A bus passed my perch at Red Hen the other day, and on its side, an ad showed a man sitting on the floor, laughing and playing with a couple of young kids. The text read, “Take time to be a dad today.” Good reminder.
In my case, “Take time to be a grand-dad today,” would have been more applicable, but even now with a 31-year-old son, there are days when I still take time to be a dad.
That alone would be enough for one day, but every day all of us take time to be so many things.
Depending on the day, I take time to be:
A wanderer, a wonderer, a naturalist, a caretaker, a journalist, a cook, a housekeeper, a spectator, a fan, a reconciler, a confessor (and confesser), an accountant, a reader, a conscientious objector, an audience, a visitor, a go-fer, a decision-maker, a dish-washer, a sleeper, a dreamer, a player, a prayer, an editor, a critic, a facilitator, a sympathizer, an appreciator, a mentor, a seed-sower, a reaper, an adventurer, a risk-taker, a rememberer, an appointment secretary, an encourager, a teacher, a visionary, a questioner, a counselor, a consumer, a waiter (one who waits, but also a table setter, food server and bus person), a planner, a contemplative, a connector, a greeter, a navigator, an admirer, a passenger, a chauffeur, a conversationalist, a winner, a loser, a communicator, a community organizer, a joker, an entertainer, a singer, a dancer, a partner.
Not all these things every day, but every day so many things. We all are this and more, without even thinking about it.
All of this reminded me of a line from a Rumi poem I came upon some time ago — “Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder. Help someone’s soul heal. Walk out of your house like a shepherd” — which considerably raises the bar. In other words, go beyond your self.
Being in a poetic mood that day, I took up his challenge and added even more:
Be a chalice, Be a star’s far-reaching light, Be the turning page, A turning leaf in its first and last descent, Be the first and last step of a journey.
Be a path through the tangled wood, The long-distance run, Be the rain against the window at night, Be the morning chill, An open door, A secret passageway.
Be the unruffled water, The sand that receives a wave, The wave that smooths the sand, Be the shells left in the wake of the encounter, Be the gathering light in the eastern sky, The music of water flowing over stones.
Be a well-met friend, Be the friendly hum of conversation in a dining hall, A familiar voice in a strange setting, Be the handkerchief that catches a sneeze, A candle flickering, The curling smoke of a snuffed flame, A sun-warmed seat, Be the breeze that stirs.
Be the mortar that holds bricks together, The petrified sand in cement, The spice in a stew, The carrot in a cake.
Be the worn key that turns an ancient lock, The drain that rinses away yesterday’s grime, The beam that supports a roof, The pine straw that cushions hardened ground, Be the sap that scents the surrounding air, The baking bread, The ground coffee, The bacon sizzling, The cinnamon, Be aged wine flowing at last from the bottle’s neck.
Be the evening light torching tree tops, The silence of the setting sun, A swallow gliding against the afterglow. Be the incense swirling through shafts of sunlight from the upper windows of a church, Be a wildflower in early spring, Shade on a summer afternoon, Be the mowed grass, A seed in tilled earth, The last glowing ember in a fireplace, The lighted path cast by the rising moon on a lake, A footprint in new snow.
Be the lips that meet, The locked eyes of loved ones, Be that song on the radio during a long drive, That voice on the other end of the line, A landmark long looked for, Be the torn paper beside an unwrapped present, Be the stick that stirs, The leaven in the loaf.
Be the butterfly fluttering just beyond reach,
Be the reach that exceeds grasp,
Be the wine-dark sea,
The night-sea journey.
The old moon in the new moon’s arms.
That’s a lot to be in one day, of course, or one lifetime for that matter. But I believe we are capable of being all this — and more.
Take time today to be more than you thought you were.