The best artists don’t do all the work. They drop the bread crumbs that lead down the path of discovery. Every day, we’re given glimpses of eternity if we’ll only be willing to look beyond our circumstances and to see with eyes of faith. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “The first demand any work of art makes upon us is surrender. Look. Listen. Receive. Get yourself out of the way.”
To love our city and care about the arts and creativity has been about loving and caring for individual people. And I think for any of us it comes down to that. Loving a city and its people in general doesn’t mean a whole lot. Loving a city and its people in specific, however our callings lead us, means everything.
Twenty years ago this past summer I traveled to the land of my ancestors. A land I had heard about my whole life, a storybook country of lakes and forests and flaxen-haired princesses. Of blue and yellow flags and three golden crowns atop many a spire. It was “the old country” of my grandparents on both maternal and paternal sides. Surnames like Lundberg, Holmberg, Appelquist, Boquist, and Engwall wrapped my childhood in their soft sing-song melodies. And I was one small variation on that theme, about to join the main chorus.
I decided that I was the wrong kind of person to visit a monastic order. I was too uncivilized and unlearned, too ornery and idealistic, and maybe even too Protestant. But during our final breakfast with Father Donovan, I scooped jewel-red currant jam I’d helped prepare onto homemade Irish bread and listened to the monk discuss theology, politics, and the proper method of a coffee press. I began to wonder if maybe I'm exactly the right sort after all.
We can never overestimate the value of listening to someone’s story, for it takes great courage to share a hurt or even a joy with another person. The fear of rejection, misunderstanding, or criticism often keeps us from telling someone what has made us who we are. But when another person takes the time to sit with us and listen to what we have lived, our hearts grow stronger.