“‘You don’t have to
prove anything,’ my mother said.
‘Just be ready
for what God sends.'”
William Stafford, his final poem, written on the morning of his death
William Stafford came from a highly literate family, even though his determinative years emerged during the depression. Nor did he have the advantage of growing up and attending schools in the same setting. Instead, his father moved his family from town to town in search of work. To help out, young William worked as an electrician’s apprentice, delivered newspapers, worked in sugar beet fields, and raised vegetables. Perhaps, despite being frequently uprooted, the tasks of everyday work, along with reading and paying attention even to the ordinary, proved to be formative.
“You don’t have to prove anything,” his mother had once told him. “Just be ready for what God sends.” Written on the morning of his death, these words reflect a man for whom attentiveness and readiness were an indelible hallmark of his writing. Be it a grassy riverbank, the rustle of leaves on a sturdy oak, the brilliance of stars in the night sky, inflections of speech, or musing on the wisdom of Native Americans, his parents, and other writers, his was a life that “followed that golden thread” to where it would lead him. His legacy as a writer, a poet, and a conscientious objector, was forged through being ready for what God might send.
Prayer: Divine Maker, In the face of the unraveling of our planet and, at times, our lives, remind us that we don’t have to prove anything. Instead, teach us to be attentive and ready for what you might send, for this is where your Message of consolation, encouragement, and strength is made real. Resting in the assurance of your boundless love, we pray this in all the holy names of God. Amen.