Why Ceremony Is Important Even in Poverty

When I am in the cellar of affliction, I look for the Lord’s choicest wines.  ~Samuel Rutherford

My geraniums have faded.

As much as I grieve cleaning out the pots — there’s no denying what that seemingly insignificant task portends here in Colorado — I wonder why I do this to myself. Why I set myself up for sadness. Why every May I waste money on plants I’ll throw out every October. There have been years I didn’t feel like I had even that little bit to waste, and still I went ahead.

Why? Because it’s not waste. Because true joy often emerges from sorrow and sacrifice. Because red geraniums on my front steps remind me. At each sunrise, they remind me that growth is possible. At the end of wearying days, they remind me that life continues and that it can be beautiful. They remind me that my time on this earth isn’t about me; maybe someone driving by my humble cottage needs the hope those ruby globes offer.

I was surprised to see geraniums on many Romanian windowsills. Windowsills barely hanging on to the barely standing houses of barely surviving people. And suddenly — geraniums. Such disparate images. My host said Romanian women often go without other things so they can buy these reminders of endurance.

And from Ireland, the poignant story behind the story. Peig Sayers (1873-1958) lived with unspeakable hardship and loss on Great Blasket Island. In the introduction to her book An Old Woman’s Reflections, W.R. Rodgers writes:

“I saw her being presented with a mushroom one day,” a neighbour told me, “and she accepted it as if she had been presented with a gold cup.” Where life in general is limited and monotonous its least detail is exalted into drama; islanders who live in the shapeless shadow of poverty will always put a pattern of dignity and ceremony on it in order to endure and redeem their existence.

Perhaps you’re suffering poverty — whether of the soul or the bank account. Don’t neglect goodness. Even in sorrow, consider what you can sacrifice to make a way for joy.

And if you’re in a fortunate season of plenty — whether of the soul or the bank account — be quick to add dignity, ceremony, and joy to the existence of another.

genanium