Thursday, October 16, 2008
My eldest son sent me a photograph one Christmas. It is early morning in the picture and the sun is just rising. Its light gilds the waters of the lake in the background, kisses the tops of the trees, and spreads a delicate gold wash on the grassy bank where my son stands, his head back, his arms thrown wide in jubilation, his feet in the steps of a twirling dance. It is the most wonderful image of welcome I have ever seen.
Imagine greeting each day this way! Why do we not? In a conversation with my daughter, we discussed the reasons we thought people cling to sorrow in the face of joy, hatred in the midst of love, greed in the midst of plenty and anger in the presence of peace.
“Fear,” she said, summing up the source of most of our woes in a single word.
When you think of what fear fosters, she is right. Turn on the news in the morning and you start your day with terror on all sides – war, a teetering economy, toxins on the loose, kidnapping and murder and high-jacking, suicides and genocides. We surround ourselves with things to be afraid of and in doing so, miss much of the joy and happiness we say we are so earnestly seeking.
Who has not had their share of sorrow, but what of the large and small joys that make up the very same days? What of the morning mist that rises on the pond, now milky white, now gold with the rising sun, now gone? What of the sound of music that can lift your soul or the kind of laughter that makes you smile in spite of yourself? What of birdsong?
What of the people you meet every day who do things of seeming inconsequence– smile when they see you, hold a door open, let you go ahead of them in the supermarket line, pay your toll on the turnpike, make a meal, bring a cup of tea, write a letter, call on the phone, hold your hand when you are sad, lend their car when yours won’t start, rejoice with you over good news?
What of the neighbor who plows your yard after he’s plowed his own and drives off without waiting for thanks or payment? What of the hero who risks his own life to save your child’s, or the strangers who come to your aid after a house fire? What of love in any of its guises? Can we not put these first, making them as important and as precious as the things that scare us?
We may be beset by woe on every side, but while we weep the sun continues to rise and set, commanded by something larger than itself. The music of the universe plays unendingly even when we are not listening. Flowers bloom and fade and bloom again. The very wind sweeps the seeds of change before it. Is it foolish to think we can choose joy, or more foolish not to?
I have placed my son’s picture where I can see it upon waking. Now, before I listen to the dire warnings of the day, I stand at the window and look out, seeing the world as a wondrous place. Then I throw my head back, spread my arms wide in jubilation and welcome the day.