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Goodbye, Winter

I was with some interfaith colleagues the other day, and when our meeting had ended, one of the folks around the table closed our time together with a word of prayer. It was a prayer of gratitude, offering thanks for a lot of different things: some of them easy and some of them hard, some of them things we might want, and some of them more the sorts of things we need. I wish you could have heard it: my colleague did a good job. And after we were all finished and gathering our papers and pulling on our coats, someone else in the group pointed out: “You know, I heard you say thanks for a lot of things there, but I sure did notice: winter wasn’t on the list.”

It’s been a long one, for sure. A long, cold season of record-breaking, roof-testing, driveway-filling snow. Finally, now, the season is officially over – and hopefully the sub-freezing weather along with it. This year’s winter proved to be a guest that wore out and overstayed its welcome. But now that our frosty freeloader has shambled out the door, leaving a messy but fading trail of grimy ice behind it, now seems a good time to reflect on the spiritual instruction our chilly interloper might offer for us. Here’s what I’ve found so far:

An unwelcome guest disrupts the natural course of things. Add a new element to the system, and the system changes. Add one that is unpleasant, adversarial, harmful – all the more change there has to be. This was the winter when nothing went according to plan: events were cancelled, delayed, postponed; journeys were lengthened, or made not at all; there was more time at home – fewer opportunities to do, and more requirements only to be.

An unwelcome guest gives us challenge to share. I don’t know when I’ve talked to as many strangers as I have in the last three months, and not only at the library or the trains station or my daughter’s school.  Something about our grueling mutual predicament had us calling out to each other in the street: “Can you believe this?” “Enough already, right?” “It’s supposed to get a little better next week.” One neighbor I’d never met before was very concerned that I watch my step walking on the ice outside his apartment building door – he launched a whole conversation about how slippery it was. For a little while, we weren’t merely living our fully separate, utterly private lives in parallel: we were enduring something, together.

An unwelcome guest gives us a chance to practice hospitality. In this case, I don’t mean to winter, the guest itself, but to each other. Our collective disruption was the backdrop to an uncountable number of small mercies and generous impulses. Shoveling each other out. Looking in on house-bound neighbors. Offering a ride or a couch to sleep on to a friend we didn’t think should have to brave the cold. It was a harsh time of year, but the world can be harsh in any season. Winter is just the time when we all admit that to ourselves, and give ourselves permission to be a little extra kind to compensate.

So goodbye, winter. It’s certainly well-past time for you to leave. I’m not sure I can say thanks for you yet – I may have to wait until July for that. But I can be thankful for the bit of good – the warmth in the midst of the cold – that you carried along with you.

 

In Faith,

Rev. Kelly Weisman Asprooth-Jackson

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First Parish Church

225 Cabot St

Beverly, MA 01915

978-922-3968

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