Excerpt from Remnants
Rachel Elizabeth Harding
There is no scarcity. There is no shortage. No lack of love, of compassion, of joy in the world. There is enough. There is more than enough.
Only fear and greed make us think otherwise.
No one need starve. There is enough land and enough food. No one need die of thirst. There is enough water. No one need live without mercy. There is no end to grace. And we are all instruments of grace. The more we give it, the more we share it, the more we use it, the more God makes. There is no scarcity of love. There is plenty. And always more.
This is the universe my mother lived in. Her words. Her ways. This is the universe she was raised in, by parents from rural Georgia who came up in the generation after slavery. People who had lived with many terrors but who knew terror was not God’s final say. This is the universe she taught me. Whatever I call religion is this inclusive, Christian, Indigenous, Black, Southern cosmology of compassion and connectedness. It is the poetry of my mother’s life.
Mama died at the end of winter in 2004. For almost ten years, we had been writing. Gathering up her stories – her long, sweet flashes of brilliance, her prayers, what she remembered of her Woodlawn Chicago childhood and the
high strong laughter of her mother and aunts; her father’s gentle work-worn hands. She was giving me what she knew I would need to survive this world; and what I would need to love it. What she wanted me to tell about her, what she knew of God, the people we come from and her many magnificent companions in the movement for justice in this nation.
Lord, I have been writing Mama’s story for too long. Much too long. Passing through so many sicknesses to get here – hers, my father’s, my brother’s, my own. But she stood there, like the mother in Lucille Clifton’s poem, at the other side of the river, holding out her heart, set to throw it across when my waiting hands could finally catch it.
God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth,
and to keep alive for you many survivors.
Genesis 45:7 (RSV)
Mama trained her mind toward the good. Even before she knew anything about Buddhism, or the Dalai Lama. Before she ever traveled to India. I don’t know when it started. Maybe she was born that way. Or perhaps she had seen her own mother and father do it so often, her aunts too, that it became an artless response. She would lean naturally into the side of encouragement and moral strength. And forgiveness, though she was not imprudent.
She could find a blessedness in anything. She assumed it was there and no matter how deeply hidden, her expert hand would scoop it out and show it to you.
In her counseling, she used a Japanese practice of gratefulness, Naikan/Morita Therapy. It emphasized training our spirits toward gratitude, especially for our mothers and those others who sacrifice so much for our happiness and well-being. That appealed to her. “It works quickly,” she told me. I told her she wouldn’t have many clients if she kept asking people to remember what they had done to hurt their mothers and all the things their mothers had done to take care of them. “That’s the opposite of how most psychotherapists make their money,” I said. She laughed.
The Dalai Lama says look upon all beings as if they were our mother – the person who has loved us best, loved us most in our life; the person who has been kindest to us. Treat all beings as if they were our mother. Because, in fact, they are. Mom says the Dalai Lama said, “We have all been each other’s mothers.”
In my classes, Mama tells the students we have all been the good one. And we have all been the “evil” person. We have all been many things. And we yet carry those lifetimes in our cellular memory. Just as we carry all of the universe in our cellular memory. So there is no judgment of others. Just the will to do good toward them. To show kindness in this life. We all want happiness. We all want someone to be kind to us. We all want and need and have the right to joy in this life. To avoid unnecessary suffering. None of us is more worthy than the next. None of us is less worthy than the next. We are all the same in this. We have all been each other’s mothers.