Five years ago for Lent, I carried a rabbit in my pocket as a tool for mindfulness. I wanted to remember that people are often smiling on the outside but hurting on the inside. I know, I know — this may not make much sense to you unless you followed my Lenten journey in 2017. If you want to read about it, here’s a semi-explanatory post from that year: Tuga and Aleluja.
Tuga is the Bosnian word for sorrow. Aleluja is the Bosnian word for — can you guess? — Allelujah.
This year I have two more little rabbits. Meet Dòchas and Bròn.
Dòchas is the Scottish Gaelic word for hope. Bròn is the Gaelic word for grief. I gave them last names, too. Dòchas a-Maireach and Bròn an-Diugh. Hope Tomorrow and Grief Today.
I carry them both in my pocket — separate pockets, of course.
For this Lenten season, I want to become friends with Bròn. Bròn an-diugh. (Pronunciation — and I may not have this totally correct — Bròn is like our word “brawn” but you need to roll that “r” a little. An-diugh sounds like on-jew, because the “di-” in Gaelic is our soft “g” sound as in giraffe, and the -gh at the end is silent.) Grief today.
I listened to a woman last week go into a long tirade full of conspiracy misinformation. She had told me weeks before that wearing a mask was the equivalent of the Nazis requiring Jews to wear yellow stars. Another gym member had started the whole confrontation by shouting at me about the masks — “This is BULLSH-T! This is BULLSH-T!” After the Nazi comment, I had turned and walked away from the desk.
Later that same day I put a check-in note on the woman’s membership — that if she checked in again, I wanted to speak to her. She finally came back on Friday — and I spoke to her a little and listened to her a lot. She has such deep fears and hurts.
“Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.”
Mary Oliver, Wild Geese
While she was talking, I reached in my pocket and held Bròn. I don’t know if hers was grief or just unhappiness at our world today. She needed to talk, though.
And I listened.
At the end of her diatribe, she extended her hand across the counter. “What’s your name?” she asked. I told her. “It was so nice to meet you,” she said.
“What just happened?” my co-worker asked after the woman had headed to the pool. She had been sitting there listening to the whole thing.
“I’m not sure,” I told her.
But I stuck my hand in my other pocket — and there was Dòchas, hope.