Monday, January 17, 2011

Franklin and Eleanor

It's been a long time since I read a biography. When I stopped in at Prairie Lights Books earlier this month, Hazel Rowley's new book, Franklin and Eleanor: an extraordinary marriage (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010) was on display, so I picked it up.

Two aspects of biographies fascinate me. We usually see many excerpts from letters exchanged throughout the person's lifetime, and letters such as those do seem to be something long gone. So I feel transported to another time and place (a good thing). Also, the number of pages the biographer takes to relate certain parts of the life story varies wildly. In this book, the account of Franklin's boarding school days and subsequent courtship with Eleanor takes up a goodly portion of the long opening chapter, but the birth of their first four children (in roughly five years' time) requires only eight pages.

Reading biographies helps to take us, as readers, out from underneath those parts of our own stories that rear up and lead to obsession over unmet goals, unresolved relationships, or past times that now look much different than they actually were. It's helpful to read that Franklin and Eleanor, each in their own ways, struggled with such similar family and vocational (or career) issues as those of us who are -- thankfully -- just ordinary people moving through Ordinary Time.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Second Sunday after Christmas Day

We had some lovely moments in church today. I enjoyed celebrating our bilingual service more than usual. The second lector (reading in Spanish) was relaxed and easy to follow. Those who haven't spoken the Spanish responses in the past were now doing so. And the later service was lovely and unhurried. I liked singing the Christmas hymns much better after Christmas, knowing that in the world outside of church, many people discarded their decorations and trees on December 26 and had "put away" Christmas. We did not put away Christmas just yet. And now we joyfully look forward to Epiphany in a few days.

The best part of the morning came when a first-time, exceptionally nervous acolyte appeared, practically glued to her mother's side. I could tell that she was right on the edge of pulling out entirely. As I worked to reassure her, another acolyte, M., showed up. His natural charm shone through as he approached the anxious girl, extended his hand and said, "Hi, I'm M. I'll show you what you need to know. It's easy, and you'll be fine." Together they went down the hall, and I knew that she was in excellent hands.

At the Passing of the Peace, both the deacon and I showered her with encouragement, but by then she was already fine. M. had been the best teacher ever. She grinned back at me with the widest and most natural grin I could hope for. And that's when I thanked God for this day, these particular people in this particular place, and resolved to write a note of thanks to M. for his outstanding leadership. I hope that when he receives it in a few days, he'll be surprised. I think that Great Things are ahead for this young man.