“in the presence of my foes”

Dear President Trump,

A line from Bobby McFerrin’s “Psalm 23” has been stuck in my head since yesterday; “She sets a table before me in the presence of my foes.” It’s like my brain has been worrying it the way my tongue would worry a loose tooth, not quite sure what to make of it or do with it. Does the line mean I get to eat some incredible meal while my foe watches and eats nothing? And who am I in the story? Who are my foes? Am I some big deal person with big deal foes? Am I really just me and my foes are just regular people I get crossed up with, plus you and several dozen bought congress people? Am I a woman sitting across the table from my abusive husband? Am I an abusive husband sitting across the table from my wife? Am I an African American woman who works for a white family and once a year I am invited to eat with them? Am I a dad sitting across from my lesbian daughter worried she is going to hell? Yes. All of the above.

This morning, as promised, I started my tonglen focusing on your brain and your gut, again moving around you and aiming to breathe in your fear and send you back calm. Then I invited you to sit down at a table, foe to foe, and on my imaginary table there were two little bowls of warm water and we each washed our hands of all our fears, setting them all aside for the moment. And then I handed you a warm towel to dry your hands and you handed me a warm towel to dry mine. I then insisted that we look into each others’ eyes and try to see each other. That part was by far the hardest in the whole imaginary scene. It’s much easier to be doing something in the presence of a foe than to sit still and look at him and be looked at by him, but this felt like an important part of the practice so I had us look at each other. After what felt like a way too long time, I served you some food and then you served me some food and we ate together. I really wanted you to serve me first, but because it was my idea I figured it was only right that I serve you first. I would, however, like you to do the dishes since I think your karma needs you to do more dishes than mine needs me to do at this point.

May we be safe when we sit down with our foes.
May we recognize our own foe-status and be happy to set it aside.
May we have the courage and strength to hold one another’s gazes.
May we break bread and make peace.

Sincerely,
Tracy Simpson

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