It is completely beyond me that anyone could be so filled with hatred that they would take a weapon into a house of worship – or anywhere – and terrorize those within. It is horrendous. It is unimaginable. And it seems to be happening with increasing frequency. I have few words that offer any comfort or comprehension.
Simple Gifts is a song written by Joseph Brackett in 1848, an elder in a Shaker community in Maine. He wrote only one verse, although many others have since been written and all sorts of variations on the tune have been created by a number of people for a number of purposes. This original verse, however, is what I want to consider.
‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.
The Shakers were a small religious sect that believed, among other things, in a communal lifestyle, pacifism and equality between the sexes. They were known as Shakers because they literally shook when they worshiped – they were very enthusiastic. They composed thousands of songs and they danced.
The words of this song are all about the freedom these people found in their worship. The freedom to be in a place that was just right, the freedom to move as inspired, the freedom to be filled with love and delight as they practiced what was dear to them, what they believed.
We all believe different things. We all express our beliefs in different ways. To me, this creates a beautiful patchwork quilt that can encircle us all with warmth and interest. There is no threat in another’s beliefs unless we choose to invent one based on our own ignorance and arrogance. I am weary of hearing that who I am and who you are, is so different that we must shoot at each other to survive – literally or metaphorically, because some of our bullets come in the form of words and behaviours. It is wrong. It is folly. It is heartbreaking.
Let us all find that space that is just right and be free to live there – worshiping, singing and dancing. Actually, let us do more than that. Let us make a space for what is just right for our neighbours. Give those that are different from us what they need. There is room for us all and when we bow and bend, we shan’t be ashamed. It is a simple gift.