Last Wednesday a complete stranger turned up for the ceremony of giving and receiving the Precepts. He'd just happened to bump into a congregation member as he was walking to the ceremony. They had fallen into conversation, one thing led to another and both of them ended up walking in the door just as the ceremony was starting. Jim (not his actual name) appeared mentally disoriented during the ceremony yet participated wholeheartedly, saying "I will" to keeping the Precepts, and left happy. Jim's presence was a gift we all were able to accept and benefit from, the gift of innocence. (Incidentally, I'd normally not have a person come to such a ceremony with out being orientated to what they would be agreeing to before hand.)
Across town a family dog attacked an 8 month old child. The father was on his way home from the priory at the time. Hard to think of that situation being a gift, yet seen through the eyes of practice it was. I'll not go into details here, just to say the child was not seriously hurt physically, and the dog has been returned to the animal rescue organization with the assurance it will be re adopted into a childless family, not killed.
I bow to the mother, "this is just the start of the twanging of the maternal heart strings, and you have accepted that", "Well done"! "There are no bad mothers, just ones trying to do the best they can". I bow to the father, "The dog (Sue), came into your life briefly, she let you love and then let go". "Your heart strings have been stretched, not broken."
Life is constantly throwing up gifts of, what seems like, a door slamming. Received with compassion and they can be a door opening. That's opening to deeper acceptance and a more expansive understanding of ones place in the larger scheme of things. Such gifts are a challenge to faith. In the first case the challenge for me, as the guardian of spiritual safely, was to keep the door open when my instinct would have been to compassionately close it. In the second case the challenge to confidence in guardianship, for a child and for an animal.
And the challenge for all of us is to let go of self blame.