As I have been preparing for tonight’s Ash Wednesday service at the church I recalled this treasured nursery rhyme: Ring around the roses, pockets full of posies, ashes to ashes we all fall down! I remember my children holding hands and reaching out to anyone close enough to catch within their circle as they skipped and sang this song before tumbling to the ground into a laughing, giggling pile of joy. It did not matter what age you were, it seemed you were qualified to play this game. Next to “Hide and go seek” this was my children’s favorite game to play with every member of the family. Through the years I have always been surprised by how much I have learned from my children and this simple little game is another example.
There have been several lessons I learned from playing this game with my children and their friends. I learned that we have a lot more fun when we all play together. I learned that laughing at myself was more enjoyable than laughing at others. I also learned that the ground was just a little further to fall to for some of us and it hurt when I landed!
Isn’t that just like life? It seems the higher, the bigger, and the more important or more favored we think we are, life has a way of bringing us back to the basics. And sometimes it hurts when we land. Sometimes it’s our ego, sometimes it’s our pride, sometimes it’s our dignity, but it all hurts. I also learned that it was harder to get up after falling down for some of us and we need a helping hand or an encouraging word from our friends to help us get back into the game.
Today is Ash Wednesday in the Christian church. It is a time for each of us to participate in the call to repentance and reconciliation with God and with our neighbors. We use ashes as a physical sign of our own mortality and remorse for the things we’ve done that have hurt the people around us. Participation in a service of the Imposition of Ashes can be a powerful experience that allows us to reach for the hand of a friend whether it is for help in picking ourselves up or lifting someone else.
I recently read a comment that said “It’s not how we fall but how we get up that matters most. I’m still working on the getting up part.” Can I give you a hand?