Happy St. Patrick’s Day, friends!
There’s a serenity prayer that most people know in one form or another: Give us courage to change what must be altered, serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and the insight to know the one from the other (Reinhold Niebuhr). Sometimes things that must be altered are so big that it doesn’t feel like your tiny contribution to the effort feels trying to boil the ocean. What difference can one person make, really? I’ve been feeling that way a lot since the siege of Ukraine started. I mean, I’ve been feeling that way a lot for a long time. COVID made me me feel it more acutely, and the war in Ukraine has increased that feeling even further. I’ve tried to think about what I can do, because for all the things I can’t do, every big change starts with 10 or 100 or 1000 small changes. If you can’t do great things, do small things in a great way, right?
Two years ago, a few of my Lent reflections (not for St. Patrick’s Day) were about how music brought people together in the early days of COVID shelter in place mandates (Lent 20: Never Stop Singing and Lent 24: Because Music). In times of despair and fear and doubt, music brings comfort.
I’m troubled by the events in Ukraine. So should we all be. I’ve been watching the news with increasing anxiety – which I know is easy to say from my privileged place far beyond the war zone. I read a relatively small point a few days ago about Russian troops shooting Ukrainian people lined up to get bread. I was (and am) particularly heartbroken by that news. The whole thing is crushing and heartbreaking, but this one thing made it feel personal – not speaking in generalities and high level situation reports. It was people trying to feed their families – I can empathize most deeply with that.
Anyway, watching the coverage made me think about a similar event in Sarajevo 30 years ago. Except it was Serbian forces during the siege of Sarajevo who killed citizens lined up at a bakery for bread. The next day, a musician – a cellist – used his amazing gift to mourn the victims of war. Remember Vedran Smailović, the Cellist of Sarajevo? Vedran played Tomaso Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor every day for 22 days to honour the dead.
Two years after those first posts about music, mitigating fear and anguish comes still comes in the form of folks sharing their musical gifts. Like Illia Bondarenko, playing the violin in a shelter in Kyiv. In a time when many feel like there’s no way to help the whole of Ukraine, Kerenza Peacock (in London) took inspiration from Illia, and coordinated this:
So how do we tie this back to St. Patrick’s Day, then, you ask? Eventually Vedran Smailović, the Cellist of Sarajevo, left Bosnia and Herzegovina and emigrated to Northern Ireland.
During Lent, I’m considering what skills I have that I can use to make the world a better place; to comfort those who mourn and to work for peace. May the serenity prayer inspire spiritual productivity. I’m also going to work harder to be gracious to those who use their skills to be the change they want to see in the world.
I’ve created landing pages for the last 3 years of Lent Project. You can access them from the Reflections Projects option in the menu bar. Happy reading, friends!