I get by with a little help from my friends.
Four friends. That s all he needed the paralytic in the Gospel story today.
One for each corner to hold him up as he lay on the stretcher, to get him to the place he needed to be. They were taking him to the feet of Christ, to a voice telling him to take up his mat and walk, to healing and being made whole.
Annie Lamott at WomanKind on Friday night talked about the Special Olympics. She said everyone should go, at least once. Because, she said, the folks there really know what life s about.
The special athletes run races, among other events. Each one of them has a guardian angel to help if something happens. All of a sudden one of them, say little Jimmy, trips and falls. His guardian angel rushes over to help. But the others running notice, too.
They realize Jimmy s not there along side of them. And one by one they call out to Jimmy. They look back and see that he s fallen. So they go back to where Jimmy s on the ground. And with Jimmy s guardian angel they all help Jimmy up. They dust him off and pull him to his feet, saying, Come on Jimmy! Come on! And then they all run together till they get over the finish line.
These athletes know the Special Olympics are about winning. But not one winning over the others. They re all there to be winners, together. That s what it s all about to them. They get by with a little help from their friends.
I remember Gretchen, a friend of mine. Twenty-five years ago she was the one friend I could call, day or night. She d hear my voice on the phone and say Come on over. I ll put the water on for tea. And in the midst of my terribly awful, frightening separation that was too fast becoming a divorce, she d sit with me. It was something like sitting Shiva in the Jewish tradition at the time of a death.
Gretchen just let me talk talk out all my frustration, rage, sadness, anger, abandonment, utter despair. She was just there, saying little or nothing but offering an occasional soothing sound. I could feel her holding my terror calmly, lovingly. She just sat there, doing nothing but listening, but helping me to a place I needed to go. She helped carry me to a place called Hope. She just listened till I could walk again not doubled up by sadness.
We weren t created to be alone. That s not how God planned life to be for us. God created us to be with others.
I used to write a lot of poetry. I wrote poems to get me through tough times, confusing, sometimes desperate, sometimes crazy times. I read those poems over now occasionally. Even with the distance of time, I can feel the pain in some of them, remember a back then feeling of paralysis, of confusion, of the aching yearning for something to change
I used some of those poems when I told my life story here in a Forum when I first came to St. James s. This one I shared, one I wrote in my late twenties.
The sandman came when I was a little girl
And sprinkled magic sand in my eyes.
I rub them.
Waking up hurts.
Here s another, one I think I forgot to include when I gave my talk. I wrote it at a time when my inner compass was out of whack, when my internal direction meter was spinning out of control. It came out of an afternoon I spent in Back Bay. I had seen a long majestic V of honking geese flying. I don t remember whether they were flying north or south, but this is the poem that surfaced from that sight.
The geese flying south,
Are so sure.
I wish I were.
Is there a whisper
that will send me
North or South as my seasons suggest?
The geese do not plot their course.
They feel it from within
And turn as one to start their journey.
If I stop trying
Will I know, too,
Like the geese?
I wrote this poem at a time I felt lost. I was off course in my inner geography. I needed to change course and I was alone, profoundly alone, or so I felt, trying to plot my direction by myself. Those geese had something I had lost. I wanted what they seemed to have. Their distant honking touched a longing.
Geese are interesting. I came across the following recently and remembered my old poem about me and some geese. It was a kind of an aha moment for me now that I am flying with direction in my life and flying with others headed the same way. This illustration is called Wing Tip.
In the Fall when you see geese heading south for the winter flying in V formation you might consider what science has discovered as to why they fly that way.
As each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following. By flying in a V, the whole flock has at least 71 percent greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own. When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone and quickly gets back into formation.
When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back in the wing and another goose flies point. Geese honk from behind to keep the group together.
Finally- and this is important when a goose gets sick or is wounded and falls out of formation, other geese will fall out with it and follow it down to lend help and protection.
If we have the sense of a goose, we will stand by each other like that.
We get by with a little help of our friends feathered or otherwise. We weren t created to be alone. We were created to be with others. This reality is part of God s Big Plan God reminding us we re not all powerful, all knowing. God doesn t want us to have all the answers. Then we won t turn to others and to him.
God doesn t want us to be able to totally take care of our own needs. That cuts God out of the picture which, of course, we try to do from time to time, either individually or collectively.
We were created to be dependent on each other and on God. And when we forget that, we end up in trouble. We end up lonely, desolate, empty, no matter how many things we have. God wants us to fly in formation and leave the baggage behind.
The final service for WomanKind 2006 yesterday afternoon was beautiful. The coming in and going out included exquisite colored streamers, paper doves, glorious butterfly kites. They were held on long poles waving high into the dome of this sanctuary dancing and whirling over the heads of the hundreds of women who came from as close by as West Avenue and from as far away as California, Texas, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia to gather together in sisterhood and celebration.
The music carried our hearts and voices into celebration of who we are. Dana s sermon was wonderful and, as Annie Lamott would say, clinically sensitive. The table was spread. A wafer and a sip of wine became a feast. And the Garden of Eden couldn t have contained any greater flower filled sweetness than that which surrounded us here.
But the time most talked about later was when small circles of women formed for healing prayer. Women huddled together in fours and fives all over this sanctuary arms over shoulders, heads touching. They prayed for healing, for wholeness, for open hearts, for the touch of the Great Physician in their lives and in the lives of others.
In formation, circled together, we embraced each other, held each other up as we bowed our heads to what was almighty and nurturing and healing among us. It was those moments of tears, of hopes lifted up, of a sense of release and peace that will be specially remembered as those sacred circles of four or five gathered together.
We get by with a little help from our friends and from the One who moves among us and touches us even when only two or three are gathered together in Christ s name.
From time to time one of you in the congregation may call me, or stop me in the halls and say, Can I come talk to you? Followed by some statement like: I m having a hard time. Something s come up and I need to deal with it. I m confused, I need to talk to someone. I have a decision to make. I need help.
And so we set a time and you come. And we talk and listen to each other and then talk a little more and listen a lot more. And pray. Somehow, most of the time, it seems to help, if only a little. Somehow, when we part if we ve let even let a little bit of the Spirit squeeze in the spaces between us and our conversation, we find ourselves a little farther along this journey we call life. Maybe, if things went well, or even if we think they didn t, we each end up a little closer to where we re ultimately meant to be that is, to God.
One of you in this parish called me one day needing to talk. We got together several times. Just before Christmas my visitor brought me a little present wrapped in white tissue paper. Surprised, I opened it gently.
A small porcelain plaque lay in my hands. It read: We are all angels with one wing. We need to embrace each other to fly. The plaque hangs on my bookshelf near where I sit at my desk. I don t ever want to forget what it says or what it means for life.
Turn and look around at the people sitting next to you or in front of you or even across the room. If you look with the eyes of your heart you just may see a wing tip here and there. As you look closer and longer you might see wing tips all over the place.
God s plan for all of us is to fly. Not one by one but together, in formation, wing over wing. God wants us to feel the wind beneath our wings as we fly. We are called onward by a Divine whisper – quiet, certain, inside that calls us to wholeness, that calls us home. We ll get there in God s time with a little help from our friends.