“Do you know whose shoulders you are standing on?” asked Pastor Mike Lyons.
Last Sunday after our visit to Trinity United Methodist Church for All Saint’s Day in remembrance of Mama, I left with a lot to think about. That question has floated through my mind all week.
One week ago was All Saint’s Day, a good day to remember those who have gone before me and cleared the underbrush and brambles a little further on down the path to make my way a little easier. Monday will be Veterans Day, a day for honoring those who have served in the Armed Forces. Another good day to remember those who have cleared the way for us to enjoy so many of the things we have and we do.
The image of standing on the shoulders of others was imprinted on my mind, so I did a little digging. I found this quote attributed to the 12th century theologian and author John of Salisbury. Though he wrote this in Latin in 1159 in a treatise on logic called Metalogicon, the interpretation is basically this:
“We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more, and things that are more distant, than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours.”
As I was writing this tonight my oldest, Aub, brought this gift home for me.
This beautiful drawing by local artist Micah Goguen is a treasure. I fell in love with the pastel drawing the first time I saw it several weeks ago. Just looking at this young woman remembering, I knew she knew on whose shoulders she stands. This is not Micah’s interpretation, but mine. His makes it even more beautiful. He shared with me later tonight that they are both shepherds, resting on their duties–he writes “an African Shepherd guarding his flock and a domestic Shepherd guarding her flock…..hence the broomstick and the staff.”
Poetry in pastels. I love it even more after hearing his thoughts on what he created.
And I love the idea of a domestic shepherd. Protecting, leading, guiding–because those who came before me did those things, I am able to stand on their shoulders and see even further than they were able to.
Mama used to quote “To those whom much is given, much is expected.” I believe it came from the Good Book in Luke 12:48. That one stuck with me, perhaps because she said it. Quite a bit. When I look back at all those who led, protected, and guided so I could have all the opportunities passed on to me that I have been given, I am overwhelmed and overjoyed. And I do not take it lightly. I have been given much, now it’s my turn to give, so that my children and grandchildren and so forth can stand on these shoulders and see even further. I want to live so that I can stand tall and give them all a strong foundation to plant those feet and walk further down life’s path. I am a domestic shepherd–it’s my turn to lead, protect, and guide.
Veterans Day is also known as Remembrance Day in some parts of the world. Moving from All Saint’s Day to Veterans Day to Thanksgiving, this month seems to be a beautiful time set aside for reflection and remembering and giving thanks for those whose hard work and love and dedication paved the way for the life I have today. As I close my eyes tonight, I think of my paternal great-grandparents, who raised rat terrier puppies and folks came from all around because they knew they were the best. My great-grandfather and my Papa, his son, were both carpenters and they passed that along to my Daddy, whose hands gently and fiercely and with strength and know-how touched and carved and built several things I have and love. My great-grandmother and her sweet voice, and my Granny, her daughter-in-law who never made anything that was less than absolutely delicious. She could make me feel the most special in the world with two words, “Hey girl.” My maternal great-grandfather who was a probate judge and had lost his hand in a sawmill accident. It never slowed him down and he had the best smile and gave the greatest hugs. His daughter, who never had children of her own, loved my Mama and her brother as though they were hers and then all of us too. Mama learned well that love could go beyond kinship boundaries, and she also loved those she had not borne with a fierce passion. So many others…..my great-aunt who sent packages at Christmas and birthdays that were second only to Santa Claus’ gifts. She taught me generosity and the gift of laughter and story-telling. She knew how to give fun gifts and things that you needed too. The best sets of sheets and Mama’s dish towels and Daddy’s bandanas came from her over the years–those and a Whitman’s sampler each year. And my great-great aunt, who always kept a tissue tucked up her sleeve and let us play with her lipsticks in front of her movie star mirror. She had never had children of her own either, but she never said no or complained when we accidentally messed up a tube of lipstick or two. She never considered her kitchen to be a part of her house no matter how much I tried “logic” to argue with her, and she always kept ice-cold bottled Co-Colas and that Zebra fruit stripe gum for us as treats.
All of these people and so many more I never knew–I stand on their shoulders. They were shepherds of sorts as well, guiding and protecting and leading the way for people they were never to meet, people who didn’t share time or space with them. They lived their lives, made mistakes, learned, and tried again, pushing through the wilderness of living, so that those who came next and the ones after that could pick up where they left off and continue seeing further and further and making a bigger difference and leaving a better, kinder world with each generation.
Those are big steps to follow in, but I’m going to give it a try. After all, I’m standing on the shoulders of giants.
Many thanks to Micah Goguen for sharing his beautiful gift with the world and for taking time to share his thoughts with me tonight. And a huge thank you and hug to Aub for going the extra mile and bringing home this treasure for me tonight. Love to all.