“Tell me the weight of a snowflake,” a wren asked a wild dove.
“Nothing more than nothing,” was the answer.
“In that case I must tell you a marvelous story,” said the wren.
“I sat on the branch of a fir tree close to the trunk, when it began to snow – not heavily, not in a raging blizzard – no, just like a dream, without a sound and without any violence. Since I did not have anything better to do, I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch. The number was exactly 3,741,952. When the 3,741,953rd dropped onto the branch – nothing more than nothing, as you say, the branch broke off.”
Having said that, the wren flew away.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this story. As a native of NOLA, I didn’t see much snow growing up. Barely enough to cover the branches and certainly not enough to break any. However, I experienced vast amounts of snow during the winters in Wisconsin while my husband was in seminary. We were surrounded by trees and farmland, a lot of land, but not a lot of buildings.
Our first winter had record snow and record cold. Over 100 ins. and temps of -30. There were a couple of blizzards – when the wind reaches gale force – violent. We even had a snow thunderstorm with lightning one night! Some is wet and heavy when the temp hovers up and down around freezing. It sticks to everything and can be severely damaging.
But at other times the silent snowfall was something wonderful to just be outside in. Simply amazing to experience. The flakes made no sound and the thick coating on the ground, trees, everywhere, gave the world a quiet I’d never known - complete silence. Peace. Simple being.
After thinking about the snow and the wren’s story I wondered if we live the different experiences of snow? Several ways the snow falls causes destruction: downed power lines and trees, wind damage to homes and buildings, terrible traffic accidents and pile-ups. Thaws can cause flooding.
But other ways the snowfalls lead to a sense of peace. It’s helpful. When it melts in the Spring, it provides much needed irrigation to the farms in places like Wisconsin, where there is almost no rainfall.
I began to think about that vast number of snowflakes in the story and what that might have to do with life – my life and your life. I suspect that by the age of 8, my granddaughter had said that many words, and probably a lot more movements, actions, behaviors. So how many of those things have WE said and done? There are over 31 million seconds in a year and we are “doing” something each one of them.
How often are our words violent, hurtful or just said without thought of how they might affect another? How many times have we been a blizzard – blasting another with our words, actions or emotions? Stormed off? How many branches have we broken with just our words? How will we know if the next unkind word, look or behavior will be the one to break a relationship?
What happened to the silent, gentle snowfall with its Peace and Simple Being? How many hundreds of thousands of times have we done those? Take a look at your words and how you use them. When do they create calm, and strengthen, a loving atmosphere. When do they generate peace? Or how do they support the branch that may be weighed down by others?
I just finished one of Richard Rohr’s daily readings. He was quoting peacemaker and pastor, Osheta Moore. She talks about the difference between keeping the peace and peacemaking. Peacemaking is about Love. She says we have to look at what we are for, rather than what we are against. Keeping the peace is keeping things as they are in an attempt to have peace. It doesn’t generate change. When we go along or placate to avoid an argument, we are against having an argument, we aren’t peacemaking, not actually generating peace, making it happen. She goes on to say that anything that doesn’t require us to sacrifice for love is not peacemaking, but another form of just keeping the peace.
How does it feel when we are just keeping the peace? Are we giving the other the silent treatment or just saying yes? Or are we demanding things stay as they are in an attempt to keep the peace? What’s the atmosphere in the room like? Can you cut the tensions with a knife? Is this really peace?
What are the words the words, actions, behaviors that create peacemaking? What are we for rather than against? How can we become peacemakers? Can we make peace with ourselves and one another? Yes! We can start by asking ourselves if what we say or do to another is helpful or unhelpful? What about what we say or do to ourselves; is it helpful or unhelpful? Do I really need … or just want it? How can we tell? Ask if it is, or will be helpful or unhelpful. Being honest with ourselves leads to peacemaking for ourselves and others. It sometimes means sacrifice, but when we truly make a helpful sacrifice for another or ourselves, we are for, not against and that always makes things better. Love is for something helpful, hate is against and therefore always unhelpful.
If you aren’t sure what words or actions will be helpful, healing rather than rather than hurtful, ask the other what helps them most. Just by asking shows you are for them. It becomes like a gentle snowfall. It’s for the other and peacemaking. Then do the same for yourself. Tell yourself helpful things to be at Peace and Simply Be.
Jeanne Robertson, Ph.D., LMFT, LPC
Director, Center of Counseling and Education
Contact Me here