Several years ago on a personal retreat, I decided to name the five values that I want to characterize me during the last 20 years of my life. Five is an arbitrary number (why not six? or nine?), but I found the task of limiting the field helpful. After several days, I had narrowed my basic life values down to gratitude, wisdom, compassion, poetry and humor.
(Actually, “20 years” is another arbitrary number. I may need a lot more time to grow into these values, and I may have a lot less. I’m content not knowing that detail.)
Simply naming my basic values has encouraged me, as I pray them, envision my growth, and thank God for helping me become the person he created me to be. Recently I wrote a poem called “Faith Statements,” and the title is important. This poem is not self-description, despite all the “I am” affirmations. It’s a prayer of becoming.
I am one who thinks “Thank you”
before, “Oh no!,” “Why me?”
“Why bother?” or “Ouch.”
“Yes” is always on the tip of my brain.
In the rain, the dark, with ants on the sink,
beside you as you sleep, my secret
inward smile. There.
I am one who really does get better
with age. All those years and tears
matter, season the stew of now,
make people want to taste, touch,
see, feel, hear, grow.
I am one who feels the pain/joy/fear/hope
of another, from the inside out.
When I give you a cup of cold water,
it’s love that compels. It’s love
that flows through my veins,
and love that moves me out the door.
Leads me to you.
I am one with eyes that see, ears
that hear. I am attentive to
the small voices the leaves make.
I see the hidden
footprints all around me. I
can show up to the page
because I show up to life.
I am one who laughs a lot,
even at inappropriate times.
Not always out loud.
I can’t tell jokes, but I discover
them everywhere. Give me
a second look and you’ll see.
I’m laughing at you.