(Let us be a) Shelter for One Another

Today was our first day of “Sunday School” at Holy Innocents, which for us means Godly Play for the younger kids, and Rite 13 for the older ones.  I coordinate the storytellers & doorkeepers for Godly Play, but I actually facilitate Rite 13, which is a spiritual reflection group for youth aged 11-15.  This was my first time leading the group, and I was a little nervous.  I lead groups all the time at my other job, but for adults.  Ironically, they are the kind of adults that may scare a lot of people — drug addicts, homeless people, ex-cons, etc.  But I feel very comfortable with those folks — they are my people.  Young teenagers, however, while amazing in so many ways, are notoriously difficult to wrangle into deep spiritual conversations.  Such was my task today, and with my Expressive Arts Therapy tools by my side, I think it went pretty well.
Being the 10 year anniversary of 9/11, I at first thought I should do something to commemorate that.  But then I remembered, “Oh yeah, these kids were toddlers then.”  So I decided instead to focus on their lives, on moving forward, into a bright future for all of us.  After a check-in in which they sorted through my huge varied postcard collection to choose cards to introduce themselves, I read them this poem:

The Summer Day
by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean–
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down–
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

Then I asked them to decorate the covers of the blank books I got for each of them, in which they’ll share their thoughts about what we reflect on each week.  I asked them to think about that question at the end of the poem, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” while they worked on their books.  The art they came up with was really incredible — I won’t share about it here because it is theirs and belongs to stay in that space, but suffice it to say that they really inspired me in their quirky, innovative, totally original ways of expressing themselves.  Nothing was very literal — no one really “answered” the question.

I have a lot of feelings about the anniversary of the Al Queda attacks, many political thoughts as well as memories of that day and the time that followed.  But it’s been 10 years.  I think it’s time to ask ourselves, what are we going to do with our one wild and precious lives?  With our one wild and precious country?  That is how I am honoring those who died ten years ago today — by asking myself honestly how I want to live my life, and seeking to spend as many moments as possible doing exactly that.  I hope you’ll join me.

Image by Ryan McGinley

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