2022 Stewardship Campaign
Bill Fritz :: October 31, 2021
What draws us to this place?
What makes us want to come back here?
or desire to see this place grow in some way?
I ask those questions every time I hand over my credit card! If Safeway fails to stock what I like or might like – they won’t see my credit card as much. But in truth, I actually enjoy the greater likelihood of running into someone I know – so I go to Imwalle’s for produce instead. At Imwalle’s, Charles actually makes an effort to laugh at my jokes — and he knows that he can safely try a few one-liners on me.
But the cash register clerks at Safeway are tired — they are just trying to get through the day and go home – not a whole lot of joy there. And don’t get me going about Costco — now there’s a painful chore if ever there was one!
Please rest assured, this isn’t a paid advertisement. It’s just an example of where the pursuit of a little joy in life counts for a lot more than saving a few dollars.
What keeps me going are hundreds of little things that make me smile each day – things like:
- a friendly wave from a neighbor,
- Or when a dog runs up to me furiously wagging its tail, dragging its owner at the other end of its leash, just for a friendly scratch behind the ears,
- Or seeing people greeting each other with a hug on a street-corner and being reminded of seeing dear friends last week.
Add up those little joys each day, and it’s pretty overwhelming. Take all of them away while living in a pandemic, and it’s pretty traumatic. No matter how richly adorned a place to live might be, a simpler home would be far nicer if it makes it easier to accumulate all of those kinds of joys again.
So what draws me, or any of us to St. Stephens? Let’s try to answer that by what we can see.
Take the new playground, for example. How many of us have really gone over there and tried it out. Not me! It’s as if there’s a sign over there that says “Stand back if you have white hair!” Not because anyone intends that, but because I just don’t bend and twist the same way I did when I was 8 years old.
A lot of us initially believed that the kids would be the ones who’d love the new playground the most, followed closely in second place by young parents. But now that it is finished, it turns out that the older members of our community seem to be getting the greatest joy out of that playground – and I don’t mean only Deacon Kate climbing up to the top of the kid’s slide to gain a first hand experience! I mean all of us who miss the sheer chaos and joy each day when our own children were little, and who get to see a wonderful slice of that same joy all over again — every time we are lucky enough to see children laughing and smiling on that playground.
Their simple happiness gives more strength and love of life than anything imaginable. People come here and pour their joy into this place in so many ways that none of us could ever anticipate. Whether it be leaving a small pile of sea shells in a corner of the sacred space to mark the joy of hope after a loss, or a toy dropped by a child that makes us imagine that child smiling while having a place to play, or seeing a complete stranger stop to smile and sit at the garden entrance.
Each day we see these reminders of those countless times of joy here at St. Stephens, we absorb all of that joy into our own lives. It seems as if we are each historians, busily accumulating what gives us the most joy. When a person walks through ancient Pompei or a ghost town in the Sierras, it’s not the things that draws people to those places. We are not particularly attracted to a construction site before anyone has lived there, or to a demolished building where all hints of human habitation have been destroyed. Instead, what draws us to a place are particular artifacts that best tells what people felt and did when they lived there.
But the artifacts that draw the biggest crowds are always the most humorous murals, the funniest graffiti and the places where everyday people most wanted to be — such as the public eateries of long ago, or the marketplaces or theaters — wherever people truly wanted to gather. We are drawn to the things where human joy can best be seen, no matter how recent or long ago.
If a thing brings no joy to us or to those most dear to us, we generally get rid of it. No matter how delicious a meal might be, we still wash the dish we ate it from. But if a loved one molded and painted and made that dish for us, we put it up on a shelf and treasure it more than gold.
Reminding ourselves of people we love fills us with joy. And if we go to a place that helps us to love a lot of people, then it becomes a place we truly cherish.
When we come to St. Stephens, we see very special artifacts — artifacts so infused with joy, that they are like batteries that store up life, ready to recharge us. Every time I look at the rock wall of the sacred space and that gentle mosaic, I am flooded with memories of others who I recall feeling joyful there, often on gloriously beautiful days. When that mosaic and rock wall trigger my recollections of so many feelings of joy by people, it multiplies my joy countless times over.
Our support is not just to add random things here. Our support of this special place provides people with a place filled with artifacts that collect feelings of joy and hope. When people pour their joy into an artifact, whether it be a shaded bench on a warm day, or a peaceful place to walk, or a prayer written upon the bottom of a labyrinth stone, they transform that thing into a human artifact of the best kind — the kind of artifact that draws the crowds because it reminds us of so many instances of joy and life.
But the miracle is that we do not need to burn any fuels or worship the sun to charge any batteries here. We are constantly building and charging new batteries that store limitless amounts of life — every time we infuse an artifact here with more smiles, hopes, and joy. Like a battery powering a quietly powerful electric car, the artifacts here each trigger floods of memories and images of countless joys felt by so many varied individuals. People’s hopes and lives cannot help but be re-charged – just by being here.
Together, we build the very finest batteries at St. Stephens – the kind that recharges lives. That is why I give to St. Stephens.