Did You Find Any Pieces Today?
A story about Tikkun Olam
by Douglas Taylor
When Mariam was a child, her favorite thing was when her grandfather would visit and tell her stories at bedtime. They lived nearby and so she was able to get a bedtime story from him at least once a week. She loved to hear his stories. And her favorite was the story about the shattered vessels.
“It is my favorite as well,” he would always say. And then he would tell her, “There are many versions of how the world came to be. But the best one is Tikkun Olam because we get to take part. At the beginning, God created Love, and there was so much Love it filled ten large vessels. And God sent those vessels to the world. But the Love was so powerful and so much, that it could not be contained by the vessels. The Love burst the vessels, it shattered them. The Love broke into many pieces and was scattered all over creation, all over the world.”
“And it is our job to find all the pieces?” Miriam would ask.
Her grandfather would smile and nod, “Yes Miriam. That is our part in creation, we need to gather all the scattered pieces and bring them back together to repair the world.”
And then he would lean closer to her and ask, “And did you find any pieces today?”
She always had an answer for him. When she was five, there was always a sparkly rock or a beautiful sunset she would mention to him. On this day, she said, “I found a very pretty feather today.”
“A feather?” he would say, impressed. “Tell me about it.” And she would.
One time she asked, “Grandfather, I have figured this out, right? It’s like a big hide and seek game, and I need to find all the bright and beautiful pieces and collect them.”
Her grandfather would smile down at her adoringly. “Maybe,” he would say with a shrug. “It is a mystery. We tell the story and we ask our questions. It’s good.”
That was when she was five. Later when she was twelve, she had found a different answer. She still loved that story. She still asked for that one as often as any other story each week. He would tell her about the Love and the shattering vessels and the scattering of the pieces. And he would ask, “Did you find any pieces today?”
As a mature twelve-year-old, she was proud to tell him. “I have figured it out, grandfather. I used to think the pieces were pretty things, like glitter that had exploded all over everything. But now I know it is not about finding shiny rocks. It’s about love. Isn’t that right grandfather?”
“Love?” He said, smiling at her. “Maybe,” he would say with a shrug. “It is a mystery. We tell the story and we ask our questions. It’s good.” And then he asked, “Tell me more about the Love you have found this week.”
And she would. She would tell him about how she loved her parents and how she loved him and grandmother, and on and on.
Later, when she was in high school, he would still come over sometimes and they would talk. Sometimes she would ask him to tell the story of Tikkun Olam – even though she was too old for bedtime stories. He would tell her and he would ask “Did you find any pieces today?”
And she would tell him about kindness she had given or received. About a boy who helped her figure out the answer to a homework problem, or the time she helped a stranger who had fallen in the grocery store. She said, “I think it is silly that I used to think the pieces of God’s love were shiny rocks. And it is embarrassing that I thought it was about something as mushy as love. It must be about kindness. Do I have it right this time grandfather?”
And he would smile and shrug, “Maybe. Tell me more about the kindness you found this week.”
The years went on and Miriam grew older. She fell in love and got married. She asked her grandfather to tell her favorite story at the wedding – which everyone loved.
A few years after that, when she was in her early-twenties, her grandfather grew ill and went to the nursing home. She visited him every week and he would ask her to tell him stories. Which she did. She would tell him her favorite story about Tikkun Olam, repairing the world. And he would ask her, “Did you find any pieces today?”
One day when he asked that of her, she was quiet for a while, thinking. She said, “Grandfather, I think I finally get it. The pieces are not just beautiful, shiny things. But they are not love or kindness either. It’s all of it. All of it together. Isn’t that right?” she asked.
He smiled up at her adoringly and shrugged. “Maybe. It is a mystery. We tell the story and we ask our questions. It is good.”
And so her life went on. She had a career helping people in her way. She and her spouse had a child together and she told her child the story. And each day, she would find a few piece; she would look for beauty and show it to others; she would make her life and the lives of people around her better; she would repair the world.
Rev. Douglas Taylor
Each year at this time, we call up the team of people who have agreed to be teachers for our congregation’s families. This year, things are a little different. Our program is hosted by our Family Ministry Team along with a multitude of story readers and other participants. Our program is in the hands of all the parents because we are doing things online. And so, this year, instead of singling out the volunteers who have agreed to serve as Sunday School teachers, we will offer a blessing for all of you who are teachers.
Blessings upon you who are spending time to teach and care for and be with the children and youth of this congregation. Tend to our young people with care and love.
We are grateful to you who step into this willingly and to you who have discovered this thrust upon you by the circumstances of this pandemic. Blessings upon you for your time and attention and care.
Our children are looking to you, wondering how to deal with this unusual situation. You are role models for our children and youth. Blessings upon you for taking up this responsibility and helping to strengthen the bonds of relationship within our community. You are tending to something precious to our community: our children and youth.
May we, in turn, offer our support to you; teaching is not something that can be done alone. We honor the role you hold in our congregation as teachers. We honor you who are teaching in schools in the community and online. We honor you who are teaching at the universities and at the high schools, at the elementary school and the pre-schools. We honor you who are parents, for in this pandemic you are teachers now too. Blessing upon you in your teaching. May you be equipped and empowered and encouraged as you equip and empower and encourage our children and youth.
Together we begin a new year. We all share in different ways for the good of our congregation and our community at large. May we all grow and be enriched together.
Prayer for Resilience
Rev Douglas Taylor
Gracious and loving God, from whom all things come and to whom all things return;
We gather on the edge of another week and, for some of us, on the edge of our strength; We come buoyed by events of our week or weighed down by them, or we arrive in some paradoxical mix thereof; We are here in our Sunday assembly of hope and restoration.
At times we come weary and worn down, and for some, that is how we arrive today; At other times we come with questions, with a longing, or with something to offer; But for those who come today shattered, broken, lonely and lost, let us offer our prayer of resilience.
Again, this week we test the tender places in our hearts and in our lives to see what healing may occur.
Gratitude is often a source of healing; We give thanks for the landscapes of grace in our lives, for music and for good companions, for the guidance of great principles, and the examples of integrity around us; We give thanks for all that lifts us up and for lessons that lead us on
For the times when we are brought low by anxiety or adversity, Show us the hidden wells of love we can tap into; Help us rise up once more, just once more, and once more again will surely be enough.
Remind us we do not strive in vain, that we are part of a chorus, that resilience is in our bones, that peace will prevail on earth and in our hearts, and that healing and grace come like soft rain.
Be thou an ever-present strength upon on journeys; And teach us that in falling down, we do rise again
This we ask in the name of all that is holy, May it be so
Spirit moves along the regular lines.
We find Spirit in special places and sacred moments,
But Spirit really travels the most normal of experiences,
In this room, through those words, with that set of actions.
Of course, it is not all the time or every time
In this room, by that phrase, with these actions
It is instead all of a sudden, breaking through
The ordinary, the rough tangibility like a metaphor
Spirit moves along the regular lines
Where there are grooves from regular use
In this room, at this hour, going through these motions
As if ‘sacred’ is just waiting everywhen to be noticed.
And so, we come to this particular place
To perhaps experience a oneness with all places
At this particular hour, to experience timelessness
By the lines of this window, the shape of that candle flame
And suddenly, Spirit breaks through. And we notice
Something special, something singular, something real.
Spirit moves along the regular lines
Perhaps you have noticed, here or here or just now.