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  • cmcsullivan


Do you remember Dr. Seuss's Horton Hears a Who? Horton is an elephant who discovers that on a speck of dust there lives a whole world of people called Whos. Horton protects the speck, carrying it about on the flower of a clover, telling all and sundry about this tiny world. But Horton's community doesn't believe that such a thing as a world on a speck can be so, and they persecute Horton and try to destroy the speck, thinking it's nothing but a troublesome fantasy causing Horton to disturb the peace.

There are plenty of ways we might apply the story of Horton and the Whos to our present moment, but here's the one I've been thinking about: In order to prove that the Whos really exist on the tiny speck, Horton urges them to make as much noise as they can; Horton, with his big elephant ears, can hear the Whos, but his neighbors cannot. The people of Whoville spring into action. They yell and sing and trumpet and bang the pots and pans, but, alas, they cannot be heard.

In a final burst of desperation, the mayor of Whoville searches the town to discover if there mightn't be Whos not doing their part. At last he discovers one small Who who is silent. He implores the little Who to join his voice to the chorus', and out of his mouth comes a single word: YOPP! This yopp proves to be enough. The little Who's yopp, carried aloft along with the sounds of pans and pots, of trumpeting and singing and shouting, transcends the speck and allows the Whos to be heard by Horton's tormentors, saving the Whos and Horton himself from a pot of boiling oil. (Dr. Seuss is darker than you remember!)

Here's why this is on my mind: When I most need to pray, I often find myself silent. I wake every day to headlines of contagion and financial ruin, and I know I should pray, and I can't. I open the scriptures and read the words, but my own words fail me. There's too much to ask for. I'm overwhelmed by the scope and the depth. I feel helpless, like a tiny Who on a tiny speck on a flowering clover in the trunk of an elephant.


In the late 1300's in England, there lived a woman who we only know as Julian of Norwich. Julian suffered a terrible illness, of which she was expected to die. In what seemed would be her final hours, Julian experienced a series of visions. She recovered from her illness and wrote of what she saw in a manuscript now circulated under the title, Shewings or Revelations of Divine Love.

One of my favorite passages from this text goes like this:

"Our Lord showed me a little thing, the size of a hazelnut, on the palm of my hand, round like a ball. I looked at it thoughtfully and wondered, 'What is this?' And the answer came, 'It is all that is made.' I marveled that it continued to exist and did not suddenly disintegrate; it was so small. And again my mind supplied the answer, 'It exists, both now and forever, because God loves it.' In short, everything owes its existence to the love of God. In this 'little thing' I saw three truths. The first is that God made it; the second is that God love it; and the third is that God sustains it..."

Thus, I take this to be the truth: I am a tiny Someone on a tiny speck on a ball the size of a hazelnut. Suddenly I know how to pray. In my weakness and my uncertainty, there is only one thing required of me -- and this I can do. I raise my voice with the chorus and utter the only word I can think to say. I breathe in and shout a tiny, mighty


And I trust that it's enough.

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