by Ted Kooser
There is at least one pair
in every thrift store in America,
molded in plastic or plaster of paris
and glued to a plaque,
or printed in church-pamphlet colors
and framed under glass.
Today I saw a pair made out of
lightweight wire stretched over a pattern
of finishing nails.
This is the way faith goes
from door to door,
cast out of one and welcomed at another.
A butterfly presses its wings like that
as it rests between flowers.
From Delights & Shadows © Copper Canyon Press, 2004.
Ted Kooser captures beautifully in this poem “the way faith goes/ from door to door,” how its objects and emblems are often passed among family members, friends, and even cultures over time. The presence of such objects may have outlived their use, ending up at tag sales or thrift stores, yet they still exist and nonetheless remind us of the sacred in the midst of the everyday. I can still remember praying hands like the ones Kooser describes on top of old console televisions and kitchen tables in many of the houses of family members when I grew up. Even those who never worshipped at church, and did not consider themselves Christian, displayed these hands or had a crucifix hanging on the wall, as if they still felt a deep need to keep the symbols of faith close by. The final glimpse of a butterfly pressing its wings together reminds us that we can do the same, and in a more expansive way. We too can find signs of the holy even in the most simple and seemingly mundane aspects of our lives. Anything that makes us pause and draws us into deeper relationship with our lives can be what Buddhists might call “a mindfulness bell,” bringing us back to the present. Whether we stop before a picture of Jesus, or bend to admire a blooming hydrangea, anything can be a prayer if we allow it to touch our soul.