Tag Archives: culture

reflection-God-prayer

Slow me down, Lord

Slow me down, Lord.

Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind.

Steady my hurried pace with a vision of the eternal reach of time.

Give me, amid the confusion of this day, the calmness of the everlasting hills.

Break the tensions of my nerves and muscles with the soothing music of the singing streams that live in my memory. Help me to know the magical restoring power of sleep.

Teach me the art of taking minute vacations — of slowing down to look at a flower, to chat with a friend, to pat a dog, to read a few lines from a good book. Remind me each day of the fable of the hare and tortoise, that I may know that the race is not always to the swift — there is more to life than increasing its speed.

Let me look upward into the branches of the towering oak and know that it grew great and strong because it grew slowly and well.

Slow me down, Lord, and inspire me to send my roots deep into the soil of life’s enduring values, that I may grow toward the start of my greater destiny.

~Richard Cardinal Cushing

We live in a culture that seems obsessed with speed. Our everyday language affirms our preoccupation with speed: we have fast-food restaurants with drive-through windows, expressways and instant messaging. We can’t seem to stop or even slow down.

I recently read that Michigan is increasing the speed limit to 75 miles per hour on several roads because that was how fast people were driving anyway.

Faster is better seems to be our national mantra.

And now we have added busyness to the equation—because moving fast means we finished everything and then, what? Have some empty space in our lives? No time for doing nothing—we have to keep moving and doing.

I think Cardinal Cushing was onto something, though, when he wrote the Slow me down, Lord prayer.

My brother recently visited from Arizona and we went on morning walks at a park on the lake near my house. Swans, ducks and geese swam by as people fished from the shoreline or out in boats. No rush, no hurry, no busyness—just life slowly going by.reflection-God-prayerI can easily fill up my days with lots of activities and then rush around to accomplish as much as possible. But that is not how I want to live. I want to have periods of silence every day, to ponder the glory of creation and to pay attention to the gifts God is giving me.

I want to be available to the people God brings to me, to be able to sit and listen to what they need to say. At the cancer support center where I work, someone invites me every day to slow down, to take a few minutes to listen to their joys and sorrows, the ups and downs of the cancer journey.

 

Slow me down, Lord.reflection-God-prayer

Cultural Differences

I work in a literacy program in southwest Detroit, near a neighborhood known as Mexicantown.

One day, a coworker was commenting on how some of our students go back to Mexico for extended periods, usually to visit a sick relative and usually taking their children out of school for the trip. She is shocked at how little regard they seem to have for their children’s education.

“It’s cultural,” I observed. Not her culture. She could not imagine taking her children out of school.

“My mom used to pull us out of school for a week every fall,” I remembered.

“What?” she exclaimed.

I explained that my mother grew up on a farm in northern Michigan and my grandparents grew potatoes, which were harvested in the fall. Although my mother was one of ten children, only one remained on the farm and when it was time to harvest the potatoes, my mother returned home to help, taking her children with her.

The schools up north incorporated harvesting times into their school calendars; but Detroit Public Schools paid no attention to agrarian cycles, and my mother paid no attention to the Detroit Public Schools. Farming was in her blood, and helping her parents was her priority.

As we spoke, images of harvesting potatoes flooded my mind, images I had not thought of in many years.

A digger was hitched to the back of a tractor—giant metal talons which sunk deep into the earth and jostled the ground, gently dislodging the potatoes. I loved watching the digger dancing along the rows. In its wake sat piles of potatoes, previously hidden and now miraculously revealed.

It was magic to me, and I never minded missing school to participate in this annual ritual.

What I did mind was the corresponding week in spring when we would make the trek to the farm to pick rocks. My uncle once explained to me that while potatoes grew all summer and were dug up in the fall, rocks grew all winter and needed to be dug up in the spring before the plows could ready the fields for planting. “Why do you plant them?” I would whine to him. Picking up rocks was not as magical as digging up potatoes.

I really believed rocks grew, until I was about eleven and consulted an encyclopedia to learn about the geological formations in northern Michigan and the nature of frozen ground heaving.

My co-worker looked at me in amazement as I related this story. Yes, even though my mother pulled me out of school twice a year, I had turned out ok. We may have missed some academic lessons but we were still learning—about nature and farming and the importance of helping out family.