Lenten Reflection – February 24, 2021

Alean Saunders-Coffey, EdD
Lenten Reflections 2021

OPEN ARMS: DEFENSIVE WEAPONS OR UNRELENTING SUPPORT

There have been times in our lives when we—as children, adolescents or adults—were angered, afraid, cornered, threatened, troubled, or saw someone else being harmed, and were inclined to “take up arms” in defense. Toddlers use toys. Children use sticks and rocks. Adolescents use fists. Adult weapons are often much more dangerous and life threatening. Intimidators of all ages are adept at arming themselves with words to taunt those they distrust, disrespect, discount, with whom they disagree or seek to discredit. Countries authorize and sanction some of its members to carry and use arms against fellow citizens. Nations engage in internal and international clashes to resolve disturbances and disputes, conflicts that may ultimately include “weapons of mass destruction.”

Laying down defensive weapons, cease fire agreements, arms treaties, a pause on bullying, offensive words and actions—a reduction in violence of every kind—would invite a culture of unheralded calm and peace in our country, and, throughout the world.

The Hill We Climb, the poem written and delivered by Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles Amanda Gorman at the Inauguration of President Joseph Biden, inspires hope for an honorable future for The United States of America. Our country’s philosophical, political, cultural, economic and social divisions were so illuminated in January 2021, the fractures so deep, that with her words, the poet calibrates the state of the nation, then urges all who live in this land toward a shared vision for the future: where dimensions of difference are recognized, accepted and respected; where we forgive ourselves and one another for the unfinished business of valuing and appreciating those whose origins and ethnicity, citizenship and social status, politics and religion are not the same as ours; and, where we, the people, seek harmony rather than disunity and divisiveness. Ms. Gorman proposes “we lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.”

One of my mother’s favorite passages, from the Old Testament Book of Proverbs, was the Chapter 31 poem written in celebration of women of noble character and taught to King Lemuel by his mother. Included therein is this verse:

“She opens her arms to the poor and
extends her hands to the needy.”
Proverbs 31:20 (NIV)

As the oldest child in my family, I was obliged to accompany mother on “mission service calls.” I was, though, a curious eleven-year-old and did not need prompting to attend these visits “to see about people,” as I was eager to learn where and how others lived. Mother was one of the women in our community who assumed responsibility for the care and tending of families in need, assisting them by identifying problems, finding solutions and locating resources. Guided by my mother’s example, throughout life I have endeavored to “identify a need and respond to it,” and “do what needs to be done.”

I often reflect upon arms such as these: a parent holding their newborn child for the first time; the welcoming hug of relatives and friends in an airline arrival terminal; the comforting arms of a grandparent soothing a grandchild’s fears and tears; a loving embrace shared by two or more people; a father’s arms teaching his daughter to cast a fishing rod; an orchestra conductor’s arms, raised to begin a musical composition.

Inspired by Ms. Gordon’s poem, I am led to reach out, to embrace with open arms: unity, harmony, justice, forgiveness, peace and love; and, I wholeheartedly welcome these same gifts when offered to me by others.

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