Press Clipping
A Ricola and a Small Act of Caregiving at Grace Cathedral

A Ricola and a Small Act of Caregiving at Grace Cathedral
1/19/2019 2 Comments

Last night I gathered some friends and went to San Francisco's stunning Grace Cathedral for a choral concert. We were women friends watching a women's chorus as a rare birthday celebration for me. Mostly I ignore birthdays and their quickening accumulation. But I am making an effort and "acting as if" this aging thing is something I am capable of accepting. (Let me just say, I am making progress...on the attitude I am likely to need for a lovely decrepitude. ;-))

The concert was packed with well-bundled people, who appeared prepared for the chilly space of a lofty, stone Gothic cathedral (and perhaps celebrate the eve of the women's march) The early sacred music was mostly acappella from all over the world: Bulgaria, England, Finland, Georgia, Greece, Russia, Japan, and Estonia. The astounding craft and collaboration of Kitka Women's Vocal Ensemble and Vajra Voices was magnified by the resonant space of Grace Cathedral. ( Here is an NPR link about Grace Cathedral.)

Captivated and mesmerized as we were, the crowd cooperated to become a small, ephemeral community without our consciously noting it...
With no intermission, and no applause until the end, we held the silence for an hour and a half with no breaks. One poor soul sounded out behind me with a miserably stifled cough...absorbing the violence of their respiratory distress inwardly. (It sounded like it hurt.)

Being prepared, I had several Ricolas with me–that Swiss herbal cough drop loved the world over. I dug quietly in my purse and handed several to the closest person behind me. Then it happened. There was a moment when I made eye contact with an older woman, who I had noted earlier as particularly moved by the music. She shook her head and said with a gesture "Not me...", and pointed backward to the row behind her. Before I could respond in any way that our silent communion allowed, the man next to her took my Ricola and immediately passed it back to the next row behind him. Being closer to the muffled misery, he knew the direction from which it came. Then a person in the next row silently took it, and passed it yet again. The mint candy silently and swiftly reached its destination–i.e. the person in distress.

It was a small but powerful wave of intentional kindness, which executed efficiently, and without a leader...
I felt like I had witnessed and participated in some ancient happening. In the early music's complex harmonies, we linked up, immediately and momentarily, to soothe a suffering.

It was a small thing, for sure, but so automatic and directed. It seemed more like a knowing akin to bees in a hive than humans. Did the music's intelligence, or harmonies work this magic? Did we just relax into the music's beauty and momentarily forget our separateness?

Being a caregiver, it reminds me of how in my own many moments of small desperation, the right person showed up to help, or piece of knowledge was given, or dinner was made or left. It seemed a greater good working for and through us...and the miraculous happened. The key, here, is to stop struggling...and Wait Here. But relaxed and with that 'acting as if" thing around acceptance of those things which are givens and cannot be changed.

Accepting 'What is" is easier if it sneaks up on us hidden in the beauty of what we can see and hear... How can we trick ourselves into relaxing into the tender trenches of our humanity? I recommend a celebration–even if small.

“If you didn’t have Eve, you couldn’t have Mary,” says Karen R. Clark, the founder and director of Vajra Voices. “You can’t have one without the other. As the Buddhists say, no mud, no lotus.” - San Jose Mercury News - January 15, 2019