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Embodied Blessing

Chubby legs encased in tights, (how I hated those itchy things, sagging unbearably at the crotch), I waddled down the gravel road. My equally chubby hands clutched a pretend nurse’s bag, and my blonde Dutch haircut bouncing over my blue eyes. The weekly trip took me a short distance from my family’s trailer to the home of “Uncle” Jake and “Aunt” Mary Patterson where I would meet Emmitt Doyle, the foreman who came each Monday to inspect the road with his coffee and donuts in hand. After falling and skinning my dimpled knees on one of those walks, I told him, “Mr. Doyle, you need to firm up this road.”
My mom taught school for road maintenance workers’ families in the remote Colorado mountain valley. I was only four, but a more than willing teacher’s aide, rushing to raised hands whenever Mama was occupied, piping, “Ms. Dicken is busy, but I can help you.” Mama had informed me that we couldn’t talk about Jesus at the public school, so I stood outside the door as people left for lunch, handing them miniature Gideon New Testaments. “Read this and you’ll never do that again,” I sagely advised, having observed their roughhousing at recess. It was to the Patterson’s house that I went for other pastoral and nursely duties.
I took my job with utter seriousness, as did my parishioners and patients (the Pattersons and Emmitt Doyle). Clasping pudgy fingers together, closing my big blue eyes, I offered a blessing over the road graders’ donuts and coffee. They were hardly religious people; crude language and cigarettes protruded from their unsanctified lips. At home my mother prayed for my lungs while I took it upon myself to teach the Pattersons how to pray. Spiritual care completed, I proceeded to look after our neighbors’ physical needs. I slid my plastic stethoscope atop Uncle Jake’s rough work shirt to amplify his lub-dubs and attached my blood pressure cuff ‘round his tattooed upper arm. As I packed up my bag, Aunt Mary slipped me a five and ten dollar bill for my services, a small fortune both to my little-girl piggy bank and to Mrs. Patterson’s purse.
Two decades removed, I reflect on my sincere childhood offerings with both amusement and reverence. I wonder what my “grown up” gifts mean to God—the words of awe and surrender I speak, the acts of kindness I do? Do they really make any difference? Does my food, for example, really need blessing since it has already been blessed in its growing, in its harvest, and through the hands that prepared it? All is blessed simply by its existence. I cannot add to or subtract from that.
And are my efforts to “doctor” hurting people and a hurting planet truly effective? Can I heal the ills of our world with any paraphernalia in my pretend nurse’s bag? God’s grace is sufficient, enough. God’s love is all that is required. There is no need for a bigger girl’s ritual to make better what is already good, what God has called good from the very beginning.
But there is need in this world, I think, for the childlike spirit that gives and receives with gratitude. I need a continuing awareness that God is; I need a knowing that God’s presence suffuses all of life.
Trinity as a metaphor for mutuality suggests a wonderful symbiotic relationship between God and God’s creation. As love flows from, to and between Father, Son and Spirit with no withholding and no demands, we are invited to step into the midst of that balanced ecosystem. God blesses me; I bless back. But not because I have to—not because I want to earn or avoid something. I bless you and you bless me because we love. My favorite word encapsulates this magic of mutuality in a sound: Namaste[1]. The light in me sees the light in you. I have seen Benedictine sisters bow to each other at the altar, speaking, “The Christ in me sees the Christ in you.” It is because God is present everywhere that I can bless and receive blessing, gratitude, love, kindness. We are embodying that Giant Love in individual ways, small like plastic stethoscopes. Recognizing blessing in its various forms is part of experiencing the oneness of Trinity, a relationship that thrives on giving and receiving.
I like to think that God is like Uncle Jake and Aunt Mary, eager for my ministrations and whole-hearted offerings, reciprocating with the abundance of God’s own authentic blessing.
[1] Namaste is a common greeting in the Hindi language.
Joelle Chase is an intern at the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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