. in change, and then we talked a bit. His name was Ron and he was about 50 years old, dressed in an old snow suit, wearing these huge out of style glasses… hands dirty, scruffy beard, he had no family. When I gave him the cash he was just blown away, “This just makes my day,” he said. He was elated!
He then went on to talk about how good his life was at the moment. Even though his recently diagnosed Parkinson’s had cost him his driving job, and then his apartment, he was currently living in a place that was being renovated. The owners let him stay there for free while the construction work was being done.
He had a place to live for the next month or so, and he thought that was the best! He couldn’t believe his good fortune. It was almost with a sense of incredulity that he said, “I can’t tell you how good the Scarpone’s are to me… letting me stay there for free… they’re such generous people… they’re so good to me.”
I then commented on the good looking strollers he’d collected from the garbage. He was pretty proud of his finds. He then went on to tell me about the brightness of his future.
“I’m going ‘off grid’ pretty soon,” he said. “I’m going to get back to nature, go winter camping, get out of here for a while. You won’t believe all the good gear I’ve been able to assemble over the past few months… a tent, down sleeping bag, Danby fridge, propane stove…” He went on and on.
“Winter camping?” I thought, “Where? Down by the river in the makeshift slums of Calgary?” (He confirmed that that was his intent a few minutes later!)
Anyway, this guy was totally stoked about his upcoming adventure… like a little kid would be.
As our conversation continued, he got a bit philosophical. At one point he let slip, “He’s taking care of me… one day at a time.”
I couldn’t help think of the bible verse I’d been contemplating for this Sunday’s message on contentment…
“I’m glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you’re again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. I don’t mean that your help didn’t mean a lot to me—it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles.”
Phillippians 4:10-14, MSG