I want to start by wishing a happy Mothers’ Day to you, who are mothers. For those mothers who are home with your children right now, and for those who long to be with their mothers, or their children, but cannot be, this time of pandemic presents new challenges. And I want you to know that I see you, and that you are in my heart.
I also want to acknowledge the complexity of Mothers’ Day for some of us, even without a global pandemic. For there is a unique complexity that accompanies our relationship with our mothers, and our status as mothers, or our wish to be mothers. Our love can be complex. Our longing can be complex. Our grief can be complex. So, if you are struggling today in any way because it is Mothers’ Day, please know that I see you, too. And that you are also in my heart.
As challenging as it can be sometimes, there is also sometimes something very magical about motherhood. I remember when my daughter was still a newborn, and I was still very sleep deprived, staying up late, rocking her to sleep, and singing her lullabies. One night it occurred to me what sheer luck it was that this particular child was born to me in this particular place rather than in, say, a warzone or a refugee camp halfway around the world.
And I was suddenly filled with a sense of profound connection to mothers everywhere. In fact, to all parents, of every gender, all of whom, I felt in that moment, must want nothing more than simply to keep their children safe, and warm, and fed.
It was a mystical and therefore transient experience. And while I may never forget it, I may also never be able to fully recapture the sheer emotionality of that moment of profound connection. I catch a glimmer of it sometimes. It shimmers, for instance, in the words of the Buddha, who famously said:
“Just as a mother, with her own life, protects her only child from hurt,
so within yourself foster a limitless concern for every living creature.
Display a heart of boundless love
for all the world
in all its height and depth and broad extent,
love unrestrained, without hate or enmity.”
It shimmers in the words of Julia Ward Howe’s Mothers’ Day Proclamation of 1870, which she wrote in reaction to the violence of the Civil War, saying, in part:
Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise all women who have hearts…
“Our sons shall not be taken from us
to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them
of charity, mercy, and patience. “We women of one country will be
too tender of those of another country
to allow our sons
to be trained to injure theirs.
There is something in us as mothers, as fathers, as parents, that longs for peace, not only for our own children, but for all children…not only for ourselves, but for all who parent.
This morning I know that some of you participated in the virtual Mothers’ Day Walk for Peace.
I understand this is your sixth consecutive year of participation in the walk, which benefits the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, and which is a “celebration of our potential to create more peaceful communities.” Last year you had your largest turnout ever, with 73 walkers (including 19 youth). With the help of 47 donors, you raised an incredible $3,275 – 30% above your goal.
This year, you set a goal of $2020, and have already exceeded it once again, having raised over $3000. This pandemic may have narrowed the aperture of your daily lives, but it has not closed the window of your concern for the parents and children beyond your walls. Which is wonderful.
And perhaps there is still more we can do.
In our story this morning, we heard about Malala and her wish for a magic pencil, so that she could make the world better for those around her. In the afterward to her story, Malala writes,
“At first I thought, what can I do? I’m just a child.” We, too, may sometimes find ourselves wondering, “What can I do? I’m trapped at home during a global pandemic.” And yet, there’s nothing about this pandemic that can change the power of our words. Our words and voices still hold power. We can still write – and speak – even while maintaining physical distance. And together our voices are still louder than they are alone.
As Malala said, “The magic is in you, in your words, in your voice.” The question is, how will we use them? How will we use our voices? To make calls, to write letters, to send postcards, to submit ob-eds, to sing songs? What would you do if you had a magic pencil of your own? What would you draw – or write – to make the world better? Remember, as Malala said,
“When you find your voice, every pencil can be magic.”
May you rediscover the magic of your own words, and find in them the power to change the world. So may it be.
©2020 Rev. Wendy L. Bell