There was a quote in Sunday's church service that captured my imagination.
“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.” ― Gustav Mahler
With so much of my time spent with the long-term homeless in the winter months at Summit Warm Hearts, the place this quote took me is a place that weighs heavy on my heart and inspires my actions.
At Summit Warm Hearts, a daytime warming center, I slowly learn the guests' stories. They reveal, little by little, stories of childhood, experiences in school, failed relationships, issues with substance abuse, and in some cases, how mental illness plagues them.
A common theme is failure. Failure of their parents to raise them in a secure home. Failures learning in school. Failed romantic relationships that devastated them. Jobs that they couldn't keep. Interviews that went nowhere. Arrests. Sometimes jail time. So many instances where they failed again and again and ended up homeless. And remain homeless for many years.
These are the things that come to define them, externally and internally. Worship of ashes.
But in these stories, there are also glimpses of the fire. Attending college. The fierce love of children, grandchildren, parents and grandparents. Pride of past work. The love of cooking. Playing school sports. The preservation of fire.
That is my hope. That we -- as individuals, as a community, as a society -- can learn better how to preserve the fire, not worship the ashes.