The Love of Hugh Manatee
Behold, this manatee named Hugh
cries out in prayer, God of the Sea.
Though thickly skinned and seldom seen,
still Iím endangered as can be.
For food I dive down deep below
and now and then come up for breath,
but oil spills can spoil the food
and boat propellers can mean death.
Who cares about my unsafe life?
Who cares about Hugh Manatee?
Sure, "Love your neighbor as yourself,"
but who says, "That applies to me!"
To love my neighbor as myself
the first one I must love is me.
So I have made my lifelong quest
to learn to love Hugh Manatee.
I love my coat, gray-black and slick,
my broad, round tail that gives control.
Iím proud to be a swimming ace
who never harms a living soul.
Be with me, God of all that is,
and hear my strong and humble plea
that human hearts throughout the world
soon learn to love Hugh Manatee.
Footnote about the manatee ó no hind legs.
The manatee is a very bulky, good-natured, air-breathing water mammal found in many parts of the world. It is helpless on land since it has no hind legs, but it moves swiftly in water with paddle-like front legs and a strong propelling tail. A manatee can be 14-feet long and weigh up to 1,500 pounds. It lives in coastal bays and eats about 100 pounds of tossed green salad a day.
A spiritual practice for today:
Make it your custom during this day to listen with special reverence ó as part of your spirituality ó to the words of people at the bottom of the social ladder, however you may define that: the low-paid, the invisible, the have-nots, the homeless, the servant class, the stoop labor, as well as those marginalized for any reason.
This was strikingly the practice of Jesus, who extended his particular care to "sinners," to people with leprosy, to individuals under threat of public execution and to the lowest caste of all: women. Table fellowship, where solidarity happens most naturally, was his favorite religious practice. We can do the same, at least once in awhile.
The Judeo-Christian scriptures often recommend this, a solid indication of that traditionís authenticity as genuinely inspired by the real God.
Donít be hesitant in speaking to the "oppressed," though they may be surprised at first by your openness. Your reward for reaching out will often be hearing a wisdom you never knew before: the wisdom of patience, the beauty of courage, the strength humans are capable of, a trust almost unconditional, an enlivening spirit unquenchable by adversity or failure or isolation. Our societyís outcasts are souls made for love who still reach out in faith and humility and even humor: What a wisdom that entails!
The best portion of a good personís life is the little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.
Excerpted from How the Wild Things Pray by William Cleary