"Jewish theologian Martin Buber relates a Hassidic tale about a teacher who lived an unusually abundant life. After his death one of his disciples was asked, 'What was the most important to your teacher?' The student answered, 'Whatever he happened to be doing at that moment.'
"We have already explored how things, places, nature, and animals can be the catalysts which precipitate spiritual experiences. They point us toward the sacred presence in the world and teach us about the lineaments of a whole and meaningful existence. But while these aspects of life may set us on a spiritual path, it is our activities that move us along it.
"Every activity can be read for its spiritual meaning. When we act out of the center of our being, when we act with awareness of the ultimate value of existence, when we come alive to our deeper selves and the wider community--then everything we do is a step on our spiritual journey."
-- Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat (1996). Spiritual Literacy: Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life (p 215)
I've been reading this book for a couple of weeks now, finding inspiration and grounding in its passages, as a kind of spiritual snack for myself; but as my wife and I have discovered, there is something sacred about sharing food. Even though we mostly eat out bags and boxes these day, whether my wife is bringing home fast food to share, or I throw in a pizza in the oven and slather half of it with jalapenos for myself, the act of setting up a folding table between us, carrying everything downstairs, and watching a show together while we eat after a long day has become a ritual that we both have adopted. In a way, it adds a little meaning and connection in a chaotic time. So I decided that when I stumble upon spiritual snacks, that it should help center my own soul to share them.
The passage I cited above I read this morning, and thought to myself how appropriate it was. In my mind, it definitely applies to Connee Gates, who passed away this week and it is hard to think of returning to South Valley without Connee being there; but in a way, I think she will always be there, in her memories and in her legacy. As a founding member, Connee never was above it all. She was always there when she was present. I don't have any pictures of Connee; what I have instead is memories.
Whatever Connee seemed to be doing at the time was always the most important thing in the world. The first thing I think of Connee was how she would light up with a genuine smile of warmth anytime someone came up to her. She would pause what she was doing, and gladly launch into a conversation. I remember one time that we talked outside of church about gender and her own retrospectives. I remember being invited to her house for a dinner outside, where she insisted on cooking everything herself, from entrees to dessert. I remember her dedication to Heiffer International, an organization that worked to help starving families feed themselves.
I will miss Connee, but in a sense she will always be with me, and in a sense with South Valley.