I just came back from a terrific weekend teaching at the International Women’s Writing Guild 2013 Conference, held at Drew University. The women I met were wonderful, and dedicated to writing.
So that was good — as were the classes and the writing and the discoveries we made in our work and the new friendships made, the old ones renewed.
Still, I came away feeling as I always do after these things — a little worried I missed someone, or didn’t give all my students what they needed, or inadvertently said something thoughtless that might have harmed an emerging writer (as someone did to me years ago), or that I couldn’t give everyone the attention they deserved.
You know . . . as if I could have done more.
Then, this morning as I did my wee bit of contemplation and meditation, I read from a book (a very good book), called, GOD WITHOUT GOD, Western Spirituality without the wrathful king by Michael Hampson. I read the chapter on ethics, which ends this way:
“And the final guilty fear is that we could have done more . . . fed more of the hungry, tended more of the sick. . . Once again Jesus is our example, for sometimes even he would walk away. In the very first chapter of Saint Mark, they lay out the sick in the streets for him, but he has already gone into the hills alone to pray. They call him back, to attend to the sick, but he refuses, and presses on to the next town instead. Sometimes we have other responsibilities, sometimes we just need to be alone; our finite, failing Jesus is our example, our salvation, and our God.”
And, to me, what this means is that even someone like Jesus, who — no matter what your religious beliefs, including atheism — seems like the sort of guy who tried to do his very best all the time, still didn’t manage to please all the people all the time, or heal everyone and he understands what it feels like to fail at doing good. Having done the same thing — albeit for good reason — he recognizes human failings, the impossibility of doing everything for everyone, and yet he as soon as he could, he did what he could, and that, I believe, is what we’re asked to do for each other.
I think it also points to the possibility that we might have faith, as Jesus did in that moment when he had to leave behind some of the sick in suffering to take care of other things, that if we can’t get everything done, can’t fix every broken person, heal every wound, feed all the hungry, perhaps something greater than ourselves, some “ground of all being and sum of all divinity whose nature is infinite compassion” (as Hampson defines God, and a darn good definition is its, too), will step in with His/Her infinite mercy and make things right, while having compassion for our limitations.
Just for today, I’m going to trust that. I’ll do as much as I can, and leave the rest to that ground of all being, sum of all divinity, whose nature is infinite compassion.