In Chapel early this week, I spoke on the importance of rededicating ourselves to living out Rachel’s Challenge—Rachel Scott’s five challenges to which we committed ourselves at the start of this year:
1. Look for the good in others and see past the surface
2. Set high goals and dream big
3. Surround yourself with positive influences
4. Speak and act with kindness in order to heal and not hurt
5. Start a chain reaction of kindness and compassion
I added to those challenges two thoughts from Deepak Chopra, reflecting on how we can bring peace to our lives and our world during this holiday season:
1. Be at peace, relinquishing all resentments and realizing how much you are loved
2. Share your peace, working with others to create a more peaceful world
I had already planned to end the week with the passage below as my traditional holiday wish for our faculty, staff, and students; it is a wish that summarizes the messages of Rachel Scott and Deepak Chopra, two people speaking from different spiritual traditions. However, this passage became even more meaningful on Wednesday, as I sat in the courtroom listening to and watching the proceedings as the long process of bringing Melissa Jenkins’ murderers to justice took another step toward closure. While I realize I should probably feel some degree of gladness that justice was done and some relief that the judge saw fit to order a life sentence, I was overwhelmed instead by a deep and aching sadness—sadness over broken families, broken spirits, tortured bodies, tortured souls, lives wrecked and wasted.
I was left with nothing but a prayer for peace and healing and a realization that the same outpouring of love and compassion that lifted us above the darkness in the spring of 2012 was the only real hope for filling the emptiness and alleviating the sadness I felt that day. So I offer this greeting to all who are saddened or despairing amidst the ugliness, brokenness, and brutality of the world. It is from a letter written by Italian friar and painter Giovanni da Fiesole (Fra Angelico) who lived from 1387-1455. I hope it brings you peace and encourages you during this season when days start getting longer and the light increasingly overcomes the darkness.
I salute you. I am your friend, and my love for you goes deep.
There is nothing I can give you which you have not already, but there is much, very much,
which though I cannot give it, you can take.
No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today.
No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this precious little instant.
The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach is joy. There is
radiance and courage in the darkness could we but see; and to see, we have only to look.
Life is so generous a giver, but we, judging its gifts by their coverings, cast them away as
ugly or heavy or hard. Remove the covering, and you will find beneath it a living splendor,
woven of love, and wisdom, and power. Welcome it, greet it, and you touch the angel's
hand that brings it.
Everything we call a trial, a sorrow, a duty, believe me, that angel's hand is there, the gift
is there, and the wonder of an overshadowing Presence.
Our joys, too, be not content with them as joys. They, too, conceal diviner gifts.
Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty beneath its covering, that you will
find earth but cloaks your heaven.
Courage, then, to claim it, that is all! But courage you have, and the knowledge that we
are pilgrims wending through unknown country our way home.
And so, at this Christmas time, I greet you, not quite as the world sends greeting, but with
profound esteem now and forever.
The day breaks and the shadows flee away.