The Common Connection 

I get by with a little help from my friends.

·        Paul McCartney

By the third day of the virtues workshop, the trust in the group had deepened amazingly. We were all so different – clergy, day-care workers, therapists; African-American, Asian, White; Jewish, Siddha Yoga, Bahai, Catholic, Quaker, Methodist, agnostic. A quiet reverence came over us as each one spoke of a sacred moment. One person spoke of a moment of pristine oneness while he ran at dawn; another of a sense of being mysteriously comforted in her grief; others related hearing God’s voice. The last to speak was a minister, a gentle man in his sixties. He stood up slowly and faced the hushed circle. There was a tremor in his voice. “I have never been able to pray like some of you. I have tried, many times. The connection just doesn’t happen.” He paused to regain his composure. “All I get are hunches.” He went on. “I went to the hospital to visit someone and found she had checked out. I started to leave but something, some nudge, told me to enter another room. The person in that room needed comforting. That’s all I get – hunches.” His humility filled the room.

-Linda Kavelin Popov, Sacred Moments - Daily Meditations on The Virtues.©1996

Every man, in every condition is great. It is only our own diseased sight which makes him little. A man is great as a man, be he where or what he may be. The grandeur of his nature turns to insignificance all outward distinctions. His powers of intellect, of conscience, of love, of knowing God, of perceiving the beautiful, of acting on his own mind, on outward nature, and on his fellow-creatures, these are glorious prerogatives. . . The truly great are found everywhere, nor is it easy to say in what condition they spring up most plentifully. Real greatness has nothing to do with a man’s sphere. It does not lie in the magnitude of his outward agency, in the extent of the effects which he produces. The greatest men may do comparatively little abroad. Perhaps the greatest in our city at this moment are buried in obscurity. Grandeur of character lies wholly in force of soul, in the force of thought, moral principles, and love, and this may be found in the humblest conditions of life.

-William Ellery Channing (1780-1842) Rev. Channing was a pivotal figure in the literary and religious life in nineteenth-century America. U.S. author and moralist, Congregationalist and, later, Unitarian clergyman. Known as the "apostle of Unitarianism," Channing was a leading figure in the development of New England Transcendentalism and of organized attempts in the U.S. to eliminate slavery, drunkenness, poverty, and war.

Happy Birthday, Carrie, Sally and Libby!

Humility is not an abstract thing. Neither is it a melodramatic self-abasement which you inflict on others. Humility is washing out the bathtub, making your own bed, getting your own tea. Stop the game of getting out of menial tasks. Bend. Do not expect others to wait on you. Go the other way. Do things for others.
It is much easier for you to serve the lepers in the South Seas than to clean the ring out of the bathtub. When you serve the lepers you prove to yourself that you are special. When you wash the bathtub you learn that you have a common connection with every other person. No one is better than anyone else, and no one really believes that.

·        Tolbert McCarrol

As a little boy, I believed devoutly in a very personal God who listened to my every word and took a very personal interest in all of my activities. I actually talked to Him a great deal. He was a God of love, but He was also a God of fierce and rapid justice. I felt as though His eyes were on me all of the time.

I was raised a Protestant, and as I look back I can see that somewhere along the line I learned to be suspicious of and condescending to all other sects. Then, at seventeen, during the First World War, I joined the Ambulance Service of the French Army and served for six months at Verdun. My friends were simple French soldiers. With one or two exceptions they were all Roman Catholics. I went to mass with them, carried them when wounded, and saw them die. And I came to like them as people, to admire their courage, to respect their right to their faith, which was so different from my own.

Twenty years ago I began to make films about people all over the world. I took them as I found them – not as I wanted them to be. Wherever I went I soon discovered that when you break bread with people and share their troubles and joys in the barriers of languages, of politics and of religion soon vanish. I like them and they liked me. That was all that mattered.

I came to find that the peoples of this world have much more in common with one another than they have differences. I have found this true wherever I have gone – even in Moscow and the far reaches of Siberia. The most hardened Communist would eventually break down if you were kind to his children. This was true even though he knew he might be arrested the next day for becoming friendly with a foreigner.

As for the common man in Russia, my belief is that in spite of thirty-four years of Stalin and regimented thought control, he still loves his land and his church and his family. And he hates the cruelty of the secret police and the incredible stupidity of the Soviet bureaucrats. In fact, I believe that in a fundamental way he is very much like us; he wants to live his own life and be let alone.

All over the world I have watched the great religions in practice – Buddhist monks at their devotions in Manchuria – Shinto priests in their temples in Japan – and only last autumn the brave and hardy Serbian Moslems at their worship in Tito’s Yugoslavia. I have come to hold a deep respect for all of man’s great religions. And I have come to believe that despite their differences all men can worship side by side.

For myself, I believe in people – and their given right to enjoy the freedoms we so cherish in America. I believe in justice and knowledge and decent human values. I believe in each man’s right to a job and food and shelter. And I sincerely believe that one day all of these things will come to pass.

My real faith then is in a dream that, in spite of daily headlines prophesying man’s destruction, we can build a better world, a world of peace and human brotherhood. Yes, even in our lifetime! This is my faith and my dream. In my small way, I want to have a share in making it come about.

-Julien Hequembourig Bryan – “This I Believe,” from the radio program and newspaper syndicate conducted by Edward R. Murrow; Copyright ©1952 by Help, Inc. Still photographer, writer, and cameraman Julien Hequembourig Bryan began the International Film Foundation in 1945. He wrote a book illustrated by his photographs, Ambulance 464 (Macmillan, 1938).

Mahatma Ghandi said, “I regard myself as a householder, leading a humble life of service and in common with my fellow workers, living upon the charity of friends. . . The life I am living is entirely very easy and very comfortable, if ease and comfort are a mental state. I have all I need without the slightest care of having to keep any personal treasures. . . I claim to be a simple individual, liable to err like any other fellow mortal. I own, however, that I have humility enough in me to confess my errors and to retrace my steps. I own that I have an immovable faith in God and His goodness and an inconsumable passion for truth and love. But, is that not what every person has latent in him?”

The moment I assume I understand everything, or am able to do everything, Spirit is there to humble my pride. When I cannot admit wrong, having made a mistake or harming another in some way, I have lost my sense of my common connection with my fellow-creatures. While traveling upon my Path, prayer and fasting, good works and charitable giving have little value if I rely upon them solely to reform me. But they are of the greatest value if they represent the yearning of my soul to reunite with the Oneness from which it was created.

Knowing of the vices of another person does not mean that I need to write or speak of them. I cannot exhibit a more noble restraint than to conceal them, rather than to be the one that is the defamer of an otherwise worthy individual. Each of us has enough to do to keep guard over himself. Let those shortcomings become known by some other tongue. If there are virtues, however, let me speak of them impartially.

Humility allows me to recognize my own attitudes and behaviors; it commits me to evaluate myself and to work with determination to correct my errors and shortcomings. It helps me to listen to and hear the messages of suggestions and advice that others offer, to understand that it is positive criticism, and is intended to point me toward a healthy way of life. One of the best ways I can understand others is to know myself well: character, intellect, judgment and emotions. I cannot master myself if I don’t know with certainty who I am! The only mirror for the spirit is wise self-reflection, gauging my prudence and perspicacity, judging how well I measure up to a challenge, plumbing my depths and weighing my resources.

Humility compels me to seek, acknowledge, know, share and honor Truth; it is the focus for determining right from wrong, the motivation to ask forgiveness of others, and to forgive in turn. It becomes one of the foundations for a spiritual life, a means of recognizing and honoring the boundaries that others have. It teaches me patience, consideration, and kindness. It demands of me that I be the best I am capable of being.

Humility allows me to open my mind and heart, to realize and to know the common connection and sacredness of life.




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