Saturday, April 12, 2008

One Small Touch For Mankind

The second Saturday of each month is the regular gathering day for my Franciscan fellowship. Usually we meet in Austin, a trip I look forward to each month. This time, however, we decided to meet on the grounds of a religious community just north of Waco. Since there are those of us who come from the Dallas area and others who come from Austin, this location allowed us to meet in the middle.

When I first discovered the community in Elm Mott, I assumed that they were Mennonite because of their dress and obvious way of life that is grounded in simplicity and respect for the land. I learned today that I had assumed incorrectly; this group defines themselves as "non-denominational". I really don't know anything about them except that which is revealed in their public image. I am afraid that I would not be so enamored if I really knew all that they are about. So, I will live on in ignorance for the present.

I am willing to be less than knowledgeable about the ins and outs of this religious sect because I am so taken with their lifestyle. They farm, growing most of the food that they eat and serve to the public; they grind their own grain; and they practice crafts such as woodworking, soap making, sewing, spinning, weaving. knitting, and pottery.

For some reason I seem to have a fascination with pottery,. I love to look at the one of a kind finished pieces, and I am mesmerized by watching pots as they are thrown. Today, as I observed a young woman making lids for honey pots, I became more aware than ever of the possibilities that our hands hold.

With a big glop of clay that looked like absolutely nothing recognizable and a bit of water, in only a few minutes the woman crafted this slimy wet mess into a perfectly fitting lid for her previously made pots. The most amazing part to me was how gentle her touch on the clay was; in what seemed like an effortless motion, the intricate details of the pot's lid began to emerge and take shape. As I stood watching her work, I was struck with the notion of how powerful our slight touch can be. As with most things, this realization brings with it both the positive and the negative.

The positive - with just a gentle touch big changes are possible. The negative - with just a gentle touch big changes are possible. I often find myself opting out of working for positive change by whining about the fact that I am only one person. What can one person do? As I watched the potter's hands, I heard the message loud and clear that one person, with gentle but deliberate hands, can make a difference. This was a valuable and much needed lesson for me to have learned today. And, the mode of instruction was most enjoyable.

Here are a few pictures.

This first pictures shows the beginning of the process. The clay really is just a blob. The potter must center it, to prevent the final object from being lop-sided, before any detailed shaping can begin.

She is now beginning to pull the work and start the gross shaping of the honey pot lid.

More details are added.
The piece is almost finished and ready to be cut from the clay still on the wheel and set to dry before its finishing touches are added.

Never underestimate the potential impact of a gentle touch.