Father Theophan: The Golden Rule

This mouse is part of artwork created by Fr. Theophan’s children and others. Photo by Fr. Theophan 

By Father Theophan
Saint Job of Pochaiv Orthodox Church
Los Alamos

Thankfully it’s not that cold.

This morning, in robe and slippers, right out of bed, I snuck down to the garage. The kiln had reached cone 6 yesterday evening and had been cooling throughout the night. It’s a surprise each time, it’s a gift each time. There’s nothing better than opening a successful firing. (To be fair, there is hardly anything worse than opening a bad one.) But today, everything survived.

Four mugs out of this firing were mine. Two will be sold to an old friend in New York, two will be gifts to replace ones broken in transit as Christmas presents. 

The rest of the firing was filled with various things, a mouse, a frog, a few pots, and a few things that I really couldn’t identify, all made by my children, my neighbor, and my friend’s kids. When firing other’s work, I’m always nervous. If my stuff blows up, or fuses to the shelf, or fails in some other way, it’s on me; it’s my work and my fault. But I hate letting people (especially kids) down. 

All of theirs survived and most of it is fantastic. I can’t wait to see their faces when they get them.

I enjoy watching friends and family create. I like helping and coaching them to success. I love opening the kiln and seeing their creations come to life.

Do unto others, it seems.

Why does it bring me so much joy?

We often see the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” as some sort of exchange. “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” But transaction makes for weak relationships.

No, the Golden Rule is for connection. Psychologists have found that when we do something, even something small, for another person WE feel closer, more affection, to them. We may or may not put them in our debt, but once we do something for someone else, we are more likely to do more for them and feel more attached.

“Do unto others…” is an impetus to connect, to get out of our heads and into our hearts. 

This past year has been full of good firings (and a couple catastrophic ones), teaching, and learning. It brings me joy to connect to people, to see them grow and discover, and to love them.

One may say, “Well, that’s your job. You’re a priest.” And one would be right. But it also may be part of the answer to the current ills of our nation. If we all did for each other, if we all connected and loved each other, what a world it would be.

It may be a bit optimistic, or even Pollyanna, but what is the alternative? Increasing disconnection is neither healthy nor sustainable. 

Do something, even something small, for someone else today.