May I become at all times,
Both now and for ever,
A protector for the helpless,
A guide for the lost ones,
A ship for those to cross oceans,
And a bridge to cross rivers,
A sanctuary for those in danger,
A lamp for those in darkness,
A refuge for those who need shelter,
A servant to all in need.
I saw a wallhanging with this quote by the Dalai Lama. It hangs in the small dining room of the home where I stayed in Alaska. I looked all over the internet for the banner, as I really loved the quote. But found it not, did I.
I wonder if it can actually be both a positive thing as well as a negative thing to want to be a servant to all in need.
I love the images that this quotation brings to mind.
Have you ever been lost? These days, it seems like most of us have GPS capability at our fingertips so if we do get lost, we can pretty easily find our way to our destination with just a few keystrokes.
When our big kids were little, we visited Red River Gorge (spoiler alert: a truly PANIC-inducing venue to take small children). Only the three eldest were born, so they were probably 4, 3, and 2. Greg and I have always loved to hike. Loved it. Figured it’s about the same thing to hike with three small children in hand/on our backs.
For some reason, we got to a fork in the path and didn’t see the next signpost. For SOME reason very mysterious to me now, we parents decided to go two different directions; Greg with the boys, and me with Valerie. We knew the trail started and ended at the parking lot. But just like every trip TO somewhere, the path seemed to never end.
Valerie and I kept walking and walking and walking. We didn’t see anyone. After awhile, I began to fear that we had gotten off the trail and so I had us stop and wait so I could think about what to do. I don’t even know if Valerie remembers this, but she probably does — it may have gone done in her memory as a traumatic event. I know for me it was scary. I mean, I knew SOMEONE would find us. We weren’t that far away from the parking lot, but this was pre-cellphones, so I was either going to have to find the way or be found.
We waited for quite some time and so I decided we should retrace our steps. We hiked for awhile, with me still not knowing whether we were on the path or not. When we finally saw a couple of hikers who became guides for these lost ones, they were the most welcome faces I had ever seen. We had been on the right path all along; I just hadn’t realized how much further we had to go.
Although the guide for this lost one did appear, much of the resolution that day was left up to me to figure out. When we were in the woods, I was the one who had to figure out what to do. I knew Greg was not far away, but I knew it would be very difficult for him to carry two small boys back up the trail to find us. He would have done it, and indeed was just about to set out when we finally appeared. Had it been him in the forest, he
THAT image of a guide for the lost ones, I love. But I think the key is that I KNEW we were lost. I KNEW we needed some outside information in order to be sure where we were. The most frequent “lost” ones I come into contact with are those who are in drug court, and many of them do not feel lost, and therefore are not looking for a guide.
Even when responding to a felt need from someone who is looking for a ship to cross the ocean or a lamp for the darkness, I must be careful to respect their journey, and really think about what it means to offer someone a lamp for the darkness. I suppose one of the major aspects of it is to be willing to offer the lamp and then be unattached to the outcome of what the searcher does in the light.
I’m not sure I’m really up to asking to be all of those things “both now and forever.” I would guess that the primary way I become all of those things is to practice being them for myself first. Otherwise, it can be a distraction to go around thinking I can be a bridge for someone to cross a river or a sanctuary for someone in danger. I do want to let my light shine, so being a lamp in the darkness seems like the most doable of the list.
I’m a work in progress. Seems I have been giving myself away in ways that have depleted me greatly. I choose to embrace now learning to give of myself in ways that share out of my fullness, rather than eking a few more drops out of my emptiness. And along the way, it is very interesting to observe how those I think need help actually do things for themselves when they are allowed to.
So, I will walk forward lightly, listening, listening.