It’s been a big couple of weeks for changes and challenges here in the States. I’ve spent some time reassuring some old friends that their marriages are still valid, despite what the Supremes said, and we don’t all have to marry same-sex partners if we don’t want to. And as for that other Supreme Court thing about Obamacare (liberally construing the meaning of the word “state”), well, fans of the Moops will be pretty upset for a while. With each of these, I have as many friends who were ecstatic as those who were furious. On top of all that, violence continues unabated here and abroad; terrible murders and we’re divided about flags, guns and history itself. Overseas, ISIS surges with vicious intensity challenging our church-thoughts of loving our neighbor, and Ukraine struggles in bloody spasms as if being slowly swallowed by a giant bear.
Our colorful, elderly but fun-loving old friend Greece is headed for yet another tottering run at a financial cliff. (Photo credit: mashable.com, 5 things you need to know about Greece’s financial meltdown) I think of the situation there in connection with neighboring Bulgaria, where as we know the people have learned over the ages to live with very little. Even now, since joining the EU in 2007, Bulgarians live a mostly self-sustaining, frugal and spare lifestyle, working hard, helping friends, and wasting little. My friend Joe Herr pointed out an article that says it well: Greece’s Troubles Attract Little Sympathy From Poorer Neighbors. Most Bulgarians look at the levels of pensions and government benefits, for example, and think, “Hey, you’re complaining? Are you kidding, you want us to bail you out? Suck it up, Greece!”
But it’s summer! School’s out! I remember the feeling of absolute freedom in the first days of summer vacation, feeling that I could jump and run and almost really fly. Or playing tag and hide-and-seek until dark with my brother and cousins and the beads of sweat in the humid night starting to cool around my neck and on flushed cheeks and I could glory in the whisper of an evening breeze, slowing. Quiet murmurs and wows with friends looking at stars, or sometimes on a cool night watching flying embers and ash sparks from a campfire swirl up to join the sparkling diamonds in the black brilliant sky. Sometimes I think these are the things that matter more than what’s in the news, and sometimes I’m not sure.
What else do we have? Straining, sometimes, to feed and clothe and protect our families and ourselves it can be hard to keep a sense of perspective on what’s important. In the abstract, of course, if we can recognize and treasure enough good moments that would make a good life. I can say with more irony than understatement, there’s probably more to it than that. Still, to recognize and be grateful for the precious moments in our lives is a blessing.
Let me tell you about one of those, one of the moments that I keep in a special place. It was while I was teaching an English literature class in Bulgaria, and there was a student who hardly ever said a word…
One Golden Moment
There was one golden moment I remember.
Not the only one
but it was one.
She sat, petrified,
struggling to find the answer hiding in the fragile English part
of her mind.
Even the sound of her classmates
whispering whispering answers
would not bring it out.
The room whish-whished with bee-buzzing answers swarming, swirling, reckless.
“Because he had money!”
“He was a lawyer.”
“He let Scout do what she wanted!”
Shush. Let her tell me. She wants to tell me.
I’m squatted down next to the tired creaking scarred high-school desk,
a feat for old bones but this needs to be
eye to eye.
“It’s just me here. Tell me.”
She faltered, blushing, looking away, looking at the floor.
Her English words
and mutely shivered
and would not move.
Her strong confident Bulgarian mind was yelling silently,
“Leave me alone! Ask the others!! They’re dying to tell you!”
As if to wish me away she looked up, still afraid but now eye to eye.
“You can tell me. Just me.”
“He was a good man. Atticus was a good father because he was a good man.”
One golden moment I remember.
Not the only one
but it was one.