This past Tuesday evening I was delighted to see and hear Anne Lamott speak about her most recent book, Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair. I have always liked her particular brand of spirituality and her openness when it comes to life and all its craziness and richness.
Absolutely unpretentious and unassuming, Lamott spoke of how we can find meaning in the chaotic life and times in which we live—of how we can be in this world even when we can't find answers to why things happen. She started by telling us that her latest book was conceived after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn., last December. She simply didn't have answers to all the questions raised by that awful event.
As the book cover says: "In this book Lamott explores how we find meaning and peace in these loud and frantic times; where we start again after personal and public devastation; how we recapture wholeness after loss; and how we locate our true identities in this frazzled age. We begin, Lamott says, by collecting the ripped shreds of our emotional and spiritual fabric and sewing them back together, one stitch at a time. It's in these stitches that the quilt of life begins, and embedded in them are strength, warmth, humor and humanity."
As Lamott told us, there aren't always answers. You and I don't need to offer each other answers and pearls of wisdom when tragedy strikes—we simply need to show up, she says. She is right. Showing up and offering our presence is gift enough! I will never forget the morning I received a phone call from my beloved sister saying her husband had been killed in a car accident. Some people offered up cliches or pious phrases; they meant well, I know. One woman, however, simply showed up at our door and hugged me. All she said as she held me was, "I'm so, so sorry." It was enough. I didn't want explanations or piety at that moment. I just wanted presence. It's a good thing for me to remember when I think I need answers or some word of wisdom for someone else. Just show up!