Friday, December 31, 2010

Holy Sparks for the New Year: Repairing the World

“Don’t do to others, that which is abhorrent to you. That is the law.
All else is commentary.”
The Talmud

I had a teaching colleague who confided in a mutual friend about me, “The trouble with her is when she sees a problem, she thinks she supposed to fix it.” It kind of blew me away. I thought that was what everyone did.

When my sister Sandy was alive, sometimes when I would call her, she could tell just from the sound of my voice. She would ask me, “Are you having trouble with the cruelty and stupidity of the world again?” The answer was almost always “yes.” We’d talk things over, so in a short while I usually could get back to my hopeful and optimistic self.

What if there was a way to repair the world? How are we going to fix this deeply flawed world? Is it something that is our work to do? The problems are so big, our power so small. But is it really? How can we make things better for each other and ourselves? I have an idea that might work, at least a little to alleviate the horrible troubles we are going through right now.

One idea I’ve picked up along the way is the idea of Holy Sparks. This is from Jewish Midrash (a story) that explains our obligation of performing acts of kindness and help. We can repair what’s broken in the world and restore the world to wholeness and peace by correct action. These actions are called “tikun olam,” or “repairing the world.”

The actions can be as simple as showing kindness, prayer, feeding people who are hungry, listening to a distraught friend, lending money, sitting with a person who has lost someone, visiting the sick and imprisoned, reconciling with a family member, etc. The belief stems from the understanding that sparks of Divine light are in all matter.

Imagine this: Every time we perform actions to help someone, the sparks are released exploding into the sky so that the Divine’s goodness is revealed to the world. See the sparks like fireworks. If we miss an opportunity to do any of these things put before us, that spark is trapped forever. You only get one chance for each action. If we release enough holy sparks the world will be transformed.

Last year I was driving my grandson, Aiden, home from preschool. He was 4 at the time. I pulled up to a red light. On the median divider stood a homeless man, as sad and bedraggled as any person I had ever seen. He was holding a cardboard sign asking for help. I reached in my purse, found a $5 bill, looked him in the eye, and handed it to him. The man smiled and I smiled then I drove on. After a few minutes, Aiden asked, “Why did you do that, Grandma?” I said, “Well, I just believe we need to help each other if we can.” When we got back to Aiden’s house, he ran in his room, rustled around for awhile, then came out, hugged me, then handed me $5 of play money from his toy cash register. It was such a reminder of how kids watch us to see how to act. His action made me cry .

The imagery of holy (whole) sparks speaks to my heart. When we get it right, we help, we nurture, we share, and WOW. A golden spark lights up the sky. The New Year is an opportunity for starting out on a different foot, to forgive, to get out of our own heads and troubles, to be the face of good in the world. What we need more than anything is hope that things will get better. Isn’t it worth a try?

I am speaking to myself as much as putting this idea out in the world, but I just think that if enough of us try it, it’s a beginning.

What if 1/3 of us did it? Or 1/2 of us? Would the world look like a different place?

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