To Affirm Our Person

To Affirm Our Person

I would like to shake Mark Nepo’s hand one day, and thank him. Actually, a hug is much more appropriate for all the times he speaks the truth that shakes the part of my soul which (in that very moment) needs awakening.

He writes:

Wisdom tells me I am nothing.
Love tells me I am everything.
And in between the two
my life flows.

Nisargadatta Maharaj

Having survived the inhumanity of the Holocaust and the death of her husband…Miriam Elkes told her son, years later, of the two objects that sustained her: “One was a piece of bread, which she always hid about her person; the other a broken piece of comb. She kept the bread in case someone needed it more than she; and no matter what, morning and night, she would comb her hair to affirm her person.”

What Miriam Elkes carried, and how she used what she carried, is a profound example of how the spirit can turn ordinary objects into living sumbols that can help us live.

For what she carrid–the bit of bread and her broken comb–and why she carried them, speaks to the wisdom of love itself, and makes me ask, What small thing do we carry that we give to others more in need than we, and what constant gesture do we carry by which we can affirm our person?

To carry these questions alone is life-sustaining. For to carry the smallest crust of bread or truth that we can offer others always reminds us of two essential facts: that we do not live this life alone, and that no matter the severity of our own circumstance, we have something to give others. The fact of this does not invalidate our pain, but affirms our worth, that even in pain we can be of value.

We all live somewhere between nothing and everything, and to reenact, along the way, the smallest gesture of valuing your life is to carry out God’s work. Only by affirming our person can the human stalk of spirit break ground and grow into something free.