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Readings: “The Glove in the Subway

A one-paragraph newspaper article describes a subway platform during the morning rush hour at Grand Central Terminal. A train pulls in; a well-dressed woman gets off. Before the doors close, the woman realizes that she is holding only one of her leather gloves. She looks back into the train and spots the matching one on the seat. It is obviously too late to dash back in to retrieve it, so with a cavalier shrug, she flings her arm out and, the doors about to close, tosses her glove onto the seat alongside its mate. The doors shut, and the train pulls away.

What a great image. One could use it, I suppose, as a metaphor for facing the inevitable, or arguing for an orderly universe, or even, with a little stretch, for sharing the good things in life. But, as we move into the summer season, the metaphor that comes to mind is the one of "letting go."

To throw a favorite leather glove into the oblivion of a moving train must involve small pangs of uncertainty, pangs of some degree of loss, pangs of upset. After a lifetime of struggling not to lose our mittens, then our gloves, cavalier abandonment does not come easy.

In New England at least, our pattern is to cling, as we cling to our gloves, to routine, hard work, and obligation, all fall, all winter, and right through to the Fourth of July. But in the summertime, there is a letting go. We close up our schools and our churches, put our overcoats in mothballs, and dust off the swan boats, the lobster pots and last year's new gas grill. We need that. We need to cast that glove of responsibility back into the train. We need a vigorous and decisive toss about now to free ourselves of the confining gloves of life, even if we love them.

And the train's about to leave.


A Small Heaven: A Meditation Manual. Boston, Skinner House Books, 1989.

Copyright: The author has given Unitarian Universalist Association member congregations permission to reprint this piece for use in public worship. Any reprints must acknowledge the name of the author.

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Last updated on Tuesday, February 26, 2013.

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