How time flies when you are immersed in something new. Since arriving in my little town in July, I have learned names; learned relationships; learned places; I have done many things For the First. Administering my first congregational Communion; interviewing and hiring for the first time; participating as clergy for the first time - at a funeral (when you picture your death, have you ever considered you might be someone's first? A funeral director's first job? A loved one's first eulogy?).
Firsts can be exhausting - as any parent will confirm. Since arriving in my little town in July, Little Guy has climbed up onto the dining room table for the first time; he has expressed preference for juice over milk for the first time; for the first time, he's been excited by a Christmas tree, instead of terrified.
But Firsts are foundations, concrete knowledge of how, introductions to pitfalls and practicalities. More than this, Firsts often show intent because skill is not yet honed. And on these foundations of Firsts, we all want to build Beauty. Real Beauty - not beauty products, like cosmetics; not beauty tips, like moisturizing advice.
I believe that we encounter Firsts, we choose them, no matter how big our learning curve or how fresh and new our enthusiasm, because we love beauty and wish to see it flourish. Every gardener has turned a spade of soil for the First time; every dimpled toddler hand has grasped a crayon for the First time and seen, with glee, the colored mark left on the paper.
Since arriving in my little town in July, I have seen Beauty; and I have attempted to build foundations for Beauty to take root in, from which to grow and flourish like a scaling, climbing rose up a crumbling brick wall.
When you encounter a First, reflect. Step back, eye it, and say, "what do I want you to be, First?
A First grandchild is born. "How can I build from this a foundation of Beauty?"
A First cancer diagnosis is received. "How can I build from this a foundation of Beauty?"
A First day at a new job is approaching. "How can I build from this a foundation of Beauty?"
A First move away since circumstances have changed. "How can I build from this a foundation of Beauty?"
A First holiday alone is faced. "How can I build from this a foundation of Beauty?"
A First daunting success is absorbed. "How can I build from this a foundation of Beauty?"
Because Beauty is Grace - grace to the giver, grace to the recipient. Think about it: gardeners revel in the sprouting work of their hands, but so do folks walking their dogs past the flowerbeds...
And when you come to the end of your life - as four people have done since I arrived in my little town in July - you will reflect on your Firsts, your foundations of Beauty, because you will be meeting yet another First - the First time saying goodbye for the final time. And when you reach the Last First, the question still remains:
"How can I build from this a foundation of Beauty?"