November 3, 2017

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Instead of subscribing to what the world values, live by God’s standards

Patti LambRecently, I had the opportunity to listen to some gifted guest speakers at an event. The speakers were prominent, witty and had lots of letters behind their names. Two of the keynotes had such impressive degrees and titles that their names and credentials barely fit on their allotted introductory slides.

One speaker was a renowned medical doctor, entrepreneur and faculty member at a prestigious university. He shared stories that brought listeners to tears.

Another was a businessman, world traveler and writer. He could speak multiple languages, and mesmerized the crowd with his photographs and poetry.

The speaker who most captured my interest was a professor of education who didn’t wow the crowd with the places she’d been or the patients she restored to wellness. She simply shared an idea that empowered everyone seated in that auditorium.

She explained that she recently returned from a sabbatical, wherein she spent all of her time with family, reflecting on her faith and reading voraciously. She mentioned reading the works of author Parker Palmer and shared one of his nuggets of wisdom: the idea that we may not be able to change the whole world, but we can change the world three feet around us. Simply by how we live our daily lives, we have great power to create positive change.

Suddenly, I felt empowered. I was reminded that I don’t have to have multiple degrees or lots of money or frequent flyer miles to make my mark on the world.

It was as if God spoke through this woman to tell us that we don’t have to be the “best” and do the “most” to do his work and please him.

In the midst of constant troubling stories and images in the media, it’s easy for us to throw our hands up and forget that God has strategically placed us right where we are to better the world around us.

We are called to change our world three feet at a time, out of love. We can manifest God’s love in some pretty strange places—in the waiting room at the orthodontist’s office, in our weekly office staff meeting, in line at the post office or on a street corner waiting for the bus and sharing an umbrella with a stranger who wasn’t prepared for rain.

That speaker reminded me to release the feeling of being overwhelmed and accept that I can act as an agent of God to change my part of the world for the better.

We all have the power to make our little corner of the world more patient, loving and kind.

Musical artist Sherry Newcomer, in collaboration with Parker Palmer, wrote a beautiful song called “Three Feet or So.”

A few of the lyrics:

“It’s not out there somewhere,
It’s right here.
If I start by being kind,
Love usually follows right behind.
It nods its head and softly hums
Honey, that’s the way it’s done…
I can’t change the whole world,
but I can change the world I know—
Within three feet or so.”

St. Teresa of Calcutta once said, “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”

We are called to start where we are. In our modern, complex world, it’s easy to assume we have to take it to a higher level. The truth is that we please God by loving those he put right under our noses.

I’m trying to remind myself to live by God’s standards, instead of subscribing to what the world values—three feet at a time.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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