I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. – Psalm 27:13 (NRSV)
In September of 1895, Oscar Wilde walked out of a courtroom. He’d just been declared bankrupt, a short time after having been convicted of sodomy. He’d be headed to jail in a little while, but for now was free to walk out of the courtroom. Not totally free, though; to leave, he’d have to make his way through a crowd that had gathered to abuse him. As he made his way, reduced and humiliated, through the crowd of ill-wishers, someone stepped forward. Robbie Ross, a friend of Wilde’s who’d been standing and waiting hours for this moment, deliberately looked him in the eye, and tipped his hat.
These were the days when tipping your hat meant way more than just “hello.” So for someone who was in some danger himself due to his own open homosexuality, to step forward before a hostile crowd to recognize, respect, and reclaim Wilde as a human and friend? Well. The crowd fell silent.
“Men have gone to heaven for less than that,” Wilde would later write. “When wisdom has been profitless to me, philosophy barren, and the proverbs and phrases of those who have sought to give me consolation as dust and ashes in my mouth, the memory of that little, lovely, silent act of love has unsealed for me all the wells of pity: made the desert blossom like a rose, and brought me out of the bitterness of lonely exile into harmony with the wounded, broken, and great heart of the world.”
Sometimes the goodness of the Lord breaks into the land of the living with a bang. Usually, it rides in on little, lovely, silent acts.
Help me plan something little, lovely, and silent for your people today. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is Chaplain of the Protestant Cooperative Ministry at Cornell University. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.