Rarely do I focus on personal topics on Bungalux anymore, but in light of a confluence of tragedy and holiday, I decided to write a very personal piece in the ever-important week between Christmas and New Year’s.
The idea for today’s story started at St. Monica’s church on Christmas Eve. I went to mass by myself, and the sermon began with the priest recounting a story. The true account went something like this:
A few years back the priests at the parish had welcomed in a homeless man, Earl, and he was staying with them temporarily. Christmas came and it was time for their annual present exchange. They all gathered around the Christmas tree. One of the priests handed Earl his present, and though Earl’s first and last name were on the tag, Earl said the present couldn’t possibly be for him.
“Why not?” the priest asked.
“Well, because I didn’t bring one for anyone else,” Earl answered.
“That doesn’t matter. It’s yours. Open it up and see what you got,” the priest said.
Earl looked at the tag again, and then focused his attention downward, his baseball brim hanging low over his eyes.
“Is everything okay?” the priest asked.
“Yeah,” Earl said, eyes glazed with tears. “It’s just … well, this is the first time I’ve received a present in fourteen years. I just want to look at it for a second.”
The priest then juxtaposed that story with another story. Years earlier he had brought gifts to a family in the inner city. He was greeted at the door by a young Cindy Lou Who type of girl who believed he was really Santa Claus. Her rational? The priest had a beard, was wearing red, and was “fat.”
Predictably, the second story was greeted with chuckles from the congregation. The first was upsetting to many of us who were accustomed to receiving a multitude of gifts from a multitude of places.
Yet, the point of the priest’s stories is a universal lesson – whether you believe in God or not – and one which I would challenge you to take into the New Year and beyond.
As children we believe not only in Santa Claus, but the enormity of life. We dream big, not small. We believe in fairy tales. We believe that our life can change at a blink of an eye, and that it will. But as we get older those corners of our lives that are dark – and we all have them – often stay dark because we don’t believe that God (or whatever we believe in – energy, karma, love) will ever shed light on those dark parts again.
I hadn’t thought about it this way before. But it’s exactly what I’ve been doing. In recent years, I’ve spent many hours and limitless energy focusing on those light areas of my life (ie: Bungalux), at the expense of the dark areas of my life. The dark areas have gradually been getting cold and forgotten, which has made me focus on them even less. It’s becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy – darkness begets darkness because I didn’t light those dark areas of my life up or believe God was around to light them up either.
Apparently we had both forgotten about them.
During my walk home from Mass on a crisp and quiet Christmas Eve night, I thought further about it and realized that it wasn’t just me that did it, but those around me as well. My single friends were never optimistic about relationships anymore. New dates were often treated with advance “excitement” like, “I’m sure I’ll be home by 8:30 because he’ll suck so call me then.” Many friends who were unemployed had long given up searching for work because they were greeted with perpetual disappointment and rejection. Those friends who drank too much didn’t seek places like AA that offer tremendous support systems; instead, they suffered alone. And the same with my friends with poor family relationships: Often they were left to deteriorate in darkness.
So the moral of the priest’s stories goes something like this: Try, this season and beyond, to focus on those parts of your life that are cold, cobwebby, dark, moldy, and dreary – those hidden rooms we’d rather not think about anymore.
You can start small. Open the doors to those rooms a crack and let a sliver of light in. And like the little girl who had convinced herself Santa Claus was at her door or Earl who received his first gift in fourteen years, we may be surprised at what we can make of those dark, forgotten spaces in our lives.
Then after you give these dark rooms a little love, light, and attention, so may God – or whatever or whoever it is you believe in. And then, well, the possibilities are endless. And who knows? Those previously dark rooms may someday end up being the prettiest rooms in your house.