One of my favorite William Stafford poems is “The Little Ways that Encourage Good Fortune.” It concerns wisdom, which Stafford describes as “having things right in your life and knowing why.”
Wisdom is having things right in your life
and knowing why.
If you do not have things right in your life
you will be overwhelmed:
you may be heroic, but you will not be wise.
If you have things right in your life,
but you do not know why.
You are just lucky, and you will not move
in the little ways that encourage good fortune.
The saddest are those not right in their lives
who are acting to make things right for others:
they act only from the self—
and that self will never be right:
no luck, no help, no wisdom. (William Stafford, The Way it Is, p. 141)
For someone who does for a living what I do, there is an important caution in this poem, because my vocation carries with it the significant temptation to believe that I can see what would be “right” for others and set out to “make those things right.”
That, in fact, is NOT my role, nor is it anyone else’s. Instead, we are simply called to point toward the sources of wisdom–especially, from my perspective, the will, way, and words of Jesus–and encourage one another to cooperate with his work in our lives.