And the river flows…

July 12, 2012 § 6 Comments

The idea put forth in this post has occurred to individual humans over and over. It’s been enshrined in world philosophies.

But the truth feels most true when it knocks on your door.

When the knock came and I answered it, a neighbor was standing there. He needed twenty bucks to have enough to pay for a pain prescription.

The first thing I did was become self-protective, and put on that face that says, I’m sorry, but, no. “Money is tight this week,” I told him.

We run a careful budget, restricting ourselves to what we call “the weekly money.” When he knocked we were down to our last twenty with three more days to go.

But it was hard to miss the fact that what we had and what he needed were one and the same. A twenty-dollar bill. The twenty went home in his pocket.

When he was feeling better, he came back and mowed our lawn, and the lawn of what was my dad’s house but is now in use as a library for neighborhood kids. He saw a need he could fill and did so.

Our natural instinct is to hoard our money, our goods, our time.

To those who dwell on the limited nature of these resources, it seems that everyone is trying to nibble away at what they need to hold onto for their own use. But even those who jealously protect what they have can recognize a need that is real and has merit.

Seeing that need, we can still avert our eyes and rush on. But when we do, we wall ourselves away from the ebb and flow of life. We choose to go it alone.

Recently, badly busted by a car accident, I was amazed at the dinners that were delivered night after night by friends and neighbors. It took me a while to grow accustomed to having the river flow toward me. Giving is so much easier than receiving but we must do both.

I’m not talking now about quid pro quo; I do this for you and you repay the favor. I’m talking about the natural tendency of resources to flow toward need if we attune ourselves to those vacancies around us. When we sense an emptiness we fill it. We acknowledge our own emptiness and allow someone to do the same for us.

I tend to sugarcoat life, but I know it can be grindingly hard when what we lack is chronic. Not enough money. Poor health. Loneliness. Life can also knock us flat with its sudden brutality.

I am a well-trained worrier, a family trait, but lately I have begun to let that habit go. I now try to face difficult situations with my arms at my sides. I can’t fend life off, and railing at it makes no difference. When I do, I hear my own voice echoing back. In the place that behavior takes me I am always alone.

Pitting myself against what is requires an adversarial stance, a smoldering use of energy. And from all that I’ve seen it doesn’t work.

I now recognize that nothing is deserved or distributed fairly, that nothing is really owned, but just briefly held and then passed on.  Nothing is static or guaranteed. Accepting this, I can now let out my breath.

This is a universe in constant flux. Remain quiet and you will notice that it flows toward vacancy and need.

Acknowledge you are a part of that flow and everything gets easier.


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§ 6 Responses to And the river flows…

  • craig reeder says:

    Such a touching story. When we moved to Tallahassee in 1999, my wife laura said that since we had been so fortunate over the years, we should think of a way to give back, and so we became hospice volunteers. that proved to be a wonderful choice. but that is nothing compared to handing over the last of the “weekly money” with three days to go. you and ray really live your beliefs. so i am thanking you now on behalf of the rest of humanity.


    • I knew as I stood there that we had gas in the car and food in the fridge. And I really do have faith that things present themselves when you let go of what you think you just have to hold onto in order to be safe.

      I wondered as I wrote that account whether it sounded like bragging–I sure hope not. The thing is, the letting go gets easier as you do it because it always, in some way, works out. And I must admit that, unlike our neighbor, had we been unable to get through those three days we could have taken a little more out of the bank, although we didn’t.

      What you and Laura do with Hospice is valiant. You put yourselves in the path of the thing we least want to deal with; death. And you do it over and over. I think that what you two do is harder.


  • robinecker says:

    Timely. This one really struck a chord in me. Something I have been pondering lately myself, though not in exactly the same way.


  • My sister became ill about 9 years ago this last May. She suffered from Guilliaum-Barre syndrome, brought on by tainted chicken.

    Finally released from the hospital, she still had to do outpatient rehab each day, but couldn’t drive. A friend took her to the center everyday for 4 months. Another friend spent every night in the spare bedroom, just in case my sister needed help. Others did household chores.

    Over the course of her recovery she looked at the help she received from friends and neighbors philosophically (as only a true independent spirit can). When they asked how she liked the laundry folded, or the dishwasher loaded, her response was always, “Any way you do it is my new favorite way.”

    I think we all have to learn to say ‘thank you’ as well as ‘you’re welcome’!



  • KM Huber says:

    More and more, I find myself immersed in the moment. I discover possibilities that would not have occurred to me because I am I free of conditioned responses, and as you say, there is a flow throughout existence, and if I will go with it, all will be revealed.

    I have admired so many of your posts, Adrian; this one, I find truly extraordinary, a daily read for life. Thank you.

    P.S. In reading through the comments, I saw your concern about bragging, and I laughed aloud for Adrian, a braggart you are not.


  • deb reilly says:

    Loved this beautiful post! It reminded me to have compassion for folks who don’t understand.


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