Again they shall dwell in his shade
and raise grain;
They shall blossom like the vine
When a new group visits the orphanage where I minister, I invite them to an evening prayer service in which all present remove their shoes. And as we begin this prayer session, I ask you to do the same. Take off your shoes and center yourselves in the present moment. Close your eyes and be still, both in body and mind.
I invite our visitors to enter into solidarity with the Haitian people, many of whom never wear shoes, to leave behind the status and values connected with their shoes: comfort, prestige, confidence, efficiency, exactness, preciseness, punctuality—all so inherent in the layers of our own culture. I invite them to assume a respectful stance in this fifth world country, being humble enough to acknowledge their limitations and accept the limitations of being an equal here, being ordinary. I ask them to enter into the new Haitian reality without the long-accustomed-to cultural supports of education, degrees, direct/indirect feelings of superiority and control. Standing naked and vulnerable as we are invites us into being ordinary, into a nonjudgmental solidarity with those who are different from us.
Together we recite this prayer:
Our first task in approaching another people
another culture, another religion
is to take off our shoes for the place we are
approaching is Holy.
Else we may find ourselves treading on another’s dream.
More serious still, we may forget that God
was there before our arrival. (Author unknown)
In today’s reading we hear: Again they shall dwell in his shade. This reassures us that once AGAIN we are being led to dwell in a certain comfort level, in a less stressful stance, appreciating the sacredness of the earth, that we can feel if our feet are unshod. One of my favorite Haitian proverbs says that the stone in the water doesn’t understand the suffering of the stone in the sun. In my own ordinariness, in solidarity with others, I can reach out to those who suffer for no reason of their own. Ordinariness invites us to that non-judgmental stance; it invites us to leave the comfort zone of our multi-layered defenses so as to stand in solidarity with our suffering brothers and sisters where all of us can once again ‘blossom like the vine.’
God, You are our ground and our origin. We ask that You give us the grace to accept the “givens” of our life and to face the reality of who we truly are, so that we may return with gratitude to an innocence and nakedness that allows us to see, through new eyes, the incommensurable brightness of your creation. We ask this in the name of Jesus, Your Son and our brother. Amen.