Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts.Charles Dickens
Once I gave the eulogy for a man I barely knew.
For many years I traded with him on the court house steps where he offered fresh eggs by dint of hens that he tended like his very own children. Mr. Malugin’s body was found one morning in his vegetable garden, a bouquet of greens still clutched in his hand.
I agreed to the family’s request to speak in terms of what I knew about him. He was a poetic figure, but far from personal sentiment.
Pensive enough, I thought, to complete the task; I gazed out from the podium onto those heartbroken faces and a movie of life began to scroll in my head. The script was rich. I cried all the way home.
Six decades were required to take full stock of what I always considered a handicap. Crying is my second language.
As a little person, the propensity sat inside my chest poised to detonate whether the weather was happy or sad. My mother was scared of it, my father was disturbed by it and my brother was wary. For a lifetime, I’ve felt ashamed about my proclivity and either excused myself or choked down the eruptions.
That is until the young Reverend Joe Evans came to The First Presbyterian Church of Columbia, Tennessee. He lifts my notion of how a person can show up. He proves the ideal that a Christian can be unabashedly enthusiastic about life. And he lives the ancient tribal proverb that says before we can see properly, we must first shed our tears to clear the way.
Our first encounter was at my father’s death bed. Joe offered a fervent prayer, but not without streaming tears. From inside my own house of fear, I told him that it was going to be a long ministery if he gave way for all whom he prayed. He was quick to assure me that there was nothing else more sacred or more proper.
One Sunday as he conducted a service, I saw his emotions begin to rise over the particular blessing of the human condition. As he paused to mellow his tears, he set a tone for the congregation giving others permission to live a consecrated moment.
From time to time, his forte has included courageous sitting with me and my emotions – never once did he disturb the trial with words. Healing happened with his emphatic presence.
When my grandson Roy cries, his tiny face distorted with emotion, his parents ask what is wrong. He replies, “Me not know.” I’m kindred; I know his journey. And I understand the weight of such comprehension.
My hope is that he will learn early on, like Joe did, to enthusiastically give way to the beauty of what moves him whether it be pain, injustice, the majesty of creation or a good belly laugh.
I once cried for my mother when she told me that she never cried because if she did, she feared she would never stop. I’m sure that if she had observed Reverend Evans navigate the beauty of the earth she would have thrown those chains and let it flow. Let it flow. Let it flow.
Rick Bayless Shredded Beef
Joe Evans is a home gardener. He appreciates good food and this dish he cites “takes an unassuming piece of beef and makes it magically delicious.”
1 1/4 pounds beef chuck steaks, cut into 4 pieces
3 small white onions, diced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 (28 ounces) can whole tomatoes with juice, drained and chopped
2 – 3 serranos, stemmed seeded and very finely chopped
In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, combine the meat with 2 quart salted water, about 1/3 of the onions, and half of the garlic and simmer until the meat is very tender, about 1 1/2 hours.
Strain, reserving the broth for another use.
When the meat is cool enough to handle, shred it into coarse strands with your fingers or 2 forks – don’t worry that there are bits of onion and garlic mixed with the meat.
Wash and dry the saucepan, set it over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon oil. When the oil is hot, add half of the remaining onions and cook until golden, about 6 minutes, then stir in the remaining garlic and cook for another minute.
Add the tomatoes and chiles and cook until most of the juice has evaporated, about 3 minutes.
Stir in the shredded meat and simmer for a few more minutes, then taste and season with about 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Remove from the hear.