"What good is the warmth of the summer without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?" (John Steinbeck)
Today is the Winter Solstice; the shortest day of the year and the longest night. Slowly, the light has been retreating and darkness advancing, as winter has once again enveloped the world.
And darkness has come this year in more than just a figurative and seasonal sense. Our country...I...have been in shock and mourning over a tragedy at a small school in Connecticut a week ago. Evil, dark and full of itself came, and 26 bright lights: young and innocent, loving and dedicated - were snuffed out. Coldly. Suddenly. Gone.
A season, normally filled with light and joy at this time - a remembrance of birth, now seemed empty. Cold. Lifeless. Dark.
But then I remembered this quote from Mahatma Gandhi.
“When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it--always.”
And it led me to think about all that I know is still good about this world. Those things that fill my world with beauty; with a sense of wonder, gratitude, magic, and most importantly, love.
Here are 26 of those things; one for each of the bright lights doused.
1. Sunsets at the ocean's edge. Proof of the magical effects of God's palette on one's soul.
2. Our choir at the Life of Learning. Their music and spirit always lifts me.
3. Izzy's "Welcome Home!": Jumping, wagging her tail, our chihuhua's love is wonderfully irrepressible.
4. Hot soup on a chilly night. Food for the body, the soul, and the heart...all in one.
5. Walking in a wet forest. A quiet pilgrimage among the pines. There's no better cathedral.
6. The touch of my wife's hand. Warm. Strong. Tender. Loving. Sweet. A gentle reminder that I'm never alone - anymore.
7. The view from Cape Perpetua on a clear day. Guaranteed to take your breath away.
8. A visit from an ex-student. Always a surprise. "I just wanted to say Hi", they say. But deep down, they're really saying, "Thank you for helping me".
9. The first snow falling. Silently and gracefully. A divine blanket that softens and stills the world.
10. Bright and positive people. Like my doctor, Heather Kahn. Compassion and enthusiasm spills out of her - as healing as her advice and skills.
11. My wife's laugh. It tickles me; it warms me; its echoes are like sunshine for my heart.
12. Raindrops on the roof at night. Gently soothing. Whispering "All's well. Close your eyes. Tomorrow will be fresh and new".
13. Time spent with my brother Dave. All too rare. In him I see so much that is good; as a parent; as a man willing to serve his country; as a friend. Courage and strength. Honor and humor.
14. Fires in a fireplace. Comfort for my chilly toes; the flames are always warm and welcoming friends (and they don't mind me fussing over them!)
15. A mother's love. I'm twice blessed. By my own mother's eternal love, sent in her letters; and by witnessing my wife's love for her son, through all the challenges they've shared. In both cases, the power of such love is breathtaking.
16. Summer twilight on the hills. "Golden Time". Further proof that God's artistry is year round.
17. Being taught by a good teacher. One who challenges and inspires. I'm grateful to have found one in Guy Finley.
18. People who volunteer. Like the two little boys who helped me pick up litter in my hallway yesterday. People who say "Yes" when asked, not "No"; or who just help, without being asked. Rare jewels.
19. Michael Buble. Voices like his have got to be gifts from angels.
20. My wife in a LBD ('little black dress") and pumps. Guaranteed to ALWAYS make me stop. And look. And smile. Can't help it. And think, "What a lucky guy I am to be married to her!"
21. Morning glories. I love their enthusiasm in the morning. Wish I could wake and be so bright, so early!
22. Good neighbors. Like Dennis and Carol. Always generous. Always friendly. Lucky to know them.
23. Chocolate cake. You may think this one is silly, but if you've ever had a bite of a really good piece of dark chocolate cake; moist; rich, smothered in chocolate frosting - you KNOW you've tasted heaven!
24. People who make the extra effort. Like my newspaper guy. Drives up and places my paper next to my garage during the winter when he could easily just chuck it at the end of the driveway. His thoughtfulness is a nice start to my day.
25. "I'm sorry. I made a mistake. How can I make this right?" Perhaps the 12 most powerful words in the world. Saying them myself, or hearing them, has always been redeeming.
26. My wife's love. Eternal and ever growing. Nothing has changed me, or made me a better, stronger, more honest man, more than this.
Why did I write this list? I guess I did it to remind myself that darkness can never extinguish the Light. It's impossible. What's light, bright, and true cannot be dismissed by what is dark. If ever I believe that's the case, it's because I've forgotten where to look for the Light. Or I've neglected to act as a reflection of that Light.
"We are the world we live in. And for every measure of Light we agree to be (embrace, act out, etc.) that is one less measure of darkness that can impress itself into our collective Soul."
So, on this dark and stormy night, I'm reminded of a timeless Truth. The birth of something innocent and pure, strong and loving, didn't just happen in a manger outside of Bethlehem 2000 years ago.
It can happen with me. Today. If I will remember and act. To be humble. Grateful. Kind. Compassionate. Patient. Loving.
And it can't be vanquished. Ever.
That's a Christmas Pearl worth remembering.
Buon Natale! Hyvaa Joulua! Frohe Weihnachten!
(and a Merry Christmas to you all, God bless us, everyone!)