On our family vacations--the Beck's are big on road trips, we drive thousands of miles a summer--Jana and I like to listen to audio books. Before the big summer trip I go to all three branches of our local public libraries and clear them out. And this year I grabbed a copy of Anne Lamott's book Grace (Eventually).
We were blown away.
(To be sure I suspect that conservative and evangelical Christians will have some problems with Lamott. So fair warning on that.)
A few weeks ago I was describing William Stringfellow's notion that the essential part of the Christian witness is being a sacrament of life in the midst of death's works. If Stringfellow is the theologian of this notion (for me) I think Lamott might be the poet of the idea. That's what I loved about her writing, how she finds sacraments of life in the world. A world by turns mundane, crazy, and broken--but in the end life-affirming. There is grace...eventually.
My favorite essay in this collection is "Dance Class," a story of her going with a friend to help with a dancing class for special needs persons, many with Down's Syndrome. Before the actual dancing there was a time of sharing. Anne describes the thirst of the class to share, even the littlest and most insignificant things. It's a craving we all have. To be heard. Noticed.
As helpers Anne and her friend are asked by those in the class to participate, to dance with them. And they do. They dance.
The class ends. The final paragraphs of the essay:
And then it was time to go. People shook our hands and thanked us. The gymnast gave me a hug with her head pressed into my waist. Neshama and I left feeling elated and surprisingly tired. It had been only an hour, but it was an immersion. It went deeper than I had thought.That about sums it up for me. I want the same thing on my gravestone.
When Karen and I were hiking a few days later, she told me that after class, one of the dancers had exclaimed, "I liked those old ladies! They were helpers, and they danced." These are the words I want on my gravestone: that I was a helper, and that I danced.
That I was helper, and that I danced.