This last week I got worked up over something truly insignificant. While I know better, sometimes minutia feels like a steep hill.
A number of years ago I visited my friend Rob. At the time he was the Rector of an Episcopal church in rural Maryland. Surrounding that parish is a large cemetery. It is a serene setting with old headstones, the kind that can only be found in the East. One day Rob and I took a walk through the cemetery. It was quiet, spiritual, and a good place to talk and reminisce. As we were walking Rob took me to one gravesite. He said, “This is the cemetery’s claim to fame. This is the grave site of Tallulah Bankhead.” I replied, “Who on earth was Tallulah Bankhead?” Rob told me that she was a famous Hollywood film star and that one of her most well-known films was the Alfred Hitchcock classic, Lifeboat. Frankly, I still drew a blank in my mind.
Not long ago, my friend Rob and I, along with some of our other clergy friends, were talking on the phone about the challenges of ministry. One of our colleagues is going through a tough time in his parish. A time in which some people are making a big deal out of a relatively minor issue. As my friend was talking I asked, “Who is Tallulah Bankhead?” I then explained what I meant. I said something like the following. Most of what gets us anxious and worked up today will have little if any significance in a year, let alone five years. Much of what we think is so big now will be long forgotten in the future. The reality is most people won’t even remember us a generation from now. The point. We should only get worked up over a very few things and when we take ourselves too seriously we should ask ourselves, “Who on earth is Tallulah Bankhead?”
Remembering that few remember Tallulah is a way to help each of us stay humble, dispense with self-importance, and instead focus on what is most important, which is the moment, relationships, and love.
While life is full of crises and heartache for us all, much of what happens truly is not significant. As significant as Tallulah Bankhead is now in the year 2021. I am going to try and remember the question, “Who is Tallulah Bankhead?” anytime I get worked up or take myself too seriously. The annoying actions of another. The interruptions and frustrations we experience. So much of what occurs is just not worth much if any energy. I pray instead that we will each increasingly learn to recognize the gifts of the moment and the grace involved in each breath we take.