Saturday, February 22, 2014

Aren't We ALL a Bit of Gandhi?

“It’s the difference between creating an enduring piece of art meant to move versus throwing together an entertaining piece of fluff meant to distract.” This is the thing about working with writer friends. They can never let you just play. All of conversation is a critique. Maybe I want to dance around the page batting my lashes, blowing seductive kisses, and flinging my feather boa around your neck. Maybe I don’t feel today like putting on my big girl panties and moving seemingly immovable mountains. Let Gandhi and Mother Teresa take care of that business. I want to make you smile, make you laugh, make you spit your coffee through your teeth. Besides, how is that NOT helping humanity?

We get so darned serious.

I talked to a guy the other day who was so uptight it seemed he had zero joy in his heart. Zero. How does one come to that point? How does he get to the place where he can’t even crack a smile? Not that everyone HAS to smile, but I’m pretty sure a chisel would not have been enough to carve a piece of happy from the stone I saw. If I can bring a bit of joy to this man’s heart, how is that any less important than crafting an essay on the impact childhood poverty has on cognitive growth? I think of all the people this one man will impact in his life. I think of those whose days he will destroy. He shared with me in very boastful terms the supervisors he had torn down in front of their charges. If I can bring even one bit of compassion or joy into this heart, how is that NOT impacting lives?

I spoke with a single woman who was heavy into the wine. Her happiness, she believed, depended on having a man at her side. She was a beautiful woman with much to offer this world, had friends who loved her, and family who cared, but all she could see was her inability to attract the right sort of guy, to hold onto love, and to have what she assumed would make her whole and complete. I penned a few words. I touched very close to her emotional home. I injected a bit of flip and sass and sarcastic wit. I empowered her with my words. I helped her to smile and think and to love herself. I am certain she took that out into her world. I am certain she spread that joy to her neighbors and her colleagues. I did not go all Gandhi in the essay. If anything I pulled off my best Marilyn. Neither did I lift all of humanity in those words, but I lifted her. And that was good enough for me.

Why do we forget? Why do we forget to laugh and love and play? Why do we take ourselves and our worlds so seriously that we do not enjoy the day we are given, do not enjoy the life that we have?

A student came to me the other day. She apologized for missing class previously. Her brother had passed. Her brother, it seems, had been in a forklift accident at work a few months prior. Among other complications, his stomach had been ruptured. Despite surgery and quick, attentive care, the doctors were not hopeful and prepared the family for the young man’s impending death. He was twenty-six. He was twenty-six-years-old with two small children and a wife. He had gone to work that morning as if it were a regular day, as if it were NOT the last day of his life. He and his wife probably argued a bit. He may have complained about his boss. He might have looked in the mirror and criticized something about his appearance. I am guessing here. He could just as easily have kissed his wife goodbye, told her how beautiful she was and that he was so glad to have her in his life. He may have complimented his boss on his management skills, thanking him for giving him that break when he hired him on. He may also have thanked the Lord that morning when he looked in the mirror, thanked the Lord for his health and his family and the opportunity to provide for them. Again, I am guessing. Regardless the routine, this was to be his last day at it.

No one imagines that his life will end. On an academic level, we know that it will happen. For some reason, though, we can never wrap our minds around the actuality of it. We imagine that our death will occur at some point in the very distant future and will most likely happen to others and somehow magically not to us. Except that it will. Because we breathe, we will die. Fact. We will die at any point in the lifespan, at any point, and not at one of our choosing. Fact.

If, then, I can parade myself around on stage, painting rainbows and flinging glitter, bringing smiles and lifting hearts, I think I am going to be good with that. I am going to be good with that because maybe, then, YOU will take that joy out into YOUR world and lift another. Maybe YOU will lift another on HIS last day.

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