Monthly Archives: October 2014

# 67 Pray for a Stranger

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????       pink-dot      Many years ago I attended an Episcopalian weekend retreat in which we were asked to do something unusual. We were given a piece of paper and asked to write on it a personal concern without giving our name, fold it, and put it in a basket.  The baskets were circulated, and we were then asked to select a piece of paper from the basket, read the concern, and pray for that person.  We were being asked to pray for a stranger.  The paper I read was a confession of self loathing.  I was distressed by it.  I couldn’t imagine who, in that congregation, could feel so terribly about themselves.  I offered my prayer into the community of prayers said that morning in the little wood chapel in a pine forest.

Have you ever prayed for a stranger?

Recently I heard the author River Jordan speak about her memoir, Praying for Strangers.  You can find it at:   http://www.riverjordan.us/books/praying-for-strangers/

Jordan says she embarked on a year of praying for others reluctantly.  She had always seen herself as an author, not someone who wrote about personal experiences.  Yet once she began this journey—of praying for one stranger each day for a year—she felt compelled to continue the journey and to write about it.  She did so by resolving each day to walk up to a complete stranger, asking for the person’s name, then asking permission to say a prayer for them that night.  The results were at times moving, sometimes funny, and often poignant.  One woman remarked to her,  “I’m so glad you asked me.  I was just praying for others this morning, and I asked God if anybody out there was listening.”

Just for today, pray for a stranger. You may not want to walk up to a stranger and ask their name as Jordan did. Simply spot someone you see and make a mental note of that person.  Or consider someone you have read or heard about in the media today who is in crisis.  Tonight, at bedtime, say a prayer for them.  I don’t know if praying has any demonstrable effect on the cosmos.  We are sending out messages to the universe, like the Buddhist prayer flags.  But praying for others does make us more mindful of the suffering of the world..  It keeps us grounded and keeps our own struggles in perspective.

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# 66 Do The Next Right Thing

purple-dot ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????           Recently, I was working with a man who taught me a new tech- nique.   A recovering alcoholic, he had done well to marry, have two children, and hold down a stable job.   But he was prone to dark, angry moods when things didn’t go his way.  He would retreat to his basement recreation room where he would play violent video games for hours, and shut everyone out.  His wife, exasperated with him and his refusal to help her with the kids, would pick a fight, and the two would escalate to the point of threatening divorce. “I figured out something,” he said in a session with his wife.  “I realized I don’t have to do any of that when I’m frustrated or disappointed.  All my life I thought I had to do something–you know, get my anger out, fight someone, get drunk, and when I couldn’t do that any more, blow someone to pieces in a video game.  Then it occurred to me I could just do the next right thing. The next right thing is just whatever needs to be done.  It might be putting a load of laundry in the washing machine.  It might be taking the dog for a walk.  It might be wrestling my sons.  It’s just whatever is right there needing to be done. And I do the next right thing and the anger and the dark mood just goes away.”

This simple principle may seem obvious to those who already do this and never thought that someone had to learn it. But to those for whom this is a new idea, it is life-changing. You do not have to slide into a dark mood when the road of life is bumpy, you can simply do the next right thing and keep going.  How could you implement this in your life? This is such a simple principle you can apply to many areas of your life.  When you are feeling bitter and betrayed, you do not have to focus on it, you can do the next right thing.  When you are overwhelmed with waves of anxiety, you can look around and see what needs to be done.  You can focus on the next right thing instead of your anxiety.  When you are feeling beaten down and discouraged, put two feet on the floor, get up and look around.  There is a next right thing waiting to be doneGo and do it.