Simple Gifts

Tuesday, May 6, 2014 - 9:10 am

Simple Gifts

To feel at home in my own skin… To feel at home on the face of the earth…

I sometimes think that those are the two deepest yearnings in our lives. What I know for sure is that life becomes very painful when I don’t feel at home with who I am, or with the rich diversity of beings with whom I share this planet.

When I’m feeling out of whack with myself and/or with others, I often turn to this much-loved Mary Oliver poem, with deep gratitude for the way she reminds me of life’s simple but astonishing gifts. Whoever we are, and however we are, each of us has a place of welcome and honor “in the family of things”…

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean-blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

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is a columnist for On Being. His column appears every Wednesday.

He is a Quaker elder, educator, activist, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. His books include Healing the Heart of Democracy, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, and Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation.

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