community, spiritual life

Finely balanced network

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” A.A. Milne, “Winnie-the-Pooh”

Today’s post was — in my late-night, writerly thoughts — originally titled “Cloud of Witnesses.” Then, a friend introduced me to the above phrase. “Observant Jews give thanks every morning for a finely balanced network,” she wrote in an uplifting e-mail.

The words so perfectly described what was in my heart — an overflowing of thankfulness for the concentric circles of joy bringers, spirit encouragers and life smoothers God has brought into my life. Family, friends, church ladies and gentlemen, neighbors, shopkeepers, writers, musicians, teachers, bus drivers, makers, growers, repairers.

Finely balanced network. Are there any better words to describe the people who make life hum? Better, maybe not, but plenty of people have given it a shot.

The Japanese embrace the concept of moai, a lifelong circle of friends that supports each other into old age. Dan Buettner, author of the Blue Zones books, links that kind of support network to longevity. WordPress, this site’s host, calls its tech-support network “happiness engineers,” an idea anyone should love. The Apostle Paul, a first century Messianic Jew, wrote of a “cloud of witnesses,” ancestors and historic greats that inspire us to live lives full of faith and hope even though they are long dead.

I call elements of this network my “panel of experts.” When I needed to know how to detangle little girls’ hair, for example, my curliest friends and those who simply had stood the test of parenting daughters into adulthood stepped up. (Wet Brush, by the way. Accept no substitutes.) When I wanted to learn how to can, my most kitchen-savvy friend showed up for a hands-on lesson in strawberry jam. One neighbor friend always knows what’s going on at school at a speed faster than Facebook. When I’m whiny, one friend has proven she can handle my worst. Crisis? There are a bevy of people to call and e-mail for prayer.

Most surprisingly perhaps, God sometimes fills in gaps in this network with strangers. When I broke my leg in a fall on the ice, a football-player sized man I never saw before or since carried me up the steps to our house. A car-mechanics instructor I never actually saw, but who was married to a school principal I barely knew, got the water out of my gas tank, thereby preventing young-teacher me from being stranded on the lonely roads of the Navajo Nation.

The list could go on and on — and that’s just the people in my life! What about yours? It’s morning, at least it is here in Appalachia. It’s time. However we think of them, let’s be thankful for the individuals in our finely balanced network and the God who is at the center of all things lovely, true and good.




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