By Rev. Paul Graves
Editor’s note: This is the most recent letter to Paul’s grandchildren that he has written occasionally since September 1997.
Dear Katie, Claire and Andy:
Before going any further, I invite you to stand at some threshold while you read this letter. It might inspire you!
During our family visit with you and your parents for Christmas week, I found myself reading a letter I wrote you in June 2016 about “thresholds.”
Katie had just graduated from high school. “How time flies” comes to mind.
That flying time still brings with it threshold moments for all three of you. I can hardly wait to see what these new moments hold in store for you! Even today, you each stand at significant thresholds you will cross soon.
Katie, your work as a community liaison at an elementary school might move you toward a degree in social work. Claire, when you graduate in May with a master’s degree in criminal justice, new vocational opportunities beckon. Andy, your college studies and work at a homeless shelter are prepping you for your own career in social work.
Each of you has many thresholds to cross in the near future. So let me suggest two important things about thresholds you might not have considered. Yet.
1) Thresholds are a two-way deal. You can come in and go out. That may sound simplistic, kids, but it’s not. A friend of mine, Rebecca Parker, co-wrote a book of progressive theology called A House for Hope. One chapter affirms that thresholds “…mark the importance of movement between shelter and adventure – of arriving home and setting out.” Simple, not simplistic. Unexpectedly profound.
Each day, you cross thresholds without thinking about them. But they can represent an arriving home and/or a setting out. Usually both. Your current life experiences bring exciting learning opportunities that will serve you well – perhaps not in the moment, but tomorrow, in a time-release way.
The thresholds also wait for you to cross them again, perhaps this time into the shelter that waits for you to return for re-affirmation, for comfort, for new energy. My mind quickly goes to one of my favorite hymns, “Come in from the Cold, My Friend,” by Dan Damon.
The refrain is a threshold we all yearn to cross: “Come in, sit down, there’s room at the table. Enjoy the feast love has spread for you.” God’s radical hospitality, kids!
2) Let your thresholds transform your otherness. Each of us is an other to someone else. We can’t even escape that label by staying in the shelter-side of the threshold.
Each of you has kind and courageous spirits, kids. They move you to step over the thresholds you currently encounter. There, you encounter people who are considered Others by other people.
You may feel uncomfortable about those you work with (and learn from). But your kindness and courage move each of you to see through those persons’ otherness to welcome them as persons with some kind of need that you might be able to embrace for a special moment.
They may feel out of their comfort zones. You may too. But you can provide a shelter moment for them as you invite them over a threshold you’ve created for them.
I’m so grateful you have a threshold you can cross into a loving, warm space with family or friends or work colleagues. Too many people don’t have that space.
But when you can provide it for someone else, you make a difference. You create a threshold for someone else. That may be the most loving thing you do all day!
– Your threshold-crossing Grampa
The Rev. Paul Graves is a retired elder member of the Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church.