Posts Tagged ‘Mary Oliver’

The Life You Save May Be Your Own

Saturday, January 2nd, 2021

In his book, Violence Unveiled, Gil Bailie recounts how he was talking to African-Americans theologian and civil rights leader, Howard Thurman, about what the world needed when Thurman interrupted him and said, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Thurman, who knew how much it had cost to do what made him come alive, would undoubtedly bristle at the ways his words have since been sentimentalized by American therapeutic individualism. Left to the self-help gurus, Thurman’s wakeup call becomes, “What the world needs is a better, happier me.”

A helpful corrective, perhaps, is to read Thurman’s advice in light of Frederick Buechner’s observation that “the place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” What if serving the world’s deep hunger is the key to my salvation, however one might define that last word? Happy are they who know and abide at that meeting place. Some have yet to find it. Others have forgotten, lost the way, or wasted time on seductive distractions.

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