Traffic jams and grace

I’m reprinting something that happened in the comments on my post, The Best Seat in the House

Cherry Woodburn, of, wrote:

Thank you for this post Amy.

And thanks to Fiona and the other commentors. I feel more balanced about America’s reaction to the way Bin Laden died.

I drove home from DC today and was about 15 minutes from home and, oh so excited about getting there when traffic stopped.

That 15 minutes became an hour, which wasn’t thrilling, but I am grateful that I was not in the accident that caused that delay. Sometimes things like that are easy to forget, especially if I/we don’t see the “wrecked vehicle”.

I was moved by Cherry’s comment. It made me think about how often we pass other people’s “wrecked vehicles” – and how we must integrate the experience of witnessing their suffering, their wrecked lives, shattered marriages, devastating diagnoses into our own experience.

Sometimes, I wonder what to do – when I am feeling drawn in and yet unable or unwilling to help; and of course, I probably shouldn’t help – what I mean is, we can’t ALL help everyone all the time. We can only do what we can, what we are moved to do.

So what do we do when we ARE moved – when our heart is touched, when we pass a ‘wrecked vehicle’?

Cherry’s comment reminded me of a story I once heard Caroline Myss tell, when I was a student at her CMED Institute (I believe it’s from her book, Invisible Acts of Power in which she tells some of the stories that streamed in when she elicited and received hundreds of personal accounts of Grace.

It changed Caroline’s life – transformed her. As a longtime student of hers, I could actually see the shift in her energy – the light streaming from her face; the softening of her heart. And of course, I have lived that experience every day for the past six years, reading thousands and thousands of letters about the same thing.

It can’t help but break you open. Just as, passing a wrecked vehicle – or, witnessing a community struggling to salvage homes and lives after a flood, a fire, a tornado – we can’t help but be moved.

When we are moved, our heart opens and we long to reach out. What can we do?

This is a story from Caroline’s book. And then I will tell you what you can do. (Note: these are my words and I’m retelling it from memory. If you want the original, I’m sure it’s available in the book.)

There is a car accident on a highway, a serious accident, which stops traffic.

A woman, delayed by the accident, sits in her car.  She cannot see the victims, but her heart goes out to them, and she begins to pray. She doesn’t know if they are seriously injured, or even, dead. But she is flooded with compassion and pours it into her prayers.

After a while, the accident is cleared and she goes home. She never finds out what happens and the moment is forgotten until a few months later, when there is a knock at her door.

Opening it, she finds a woman standing on her doorstep. The woman then tells her, “I was in the car accident that you witnessed. And at one point, I left my body and rose above, watching the commotion.

“That’s when I saw, pouring out of one of the cars behind me, the most beautiful white light. That was your prayer. (I believe she said that the prayer called the angels to the scene. Whether she said it or not, I know that it did.)

“So I came here to tell you that your prayer reached me – it helped me – I saw it and I wanted to thank you”

“But how did you find me?”  the woman asked.

“I memorized your license plate while I was hovering above the scene,” the woman explained. “I forgot about it as I healed in the hospital. But after a while, I remembered.”

Given that incredible story, what can we do when we witness suffering, when our heart longs to reach out, to help?

We can reach out in the only way that we can from across the world – we can prayknowing that somehow, even though we don’t understand it, our prayers are heard and answered.

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