By Rev. Everette Chapman
Some time ago, my dear friend Doodle Lowry gifted me with a small boxful of books, containing some wonderful treasures. There was a volume by Rabindranath Tagore, the Indian philosopher and poet, containing both “Gitanjali” and “Fruit Gathering”. Henry Sienkeiwicz’s classic work, Quo Vadis, was there, as well as a slip-covered set of Thomas Mann’s Joseph In Egypt, along with several other treasures.
One book, however, really caught my attention. It was little gift book by Grace Noel Crowell, entitled Songs of Hope, containing some delightful poems. I have used quite a few of these in sermons and written articles since receiving the book. However, on the frontispiece was an interesting gift dedication that has caused me no little wonderment. It read simply, “With Love to Mary from Mary, Christmas, 1938.”
So at what are we looking here? Was this one friend named Mary who had given to another friend by the same name this wonderful volume? Perhaps so, but my playful imagination went in another direction. I imagined some lonely person named Mary who woke up one day and realized that she too was special, that she too deserved a friend, and that she too merited a gift for herself. Over the years she had given many gifts to friends, she had tried to make them feel that they were special, and she had done many a kind deed for others.
So, thought she, why should I be any less kind to myself? It is possible that I’m a special person too, that I’m also a person meriting love, that I too am a person deserving a thoughtful remembrance.
‘Being too fanciful, am I? Maybe so, but I keep recalling the words of Martin Luther, who said, “We should love our neighbors as ourselves, but first we should be such as love themselves.”
And wasn’t it little Tommy from the old English Reader who declared to a pal, “Well, ain’t you just a wonder, and ain’t I just a wonder too!”
Precious Ann Clum, of blessed memory, who used to love me enough to argue with me, always took the Golden Rule to task. She said it would be really tragic if some people “did unto others” as they “would have others to do unto them.” “They treat themselves so badly,” she would say, “and they are so cruel and unrelenting with themselves that if they treated others the way they treat themselves, they would give off a lot of pain.” You go, girl! You nailed some of us. Many of us tend to extend more grace to others than to ourselves. We give our friends the benefit of much doubt, but we hold our own feet to the fire and exact something bordering on perfection from our own efforts.
Perhaps today we could begin to give ourselves the gifts of acceptance and kindness and friendship and even love. Could we possibly make ourselves a mental note that reads, “With love for Bob from Bob,” or perhaps, “With affection, from Nan to Nan?” How about “All the best to you, Susie. From Susie?” Let’s try “I believe in you, Mike. Love, Mike.” You get the point, I hope. We do such things for others; why not show ourselves a little approval, encouragement, even love?
The old Reformer had it right. “Love your neighbor as you love yourself, but first be such as loves herself.”
Rev. Everette Chapman is the pastor of Fairfield Mountains Chapel, Lake Lure.