Meditation 6: The Things We’ve Handed Down

I’m exhausted and wondering how the hell bloggers do it. We’ve had such a long day here in Los Angeles. An orientation session where we got to know fellow participants on this Spring Break Service Trip; then a long drive out to California Lutheran University where we packed hundreds of meals for the young people we’ll be serving later this week at Safe Place for Youth (Cal Lutheran has become a hotbed of Humanism ever since MA native Evan Clark came out here, founded a Secular Student Alliance Chapter, got himself elected student govt. president of the whole school, and upon graduation inspired the very talented Rebecca Cardone, an SSA member, to also get elected student body president.); then dinner with some local Humanists who have years of experience in the entertainment and philanthropic communities in LA. They fed us delicious food and generously tutored us on the LA “scene” for some time. Tomorrow, we begin working with the LGBT homeless and in-crisis youth themselves, and I think we’re all nervously very eager to dive in.

After dinner tonight we watched a beautiful video about some of the best philanthropic work being done on behalf of needy children here in Los Angeles– really touching stories of people working very hard to make sure at-risk youth are given the health and educational opportunities they need to grow up healthy, or that if they do get into trouble, they have the opportunity to rehabilitate themselves, rather than just getting thrown away into jail or a brutal system. The theme song in the background of the video is today’s Meditation: “The Things We’ve Handed Down”, a song by Marc Cohn. It’s essentially a parenting song, and even has the hint of a bit of Woo in the first verse. But it also tells the story of why we do community service work, particularly with youth. We don’t know who these kids will go on to be. We have no idea what our impact on them will be. But we have so much hope for them. And we know we ourselves are made better, more whole, by the heartbreakingly humble attempt to offer them a little care, a little help, a little love.

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The Things We’ve Handed Down (Marc Cohn)

Don’t know much about you

Don’t know who you are

We’ve been doing fine without you

But, we could only go so far

Don’t know why you chose us

Were you watching from above

Is there someone there that knows us

Said we’d give you all our love

Will you laugh just like your mother

Will you sigh like your old man

Will some things skip a generation

Like I’ve heard they often can

Are you a poet or a dancer

A devil or a clown

Or a strange new combination of

The things we’ve handed down

I wonder who you’ll look like

Will your hair fall down and curl

Will you be a mama’s boy

Or daddy’s little girl

Will you be a sad reminder

Of what’s been lost along the way

Maybe you can help me find her

In the things you do and say

And these things that we have given you

They are not so easily found

But you can thank us later

For the things we’ve handed down

You may not always be so grateful

For the way that you were made

Some feature of your father’s

That you’d gladly sell or trade

And one day you may look at us

And say that you were cursed

But over time that line has been

Extremely well rehearsed

By our fathers, and their fathers

In some old and distant town

From places no one here remembers

Come the things we’ve handed down

 

 

 

About Greg Epstein

Greg M. Epstein serves as the Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University, and is author of the New York Times Bestselling book, Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe. A frequently quoted expert on Humanism and community for the nonreligious, Greg’s work has been widely discussed in the national and international media, including the New York Times, CNN, the Boston Globe, and on dozens of radio programs.

  • Y. A. Warren

    I certainly would like for you to have more time to blog. I like what I see, so far.


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