Why Do We Weep?

Each morning, the little blue commuter bus snakes its way from the downtown train station to stops across the river, full of people bound for jobs on the other side. Each rider has plenty of music, reading material or coffee close at hand. Latecomers stand in the aisle, watching the sights of the city go by.

Recently my little blue bag full of books for this cramped journey included a thin volume of poetry I’d popped in: Echoes from the Peaceable Kingdom[i]. Its large stamp of DISCARD declared it was a cast off from Vermont library, and it was being considered as a cast off from mine.

But this was not to be the case. Quite suddenly the book had to be saved, because a simple poem on page 13 caught me blinking back tears. While most of my fellow passengers were jostling side to side, I was standing on a lawn with an elephant, the beast “so huge, so mild”, and a little girl, who “races toward him …with hands that offer love.” I closed my eyes, hoping they would dry by my stop.

Two days later I was caught off guard again. I’d dropped off something at a friend’s and as I left, he called me back to hear Billy Collins read his poem, The Lanyard. “Especially for you as your mother faces surgery,” he said. We sat, listened, and when we rose, we had tears of those who’d travelled back in time to remember unseen gifts we could never repay. This great poem captured life.

Just two moments in two small days, but moments that caused my heart to rise.  We might wonder why small things move us, especially in unexpected places, but the truth is we may never know. And perhaps it doesn’t matter. Perhaps the important thing is to let those moments have their way with us.  More joy, pain, and beauty exist around the next corner than we can imagine, and sometimes mere glimpses of these bring us to our mental knees. But that is OK. Even if we have to swallow hard or dab an eye, it’s good to pause and taste a full heart. It resets our view out the bus window, off the porch stairs, or even as we turn the next page.

[i]by John Bennett, Eerdmans, @1978


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One response to “Why Do We Weep?

  1. I’m going to look up that book of poetry and the poem about the elephant! Last fall I read the novel “Hannah’s Dream” by Diane Hammond about an elephant in a small zoo, which led me to the non-fiction book “Silent Thunder: In the Presence of Elephants” by Katherine Payne. These books have sensitized me even more to how intelligent and social elephants are.

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