Each of us must find a way to love the world. You have found yours.
With these words, from Sue Monk Kidd’s latest work, comes the first validation of a young girl’s determination. The Book of Longings takes place in the first century and its main character, Ana, is a spirited, brilliant, rebellious young woman determined to find her voice at a time and in a culture that diminished and inhibited women.
The words are spoken to thirteen year old Ana by a very young Jesus, who eventually, through a complicated series of unforeseen events, would become her husband. But this is not his story…it is Ana’s and it is her determination, resilience and passion that makes for an inspirational and absorbing tale.
I write about this today because I have not been able to put aside those powerful words. I’ve spent lots of time since finishing the book, trying to figure out exactly what they mean and if and how they may apply to me. If we are all challenged to “love the world,” how are we to do this? I think of Ana.
Early on, she is fascinated by stories of audacious women. Fearing these tales will be forever lost, she determines to preserve them. And she discovers she has been given an extraordinary talent as a scribe, a pursuit forbidden to women. She uses this “gift” to create beautifully written tales of these brave women. Ana recognized her passion at an early age and her “gift” enabled her to pursue her dream. In return for what she was given, she gave to the world her beautifully scribed historic narratives.
If you’re like Ana, you are aware of your purpose in life at an early age and you use all your innate resources in the pursuit of that vision. Once realized, you cannot keep it to yourself. You need to share it with the world. In doing so, you give back what has been given to you. You show your love of the world. I think of the artists, musicians, scientists, writers that have made their mark on the world. They, like Ana, were given a unique gift which they nurtured and then shared.. Their impact on society and culture is indelible.
But then, I look around me – at members of my family, my friends, my neighbors. Most are seemingly ordinary individuals like me. What gifts do we have? How do we give back? How do we show our love of the world?
So… I look more closely at each individual – one by one. It doesn’t take long before everything becomes clear – I have my answers. Each unique “gift” shows itself. For one, it’s the career choice. For others, it’s how they parent. Another, the readiness to help wherever and whomever. Or how she always knows the right thing to say. They, on the other hand, are passionate about education. She exudes true joy in being with others. And then I think of the unselfishness of the heroes that have responded to the needs created by this pandemic. Healthcare workers, first responders, researchers, leaders and volunteers in non-profits and so many others. Whether or not they are conscious of these gifts is not important. Their gifts radiate their love of this world. Their impact is undeniable.
The poet, Mary Oliver, tells us…” I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”
So, yes, I do believe we are all given a gift. I believe that loving the world happens when we give time and attention to our gift…when we give back, when we decide, as Ms. Oliver states, to be more than just a visitor on this earth.
Will you share your thoughts on this topic with us?
Before leaving, I’d like to share two beautiful examples of individuals loving the world with their gifts:
(Thank you to Marge and Vi for sending the above links to us!)