Wasted Sweetness

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A view from the pulpit in a church looking out on the congregation

Last week, in More on the Subject, I shared a brief story of a small moment of joy at Refuge in Clarkston. This week, I find myself hoping and praying for you that you experience similar moments. And I find myself hoping Refuge Coffee creates those moments of true refuge for others, no matter who they are.

I find myself thinking about the suffering buried inside the tears and embraces and laughter of what took maybe fifteen minutes out of that day. Hiyab’s, Sesayt’s, and my day.  

Hiyab is missing her family back home in Eritrea and agonizes about their safety. I still don’t know anywhere near all she experienced on her way here by way of Libya. Sesayt is so new to us and to English that I know nothing about her except that her smile is lovely. But she is a refugee, and that is enough to know she has had a hard journey.

I think of Warsan Shire’s poem Home that begins with these words: “no one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.”  

Sometimes, I look at the phrase on our truck—“More Than Good Coffee”—and I find it hard to quantify “more.” But I think that, aside from the very important work of providing the breathing space of a job with decent pay, the hope of training for a better job in the future, the work of curating spaces and events that bring joy to our refugee communities, “more” means stockpiling brief moments of feeling each other’s pain.

I think of these words from Louise Erdrich’s novel, The Painted Drum.

Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness.

“More” means wasting sweetness. But what a silly word that is, because sweetness like this, squeezed into a kind of healing juice as it is, is not ever wasted, is it?

For more on this subject, I hope you’ll go to the Refuge blog.

Meanwhile, signing off with much love for all the sweetness you give,

More on the Subject

Ronald Rohlheiser said, “There is always the inchoate gnawing: do something to guarantee that something of your life will last. It is this propensity that tempts us to try to find meaning and significance through success and accumulation. But in the end it does not work, irrespective of how great our successes have been.”

I do believe this is a ubiquitous human experience, but it seems to me to be a distinctly American one as well.  We fret about wasting our lives. I’m not talking about caring for the planet, but about our own, often Sisyphean attempts at significance. Not meaning to, we frame our efforts in either self-aggrandizing or self-degrading ways, and we deem the small things insignificant. To us, they don’t add up.

This, of course, leads me to think about my husband’s investment in others, one brief moment at a time. Over and over for decades. I also find myself remembering the many times he shared his own struggle at not being a “successful” pastor or leader. And then I think of the day we memorialized him with one thousand people bearing witness to the sweetness of his life. Nothing was wasted. Not only did I see evidence on that day, I continue to see it as our sons, their wives and our grandchildren speak of the ways he made them who they are today. I see it in your letters, texts, and emails telling me the same, even now a year later. I see it in my own heart, in the ways I have metabolized the best of him, maybe not in my own being, but in my daily decisions and impulses.

The point is that small sweetnesses are never truly wasted. I hope you let them fall around you in heaps.

With much love for all the sweetness you give,


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