I have often wished that the Course in Miracles had a different name. How hokey, how not mainstream – how hard to explain to people without appearing slightly evangelical. Admittedly, the name did not prevent me from picking up the book or becoming a student myself but I have found it hard to ignore the dubious expressions on many people’s faces when I tell them I am a student of ACIM.
“Miracles?” “ Like raising the dead, turning water into wine?” OK.I have tried to explain “no nothing like that really –it’s change in perception – no dead people”, but unless I am talking to someone who has some grounding in the course or similar works, I can guarantee the end of the conversation is near.
My family is a case in point – for the longest time they have thought I have been absorbed into some benign cult and that hopefully one day I will find myself and snap out of it. Over the 15 years I have been a student of the course I would answer any questions they asked (which were very very few!) but made it my policy to not give information that is not asked for.
Many things have changed in my life and that of my parents over these years I have been a student – not the least for my parents has been a shift from being strong and independent to being elderly and unsure. Two years ago my father had a stroke that has left him unable to care for himself. He is limited in his ability to walk, he cannot drive, his eyesight has been problematic and he struggles with depression. My mother has become the strong one, the caregiver who somehow at 84 has been able to “keep her chin up” and do what needs to be done to get by.
They live on a remote island in the Irish Sea, population about 65,000. They retired there 16 years ago to get away from the headaches of crime, traffic, polluted air they saw in England and North America and have been happy. They chose a place in a small enclave of respectable houses six hilly miles from the nearest stores and medical services and have minded their own business. They knew their neighbours names – that’s about it and that suited them – private, critical in the way the middle class British can be critical and most importantly – self sufficient.
Then came the stroke and their lives collapsed, every premise of what made sense disappeared and for the first time in their adult lives they needed help.
We are a small family. My brother lives in Florida and I live in Toronto. I have one cousin in England , my son lives in Ottawa – that’s it. Needless to say, at the time of the stroke my brother and I did what we could and continue to do so. But it is the ongoing day to day living that is the consistent challenge. Just as my Dad was recovering he fell and broke his hip setting himself back further, my mother bravely learned to drive again at 83 and then 10 months later totaled the car narrowly escaping killing herself, my father and several passersby. The story is not cheerful and I am humbled by what it is to be old and have your body betray you.
Being proud, my parents were not able to ask for help and were flabbergasted by the warmth and love that began to pour their way from their respective neighbours. Muriel and Ernie make them laugh and take my Mum to the shops, Maggie bakes cakes and brings wine for special occasions, sitting for hours telling wild Irish stories, and Vera and Ted phone and go out of their way to make sure they have everything they need.
Why would anyone do this asks my Mum and Dad? Ah – finally – finally I get to share what the course has given me. With great delicacy and respect I am able to explain, they do it because they experience love and pleasure in giving. They do it because that is what we all are at the core and all that we all want is to be able to give and receive love. Simple acts of kindness, things you have given all your lives to others just because you wanted to with no strings attached. And that, my very dear parents, is a miracle.
I still get emotional when I recall that moment. The memory of their faces as they moved from doubt to confusion to recognition of Truth; the look of sheer wonder, innocence, and gratitude on their faces was worth a million dollars to me.
The Course mentions that the lesson is meaningless without a demonstration. A few months ago I got a phone call from my mother saying a woman out of the blue had given her a shopping bag she had admired at the hairdressers. Why would she do that Janey? I thought surely I should give her some money and then I thought about what you had said that people like to give and I just said “thank you”.
I was so proud of her!!
I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to share with my parents the beauty and love that surrounds us all the time if we choose to see it. A miracle indeed.
So what is a miracle?
Everything that comes from Love.