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We are all in the process of completing each other's jigsaw puzzles

Last weekend, as the first chapter in my current sabbatical, — I went to Portland with Rabbi Marc Sirinski of Temple Emek Shalom. We'd — been planning this trip for six months. We went to hear another Rabbi, — Lawrence Kushner, for whom we both have a very high regard. Years ago — Rabbi Kushner wrote the following poem. I think it's one of the wisest — things I know:

Each lifetime is the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

For some there are more pieces.

For others the puzzle is more difficult to assemble.

Some seem to be born with a nearly completed puzzle.

And so it goes.

Souls going this way and that

Trying to assemble the myriad parts.

But know this. You do not have within yourself

All the pieces to your puzzle.

Like before the days when they used to seal

jigsaw puzzles in cellophane. Insuring that

All the pieces were there.

Everyone carries with them at least one and probably

Many pieces to someone else's puzzle.

Sometimes they know it.

Sometimes they don't.

And when you present your piece

Which is worthless to you,

To another, whether you know it or not,

Whether they know it or not,

You are a messenger from the Most High.

Rabbi Kushner repeated his poem in Portland and then ventured — to say to us that he believed that most people are missing an average — of seven puzzle pieces. He also said that he believed those pieces we — give away and receive do not necessarily go to (or come from) people we'd — even want to associate with. Sure, our spouses have a piece of our puzzle — as we have a piece of theirs, but sometimes, for our own puzzle to be — complete we need contact with some people and ideas we find awfully foreign. —

Asked whom his greatest spiritual teachers have been, — the Dalai Lama of Tibet said with no hesitation, "the Communist Chinese." — He learned to love human kind from his mother, no doubt, but when push — came to shove and the Chinese booted him out of his homeland and killed — hundreds of his brother monks, the Dalai Lama found his idea of what universal — love is mightily tested. Without that experience to coax him to redefine — his spiritual boundaries, without that puzzle piece, he would not have — become the model of forgiveness he is today.

Kushner believes that people on this earth are often chosen — to be messengers of God without knowing it. We go about our lives, full — of busyness and preoccupation, when in fact we may be carrying out the — will of the Almighty. "I do not know how many times in one's life one — is a messenger," he writes. "But for everyone it is at least once. — Remember — only that you are not always going where you are going for the reasons — you think you are." We go about our heavenly errands in what Kushner calls, — "holy anonymity." The gravity of our tasks is unknown even to us.

But once in a while we find out. As a student I served — a little white steepled church in Myrtle Point. Two years later I was — ordained a minister and a group from that church came to the service in — Eugene and the reception which followed it. One of those was a grandmotherly — lady called Jean. Jean took me aside at the reception and said, "You really — helped me back then." I didn't know how, so I asked her to fill me in. — "Remember when you called me up that December and asked why I wasn't at — the party where we decorated the church for Christmas? And then you came — and got me?" Yes, I vaguely remembered that. "Well," she said, "Before — that day I had decided I was too old to be going out anymore at night. — I thought I ought to just go out for groceries and Sunday worship, that — was all. But I had such a good time that night; it made me think. I decided — that perhaps I was being too hasty in retiring from life. So I went back — to my doctor and said I'd like to go ahead with those gold treatments — on my arthritis he'd been after me to try. And, you know, they worked! — I felt so good I decided I'd go on a cruise. Well, I met a man on the — ship and we fell in love and then we got married and ?"

Everything for Jean had changed and she had chalked it — all up to a phone call from me; the kind you make most every day without — giving it a thought. What do you make of that? Perhaps you'd say, "She — was ready to make that decision; she just needed a little nudge." I agree, — but then a nudge is still a holy nudge.

Scott Dalgarno is pastor of Ashland's First Presbyterian — Church.