Do Unto Others…

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life…

From The Prayer of St. Francis

Years ago, when Mike and I visited New York City, we included the United Nations complex our “must see” list. UN Headquarters did not disappoint. Regardless of ones politics, the concept of world leaders gathered in one place to care for this one world seems beyond our human expectations. Still, they continue to meet. Through the numerous disagreements which plague their discussions, they continue to talk. This is an accomplishment!

A mosaic in the UN Conference Building took my breath away. This piece by Normal Rockwell was presented to the UN by First Lady Nancy Reagan. The eight-foot mosaic features a montage of adults and children of every race and color. In the midst of this gathering of humanity are the words, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” When the mosaic was refurbished in 2014, Secretary General Mr. Jan Eliasson remarked, “…it also reflects the very essence of our mission as set out in our charter.” Before Mike and I left that day, we purchased a small copy of that mosaic. I treasure this constant reminder of the standard by which I’m asked to live.

That mosaic’s message provides a fitting end to my references to the Prayer of St. Francis. You know, I’m fairly certain that those who sow unrest within our human family care little about St. Francis or The Golden Rule. Still, I hope the sentiments expressed by each bring some guidance and consolation as we navigate these difficult days. In the mean time, I’ll keep those effected by our current woes and those who can do something about them in my prayers. This means I’ll be praying for us all!

Compassionate God, be with us in our efforts to make this world a better place for all of your people.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Now I Get It!

Grant that I may not so much seek
to be understood as to understand…

From The Prayer of St. Francis

Before my students arrived to begin each school year, I reviewed their records, report cards and other pertinent information from their previous years in school. I wanted to understand the history which accompanied my new students into our classroom.

When I noticed that prior behaviors were “troublesome”, I watched carefully. These were the children with whom I made eye contact and conversation most often. I also seated them near my desk. Those with poor grades also found their desks upfront. This close proximity gave them a better chance of absorbing the wisdom of the day. Previous teachers’ notes and the new information I gathered throughout the year increased my understanding of these students and impacted the quality of our interactions on an ongoing basis.

We all need to be understood, to have a voice, to be heard and to be valued. We all also need to allow these essentials to one another. If I feel I’ve been discounted in some may, I have good reason not to discount the feelings, opinions and attitudes of others because I know how devastating this can be. At this writing, I don’t know all of the things which motivate some of my troubled fellow humans these days. I can only imagine what it’s like to lose everything to a hurricane. I can only imagine what it’s like to be judged simply because of the color of my skin. I can only imagine what it’s like to discover that I’ve tested positive for COVID-19. What I can imagine is that, whatever our circumstances, we all wish to be and need to be understood by someone.

Dear God, help us as we seek to understand one another and to love one another more. May all of our efforts bring about peace, productivity and meaningful change.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Reach Past The Pain

Grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console…

From The Prayer of St. Francis

When my husband worked as a hospice chaplain, he never ceased to be amazed by the generosity of his patients and their loved ones. Though their days were numbered in only double or single digits, Mike’s patients often spent those days easing the burdens of the loved ones they’d soon leave behind. When these losses came to pass, many of those loved ones eased their own pain by reaching out to others in some way. Though none of us can ever truly prepare for these things, the consolation offered by others who’ve “been there” somehow gets us through the most unbearable circumstances. How amazing it is that the worst of our pain can result in such generous acts of love!

I think the efforts of those hospice patients and their loved ones offer valuable encouragement to all of us who are reeling in the midst of this pandemic, ongoing injustice, natural disasters and political unrest. Though we aren’t always dealing with these things face to face, we feel their horror just the same. Our challenge is to find ways to use whatever our circumstances are to better this world for ourselves and one another. It seems to me that the best consolation we can offer will come through our efforts to replace sadness with joy, to replace despair with hope and to replace hatred with love.

Dear God, be with us as we do all we can to console one another and this world by becoming instruments of your peace and your love.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Light The Way

Where there is darkness, let me sow light…
From The Prayer of St. Francis

Whenever acts of violence darken the moment at hand, law enforcement, newscasters and most of the rest us wonder together about assailants’ motives. I can shed no light on the actions of others because I’ve too often asked myself, “Why did I do that?” or “Why did I say that?” or “Why do I feel this way?” Sometimes, I’m certain of the reasons I’ve reacted to circumstances in a given way. At other times, I truly don’t understand.

What I can tell you is that I’m responding to the persistence of COVID-19’s assault, the ongoing injustice experienced by too many of our sisters and brothers, the forest fires and dangerous weather which just keep coming and the ongoing political unrest in this country with a deeply pained heart. Like so many of you, I wonder aloud, “Why does this misery continue?”

This life has taught me that I can’t do much about the motives and actions of others. Nonetheless, I can do something to shine a little light into the darkness that surrounds us these days. Just as people have influenced me for the better simply by being genuine in our encounters, maybe I can do the same. Just as these people have made me a more understanding, positive and productive person, maybe I can do the same for someone I meet along the way.

If we wish to live in a brighter, happier and more hopeful world, we all need to do our best to light the way as only we can. Let’s do it!

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light..

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Sowers of Hope

Where there is despair, let me sow hope…
Inspired by The Prayer of St. Francis

It isn’t easy to maintain hope when hours-old blood stains ones lab coat. Though this shift will end, that patient will continue to struggle until, hopefully, she recovers. It isn’t easy to maintain hope when ones feet ache after hours of walking with a heavy sign. Cameras recorded his demands for an equitable future. Still, he was stopped afterward as he drove home through an unfamiliar neighborhood. Many of us have walked through this pandemic and racial inequality and natural disasters with our physical health intact. Still, our psyches and our souls will never be the same. Though we’re grateful not to be victims, we ask, “Why her and why him and why not me?” In spite of our own good fortune, we worry.

It is in the midst of our worry and despair that we must grasp tightly to hope. Ordinary people everywhere have exhibited uncommon heroism to care for loved ones and strangers alike. Some who’ve never suffered prejudice have taken the time to walk and to talk and to understand a bit more. Some who have concerns of their own have embraced their jobs in hospitals and grocery stores, police cars and schools to serve and to heal, to protect and to teach as only they can. They’ve set aside their own well-being to do what needs to be done.

All across this country and around the world, people have helped as only they can. All of these are the antidote to our despair. All of these are our reason to hope in better things to come. Let’s join in this effort as only we can!

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope…

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Why Me?

Where there is doubt, let me sow faith…
Inspired by The Prayer of St. Francis

I can’t imagine what those in the midst of recent natural disasters continue to endure. I can’t imagine what families touched by COVID-19 are dealing with today. Many of those involved likely wonder: Why did this happen? Why did I have to be there? Why was my home destroyed? Why am I hurt? Why did my loved one die? Perhaps the most difficult question of all is “Why didn’t God do something?”

During the most frightening moments of my life, I’ve added a few more questions: You performed miracles two thousand years ago, so why not now? You cured all sorts of people back then, so why not now? When I run out of questions, I issue demands: I know none of us is immune, but not this baby! I know there is a reason for everything, but not that family! I know we’re all going to die from something, but not now… You get the idea.

In spite of my demanding and disrespectful attitude, there is good news in all of this. Whenever we utter such things, we also acknowledge that Someone is listening. Though God doesn’t usually respond with words, God always answers by being with us through it all. Though I don’t like to admit it, one of God’s greatest gifts to us is free will. We get to choose what we’ll do from one second to the next. Sometimes, those choices result in great good. Sometimes, not. Always, God remains as we persist and endure and heal. God also remains as we choose once again, perhaps this time to make things better…

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith…

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved