Six of Sixty

The books are here!

I am going to celebrate by re-posting here six of the sixty columns that make up "So There I Was ..."
These are my favorites.

Ordering info is here

So there I was ...

driving away from my house on a busy Monday morning. My “To Do” list was stacked like planes coming into O’Hare. My head was in air traffic control mode, oblivious to everything but the blips on my personal radar.

I slowed to a not-quite-full-legal stop at the corner of My Street and Major Arterial. The bank was cleared for landing and the post-office was on final approach. Then that still small voice I have learned to listen to piped up with an urgent request.

“Peggy, could you please attend to the train coming into Grand Central Station on track number Four? – it’s coming in a little fast.”


I applied full brake and looked about. All seemed normal in the sleepy residential neighborhood. Then I saw her: the little choo-choo on track number Four. She was about two years old – maybe – riding a big wheel along Major Arterial. She was blonde, female, (probably) and peddling along at good speed, about a block and a half away. With no adult anywhere in sight. I parked. She peddled towards me, crossed the next side street at below bumper height, and kept coming. She never looked sideways or back. I got out and met her on the sidewalk. She applied her Fred Flintstones and came to a stop at my toes.

“Hi baby.”

She looked up at me and put her thumb in her mouth.

“Baby, where’s Mommy?”

Tot unplugged thumb and looked over her shoulder.

“Let’s go find Mommy, ok?”

“Otay.” she chirped.

Executing a crisp three-point Big Wheel turn, Cindy Lou Who applied speed and proceeded in the direction of her origin. I followed at a brisk walking pace.

We went three full city blocks, crossing two side streets, this time with me as crossing guard, and then she made a right turn. I was about to call 911 when a door opened at the end of the block and a blonde woman popped out her head and called, “Haley?”

I continued to Haley’s house. I informed Mom of where I had contacted Haley. Mom thanked me and was about to start scolding Haley. As a card-carrying member and journeywoman of the International Union of Mothers, I felt the need to interrupt and make the lesson explicit.

“I could have as easily picked her up and put her in my car.” I said gently.

Mom looked a little stunned.

“It’s not Haley’s job to keep Haley safe.” I said even more gently.

Mom scooped Haley up in her arms and nodded.

“Have a good day. Bye, Haley.”

“Bye-Bye.” chirped the tot.

I returned to my car and to my radar.

This was not an unusual occurrence in my life. My children could tell you how young they were when they noticed that their mother seemed to be “on call” to the universe. My therapist might tell you that I have rescuing tendencies. I prefer to say that I practice the Spiritual Discipline of Attendance. The Biblical mandate for this is the story Jesus told about the guy in the ditch. Of course, it is more formally known as “The Story of the Guy Who Helped the Guy in the Ditch,” but you know the story. It’s all about looking off your own radar and showing up where you are needed when you are needed and then taking action.

Here are the requirements of the Spiritual Discipline of Attendance:

You must attend.

You must be able to be present and mindful; aware of your surroundings. You must be able to observe without seeking to simply fit what you observe into your ready-made boxes

You must attend at two levels. You must be able to have one ear and eye on the world and one ear and eye on the Divine. You must be willing to take input from the Divine. This is what makes it a spiritual discipline and not merely paying attention – which is not a bad thing – but is different.

You must attend with the expectation of use.

You must show up for life willing to take action. You accept the fact that in any given situation you may be the person most capable of attendance.

You must attend with minimum fear. Sometimes all you have to offer is a non-anxious presence. Sometimes you may be called upon to be resilient in the face of actual threat. Fear kills love and a lot of other things.

You must attend with hope. Ditch people can’t always dredge up their own. You must carry a supply of this at all times.

You must attend with Faith. (See above) Sometimes people have to be able to believe in you before they can believe in anything else. It takes courage and integrity to put yourself out there. If you try and attend without faith in yourself, and in a power greater than yourself, you will incinerate quickly.

You must attend with Love. (See above) It is advisable to carry as much of this as possible, and to stock up at every opportunity. You cannot top the tank too often.

You must attend without entanglement. You must have a healthy sense of self in order to keep yourself out of the ditch. Never think that you are too cool to fall into a ditch. Ditches are sneaky. You must not attempt to do for people what they can and should do for themselves. The guy who helped the guy in the ditch was able to do some very personal attendance, and then he delegated.

Now, finally, to make the lesson explicit, this is not an optional discipline. Evil also attends, with diligence and willingness. Evil carries a stockpile of strife, malice, and despair. Evil wants you to think that it is bold and fearless, but evil is actually reckless out of necessity because evil is afraid, very, very afraid. Afraid, among other things, that we will all learn to attend.

The Story of the Guy Who Helped the Guy in the Ditch is found in the book of Luke, the 10th chapter, in the Christian New Testament.

Thanks. I needed that.

You may not have intended this as an excuse to skip Meeting for Worship, go conduct Meeting for Worship for moving large muscles and to come back and deal some more wit, well....
How I love your words. THANK YOU for reprinting this. And for writing it in the first place.

And for doing it, too.
Thank you. This is wonderful. It reminds me of my mother. Only wish it reminded me more of me - back to work!
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