Each of us needs to do things that help further social and economic justice. But let's face it: when we pass from this earth there will still be plenty of inequity and iniquity left behind us. So if we can't quite manage to save the world, what can we do that makes this earth a better, more loving place?
When my late father was a little boy, around 1918 or so, he was entertained eachFriday morning at his home in Rockford, Illinois by his Mom's Methodist Lady's Sewing Circle. At the start and end of each meeting they sang a song, written just a few years before by Ina D. Ogden, the refrain of which goes like this:
Brighten the corner where you are! Brighten the corner where you are! Someone far from harbor you may guide across the bar, Brighten the corner where you are!
My Dad lived for more than 93 years, leaving us on Christmas day in 2008. AndBrighten the Corner Where You Are served as the guide for his life until his dying breath.
Buddy Ogren toiled in the vineyards of social justice his entire life. He organized mistreated workers into unions, marched for racial equality with Martin Luther King, Jr. on the streets of Selma, and vigorously opposed the U.S. war in Vietnam. His personal commitment to simple human kindness walked that same path.
Daddy always had a certain gift, one that he honed as he grew older. He was quite an intelligent fellow (a Constitutional Law Professor), but never came to grips with the modern practice of multi-tasking. He tended to focus, rather exclusively, on what was right in front of him. And if YOU were what was right in front of him he was going to get to know you.
You would always sense, after a conversation with Buddy, that he knew you, he realized what was special about you, and he liked you. And you couldn't help but feel a little bit better about yourself. He understood that both of you were - as the good book says - wondrously made.
In the final analysis, what distinguished my father was that he spread a lot of joy, and he was truly a happy man. Simply put, making others happy made Buddy happy. Maybe, if we give it a try, that approach will work for us as well.
It helped that Buddy had a booming laugh that seemed to find constant humor in the human condition. Researchers say that a baby laughs up to 400 times a day, while a typical grownup laughs as rarely as 15 times that same day. They never met Buddy!
Daddy’s approach to life was formed as a three year old, playing under the dining room table while those Methodist women sang and sewed. And while we may not have a Methodist Ladies Sewing Circle readily available, there is nothing to prevent us from getting down on all fours and playing underneath the dining room table. Who knows, there might be a piece of gum stuck under there with a little life left in it!
"A child who does not play is not a child, but the man who does not play has lost forever the child who lived in him.” ~Pablo Neruda
Buddy Ogren’s 10 Rules to Live By
Let yourself Smile often
Let yourself Laugh often
Sing often, just for the fun of it
Play every day, somehow, some way
Try to do a lot of good, little things
Be at least as interested in others as you are in yourself
Pick up trash on the streets
Cultivate intellectual curiosity
Cultivate & express passion
So go out and brighten the corner where you are!
Much love from Paul Ogren & Ildiko Laszlo at From War to Peace