So it has been really really hot here. The city has been passing out water (with gas) on the streets. People are searching for shade wherever they can find it. I think yesterday was a record breaker. Yesterday I noticed three different plants in our yard. There is this plant near the back of our house…I’m not exactly sure what kind of plant it is because it is completely dead, dried up and withered in the baking sun. There is also a fern which is still alive, but the tips are completely brown, scorched by the high heat. There is also some sort of vine that grows on our fence. Though the heat has been incredible, this vine is thriving, growing, spreading, bearing fruit.
Which kind of person am I? Am I dying, surviving, or thriving? What is it that causes me to really live?
It is hot. It has been in the 100’s this week. WITW. But I’m thankful for the low humidity!
Recently a few of us had a nice conversation based on a chapter from Tuesdays with Morrie. The chapter we read and discussed centered on the role, power and enticement of money in our present day cultures. As we wandered through the ideas of this chapter, a central question emerged: how do we live in such a way that we are not consumed by our wants and desires? I was inspired by the thoughts that arose.
The simple effort to distinguish between wants and needs is a life revolutionizing activity. There are bigger things to live for than my own wants and my own desires. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m not necessarily advocating a monastic lifestyle.) Training my soul to perceive the needs, value and interests of others can help break the hold my own wants have on me. The clearer I see others and the world, the smaller my problems become. We must train our souls to attend to others.
One of these unviersity students communicated a sense of frustration, “we work so hard just to ready ourselves to participate in this consuming society….to be consumers.” Is this what it is all about? Are we simple consuming creatures? Or are we designed for more?
But what we are looking for is a deep fundamental shift in our being, an essential change in our orientation from self to others. We are talking about breaking out of the “self” prison. Can this redirection of the heart be developed through discipline? Perhaps to an extent. Paraphrasing what another friend said, “we can’t make these kinds of profound changes without some kind of an awakening of the heart, mind and soul.”
From August to November of 1991 the 87 day siege of Vukovar took place leaving nothing but ruins, hardly any building fully intact, and 100% of the inhabitants scarred by the atrocities of this war. There is still a heaviness being carried by Vukovarians.
But there is also life, a continued story. One thing I clearly recognized while in Vukovar this time is the impossibility of outsiders to come and feel, empathize, and make any sort of real impact. I see our friends Laci and Keri who moved to Vukovar almost three years ago, or our new friend Charles who moved there in 1995. By doing so they entered the story. By entering the story they have become fellow journeyers, able and willing to share burdens, meaning, and hope.
I love this picture of the flowers growing out of a partly destroyed building. Maybe it is an appropriate metaphor for many us as people, especially our friends in Vukovar. Impact, meaning, and hope are the fruits of a shared story.
Last week, we had a great English Trip to Vukovar Croatia. Not only did the students practice their English from morning to night, but we caught a glimpse into post-war life and had many meaningful conversations. I had a really great time, and I especially appreciated the insights and honesty of these students. I’ll post some pictures soon.