Sometimes, your eyes see too much. Sometimes, things can hurt so bad and leave you so senseless that you wonder how we could be made to feel such things. This past week, I had to realize, sympathize, and experience this truth as many of those around me suffered great personal anguish. (And it compelled another entry on suffering.) Indeed, the weekend found me spent and weary. I mourned with those who mourned, I wept with those who wept.
There have been so many things that can get us down about life. It is easy to be discouraged, be down in the dumps, and worse–stay there. But then, just when life seems darkest, come those most timely reminders; they might be the little things that whisper to you, in your loneliest place, that things will be okay, or big things that shout to you about the ultimate beauty of life–in spite of, because of, and regardless. Just as Andy wrote to Red: “Hope is a good thing–maybe the best of things–and no good thing ever dies,” in Shawshank Redemption, I believe these reminders give us hope. And hope is alive to keep us living.
When I thought back to some events that took place this past holiday season (about which I never got around to writing until now), and finally documented them, I reminded myself of this hope. As funny as it may sound: sometimes, you just have to talk to yourself to get yourself out of a hole. (Sometimes, Martin, not all the time, okay? Okay. Good boy, Martin.)
One of those big things was a wedding I attended a few weeks ago. In these ceremonies, the obvious elements of beauty are always there: the groom looking as dapper as can be, the bride never more radiant, the heart-provoking music, not to mention the flowers, colors, candles, and participants; the vows that are exchanged that signify, as best as words ever could, the immortality of love and the willingness to go through whatever hellish struggles and back to uphold it. The essential message of marriage itself, beautiful, as two separate bodies/entities/souls unite to become one. I think we see and know most these things.
But what dawned upon me as I sat there, as I looked upon this ceremony, was that this genuine feeling of joy I had felt had absolutely nothing to do with me. It was an enlightened feeling, one that I’ve felt previously when I’ve sat to see the sun sparkle across the vast ocean waves or when I’ve stood at tops of mountains to find myself lost in the might and weight of nature. I sat there in the church, disappeared for that hour, and felt truly happy about it. I was gone, lost in the grandeur and splendor of this spiritual union, and I didn’t miss me–no, not one minute.
It was much like the same feeling I got later on that night, as I went along with a few of my church kids to give gifts to families sponsored by the “On My Own But Not Alone” Foundation. These families had lost fathers due to terminal diseases or unfortunate accidents, and the foundation exists to provide assistance–whether financial or emotional–to widows and children left behind. The holiday season was a good time for people to get involved and donate to the cause, so we did.
On the night of the gift exchange, we were in for a treat. We had only planned on delivering the gifts, but the group organizer was hosting a dinner for all the families and invited us to stay and participate. We felt like we were intruding, but she persisted. We eventually relented–after all, how could we turn down an invitation for people and prime rib?
I wish you could have met the families. How broken, yet beautiful and lovely they truly were. How wonder and joy filled their hearts again, even if it was just for a moment, to remind them that people cared and they were truly not alone. To see a little boy discover his first bicycle, to see a girl unwrap her first pair of mittens and scarf, to see a mother in tears at receiving a vacuum that she could not afford, that we so often take for granted–it was more than my heart could bear.
I wish you could have met Eddie and Michelle. Like all families there, they had a story. Michelle, along with her husband, agreed to adopt Eddie into their home when he was nine. Unfortunately, Michelle and her husband went through some rough times, rough enough to separate them. After her divorce, Michelle was left alone with Eddie, and since the expenses were high for the single mother, she contemplated putting him into another foster home. But Eddie had been thrown around foster homes all his life, one bad one after another. Michelle’s love and sympathy for her son got the better of her–she decided his departure from her life would cost her more than any bill. So, she took on three jobs and kept him.
Seven years later, they are scrapping by in a shoddy, low-rent apartment. But they are still together. Seven years later, Eddie has made use of his strapping 6’4 body frame and vigorous arm, pitching for his high school baseball team and getting scouted by the Royals and Yankees for a potential pro career. It was only fitting that we got him a Nike sports hoodie as one of his gifts for Christmas–I believe, one day, I will see him wearing it on TV.
Then there are the little things. A simple lunch reunion among good friends and their families: Peter and his parents, Ms. Hasegawa, Travis, me and my parents. It is quite a thing to share a meal with them, people so full of love and good cheer, especially with Peter’s parents, who look like cute little hobbits–but it didn’t hit me until we went out for yogurt afterward. As we were sitting around the table, indulging the sun in its warmth, I got a tiny glimpse of just what heaven would look like. It was a time shared between people that spanned age, race–Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and white (go Travis!)–and personality. And yet we were all united in love.
Sometimes, it will seem hard to face the dawn of another day. But as the sun rises, you are reminded that it is a new day. I believe some events in life are the same. It is the little and big things, things that are much greater than you, things that eyes cannot see, that rise to fill me with hope yet again.
And hope–a good thing, maybe the best of things–will live until the day it shall be found complete.