Advent meditation 2

A projection of the words Responsibility Liberty Justice Society Freedom Justice and Change on ancient flagstones

One of the things I have learned about myself in the last year or so is that I can sometimes tend to get very despondent, literally down on myself, very easily. I notice that it doesn’t take much for me to forget that I am lucky, not to mention extremely privileged.

One of the ways this manifests itself is that I find myself looking over my shoulder at the achievements and activism of others and put myself down for not measuring up to their endeavours. I could never do that, I say to myself, or, I’ve done nothing compared to them, I may as well give up.

I was relaying this to a good friend the other day when she reminded me to look at my hands. ‘My hands?’ I said. ‘What on earth for?’ ‘Because what is in your hands is what you give to the world,’ she said. ‘That is your activism, and it belongs to no one else.’ She looked at me. ‘What is in your hands?’ she asked again.

‘Erm, not much at the moment, I’m tired,’ I said. ‘Not good enough,’ she said. ‘Look again.’

There was a long silence.

‘I teach people to teach people how to read. And write,’ I said. ‘And how to tell stories. And read poems. And to love these things, to make them a part of their lives.’

‘That is not nothing!’ she said.

‘How long have you been doing that?’ she said.

‘Over twenty years,’ I said.

‘This is not nothing.’ She looked at me. ‘What else is there?’ she said.

‘I respond to students’ work with patience. I try to treat each contribution they make as sacred. As I listen to them or read their work, I cup their words in my hand and pretend I am holding them in the light.’

‘And this he calls nothing,’ she said.

‘Name me one of your activist friends who can do this,’ she said. ‘Who makes this contribution?’

‘I can think of my colleagues,’ I said.

‘Not them, the people whom you look at over your shoulder,’ she said.

‘None of them,’ I said.

‘My point exactly,’ she said. ‘Don’t ever stop looking at your hands, you contain multitudes and also give them away.’

‘It’s not very sexy,’ I said.

‘Who said anything about sexy?’ she said.


  1. I am wrapping up my own semester, and as I prepare myself to grade all the final papers, this is just the meditation I need. To teach people ‘how to read, to write, to tell stories, to love poems, to make these things part of their lives …’ — this is what I strive to do. Thank you for reminding me it is worthwhile work.
    Also, if these are tears in my eyes, that is entirely your fault! Thank you for them too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have been teaching a loving-kindness meditation course this Nov/Dec and I’m getting ready for the last class tomorrow. It will be geared toward emanating loving kindness and what that looks like in our everyday lives. This reflection you’ve shared is a timely read then and I’ll share it with the group. (Hope that’s ok!) It’s common to have such doubts in the face of others’ accomplishments. You’ve a good friend who will walk you through realizing for yourself your own contributions. Helpful for me too. Thank you as ever. Your posts are gems in my email inbox.

    Liked by 1 person

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