When I was a teacher, a lot of my life was laid out for me. School starts here. Teach this. Report back. Go home. I struggle sometimes now from acute not-spelled-out-itis. (People who think this is not a real disease are suffering from a different one, but there isn’t space to get into that now.) To deal with my condition, I talk, think, pray, and yes, I read. Last summer I somehow ended up reading two biographies concurrently. Deitrich Bonhoeffer and Erma Bombeck. A single, male, German, Lutheran, theologian, killed by Nazis at age 39, and a married, female, American, Catholic, mother and humor columnist, who died from kidney disease and surgery at 69. Their stories have stuck with me this past year. They were very different people, but in my mind, they go together at least as well as the different parts of me do. Between them, they cover a lot of things I care about: love, justice, humor, faith, family, and how to handle perceived failure.
From Erma Bombeck:
*If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it.
*Guilt: the gift that keeps on giving.
*There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.
*My second favorite household chore is ironing. My first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint.
And from Deitrich Bonhoeffer:
*Absolute seriousness is never without a dash of humor.
*The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world it leaves to it’s children.
*We must learn to regard people less in light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.
*Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy.
*It is very easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements in comparison with what we owe others.
*God does not love some ideal person, but rather human beings just as we are, not some ideal world, but rather the real world.
I’m not saying they are the same. There’s a lot more meat to be had in a study of Bonhoeffer’s life and words, but I’m a simple person. There are days I can only admire Dietrich, I can’t relate to him. That’s where Erma comes in.
I like learning about other people. I find it inspiring and thought provoking to remember that other people struggled and failed and wanted to give up. Remembering other people’s mountains make my own seem more climbable. And I’m always a sucker for quotes. A few with particular meaning to me right now:
There is meaning in every journey that is unknown to the traveler. D.B.
We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. D.B.
When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’. E.B