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24 Questions for Advent: Three

Album cover for Tribal Opera, by Ideola (Mark Heard)

"What's the worth of one warm smile?" Mark Heard, Go Ask the Dead Man, Tribal Opera

It’s the little things, the daily miracles that we often miss, that make life worth living.

I’m a big-picture “what does it all mean?” kind of guy. I think deeply and often about philosophical and existential questions. I love talking about theological themes and foundations for how we should live. But when it comes right down to it, it’s flashes of grace, the "rumors of glory" (Bruce Cockburn) that mean the most.

I was moved by the TV movie Wit from 2001. Based on the Margaret Edson play, Vivian Bearing (Emma Thompson) is a literal, hardnosed English professor who has been diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer. During the story, she reflects on her reactions to the cycle the cancer takes, the treatments, and significant events in her life. In part out of her own choice, but in part out of her own personal circumstances, she decides to go through the treatment alone. But as her treatment progresses, she wishes she had some more truly caring human interaction from people who see her as a person, and not just a research experiment. In one of the final scenes, as Vivian nears her death, she is visited by a former mentor (Dr. Ashford), who offers to read to her.

Dr. Ashford: Shall I recite something to you? Would you like that? I'll recite something by Donne.

Vivian: No!

Dr. Ashford: Very well. Let's see... "The Runaway Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown. "Once there was a little bunny who wanted to run away... "so he said to his mother, 'I'm running away.' "'lf you run away,' said his mother... "'I will run after you. "'For you are my little bunny.' "'lf you run after me,' said the little bunny... "'I will become a fish in a trout stream... "'and I will swim away from you.' "'lf you become a fish in a trout stream,' said his mother... "'I will become a fisherman, and I will fish for you."'

Look at that. A little allegory of the soul. Wherever it hides, God will find it.

God will find it. God finds us, most often through the simplest of things. Children’s stories are, in the end, what stay with us.

Most of what I really need To know about how to live And what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top Of the graduate school mountain, But there in the sandpile at Sunday school. These are the things I learned: Share everything. Play fair. Don't hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don't take things that aren't yours. Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Live a balanced life - Learn some and think some And draw and paint and sing and dance And play and work everyday some. Take a nap every afternoon. When you go out into the world, Watch out for traffic, Hold hands and stick together. Be aware of wonder.

Robert Fulghum

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