Are you a human being or a human doing?

Autumn is definitely here. Gold maple leaves, larger than my Grandfather’s hands; small hot pink flames of a burning bush, a blush of wind, and leaves are flying. I do like fall. And thankfully, we “fell back” to earlier light for a few months. In the north here, that really means only a few weeks, but for today, this makes for a good week.

Fall is traditionally a writing season for me. I have an acute sense of melancholy, a deeper than normal desire to be connected to people, the earth, the mysteries that lie underneath the surface of my days. It is a good reminder to me that much of what I stress myself about day to day is mostly something I conjure up to be pressing and important. Most of it isn’t. Most of it is just vanity.

We live in a world that places high stakes on being busy. (This is a recurring theme, I know.) I am thinking about it today because of an experience I am having with one of my daughters.

She’s a lovely person, 17 year-old, freckled, tender-hearted girl. She is cautious – and always has been – since she first sat up as a baby – a quiet observer of life. When other babies were desperately grasping at toys, Ivy would sit still with a toy in her hand in the middle of a blanket on which I had placed 1/2 dozen toys for her to try to get at. Other babies would scoot, crawl, fall around her grabbing toys. She would sit quietly, propped up by a pillow watching them, contentedly shaking a toy and chewing on it.

It’s not always easy to be a kid who has a quieter rhythm of life. The world we live in doesn’t dig it. Our world, you know, is laced with freneticism, if that’s a word. The faster you go, the happier you are supposed to be. In grade school the parents ask, “what sport is your child doing?” “Umm,” I’d think, “reading?” And now on college apps, “what are her outside activities?” OK, that’s easy. Church, reading, friends, writing. She never had a desire for a frenzied pace.

And guess what? We are human beings, you know. Not “human becomings.” Or “human doings.”As the world slows, dies, hibernates, sites by fires, sleeps longer, we remember that the world itself is what we have been given. We are, at our best, truly present to our world, not running in circles trying to conquer it.

Think of the qualities that someone of her temperament has. Patience. Carefulness. A listener. Slow to lash out. She is the kind of person who will one day find some part of herself that the rest of us will never have the patience to discover. And her contributions will be something of substance – not thrown out without thought of the consequences.

Today I am feeling really grateful for who she is – and for people like her. You know who you are. Let me just let you know that I see you out there. And I know it can be hard to accept yourself as you are when everyone is twirling around you throwing kisses as the run by. Whatever our culture says, don’t believe it. You will live your life deeply and kindly – and that is wonderful, spiritual way to live.

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