Lenten Reflection IV - the Beautitudes

“Blessed are the Meek or Meek is Not Weak”

(by Becky Marks at Farnham)

Meek or a synonym for meek is mentioned in the bible thirty times. The Oxford American Dictionary defines meek as an adjective meaning gentle, quiet, easily imposed on, submissive deriving from Middle English for courteous or indulgent and from Old Norse for soft, gentle. If you look up the word meek in a thesaurus you will find descriptors such as humble, mild, plain, unassuming, passive, resigned, patient. Looking up the word patient in a thesaurus I found submissive, meek, but also “quietly persistent, and steady, dependable, calm, unwavering.”

I asked friends and acquaintances “What does the word ‘meek’ mean to you? I even accosted a stranger in a parking lot, who commented to me as she lit her cigarette, about the beauty of the sunny day. Most people initially equated meek people with quiet people who were submissive, did not talk much, and were poor and downtrodden, but as they talked they started saying they were the listeners not the strident voices, and a few came to the conclusion that these are the people who have an inner strength that they can draw upon in time of crisis.

I soon became caught up in a tangle of words and thoughts as I tried to fall asleep at night, but I always returned to my own conclusion. Meek Is Not Weak. Perhaps, it should be Meek Is not Necessarily Weak, but I will stand by Meek is Not Weak. A phrase that would not look elegant in needlepoint on a pillow. I thought of people I know and have known who are quiet, comfortable “in their own skin,” and who have a deep inner strength that I believe comes from a strong faith in their God. They are dependable and calm, and I believe they can be “quietly persistent.” A member of our two Parishes is someone who can be easily overlooked because he is quiet, a listener and slow to speak, but when he does speak as someone once said about him we should listen to him. Fred Rogers was another such person. He walked past our house many times, and one often saw him in the neighborhood “Mom and Pop” grocery store. He was always the same, just as he appeared on his television show - calm, unassuming with a quiet confidence about him that was reassuring to adults and children alike. Incidentally, he had a saying that was true but not elegant, “What Is Mentionable Is Manageable.”

I knew a woman, a black woman, and I use the adjective black not Negro or African American because that is how she described herself. She was quiet and unassuming. Helen was from North Carolina where she grew up in the house where her grandmother worked as the cook. The white family her grandmother worked for saw to it that she was educated. She graduated from college, and eventually married a sharecropper’s son from Georgia. They moved north and for a while everything was good. She and her husband had a small neighborhood grocery store, but eventually they lost the store. Her husband, Brooks, started working for a scrap metal company, and Helen began working as a domestic for several families. She was one of the many black women waiting at the bus stops as they traveled to their jobs. Eventually, she and her husband separated. I got to know her in 1952 when she began to work for my aunt and uncle as live in help. She lived in the apartment above the garage until her husband was severely injured in an accident at the scrap metal yard, and they returned to living together. Their life was not easy. They had little money, they lived in a very poor neighborhood. He was unable to walk, and drove a jitney that was adapted for his handicap. Helen continued to work for members of our family as she grew older. When I was going through a particularly difficult time, it was Helen that showed me how to find the inner strength I needed. She reminded me that God and God’s love is always there for us, and like the hymn all we have to do is “take it to the Lord in prayer”. The love of God was, I believe, her well of strength that she drew upon when life was hard. She was not a beautiful woman. She was not even pretty, but her serenity and kindness shone through all she did. She babysat our children and our daughter at age 4 one day surprised me by saying that she hoped she would someday be as beautiful as Helen Brooks.