traveling mercies ~anne lamott

pathwriter’s note: Anne Lamott has become one of my favorite authors in the last couple of years. I find her honesty and vulnerability, her willingness to lay herself bare—“warts and all”, as the saying goes—breathtaking. (She’s also pretty funny.) Some months back, I was delighted to learn that she is on Facebook (!), and she shared the story below in her New Year’s Eve post. It’s a piece she wrote for Salon.com 15 years ago. I hope you enjoy it, though I’ll warn you that (1) it’s a little long and (2) it contains (as Lamott’s writing often does) some colorful language. I hope neither of those things will keep you from reading and receiving a lovely message.

Broken things have been on my mind as the year lurches to an end, because so much broke and broke down this year in my life, and in the lives of the people I love. Lives broke, hearts broke, health broke, minds broke. On the first Sunday of Advent our preacher, Veronica, said that this is life’s nature, that lives and hearts get broken, those of people we love, those of people we’ll never meet. She said the world sometimes feels like the waiting room of the emergency ward, and that we, who are more or less OK for now, need to take the tenderest possible care of the more wounded people in the waiting room, until the healer comes. You sit with people, she said, you bring them juice and graham crackers. And then she went on vacation.

“Traveling mercies,” the old black people at our church said to her when she left. This is what they say when one of us goes off for a while. Traveling mercies: Be safe, notice beauty, enjoy the journey, God is with you.

Besides the big brokennesses in people’s lives this year, I’ve noticed all sorts of really dumb things breaking lately. Since Advent began at the end of November, I’ve had a dozen calls reporting broken cars, water heaters, a window, even a finger. So I was on the lookout for something wonderful to happen, because of this great story I heard recently about dumb things going wrong: Carolyn Myss, who writes about healing, went to Russia a few years ago to give a series of lectures. Every single aspect of getting to Russia that could go poorly, did. Continue reading

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