When I was only six or seven years old, my father bought me a bicycle. It was used, of course, but he put a fresh coat of paint on it. I was overjoyed. A major’s son came over and scratched up all the paint, because even a used bicycle was too fine for an enlisted man’s son if it had fresh paint. Nothing happened to him, that was the way of the world and the dividing line between the classes on an Air Force Base.
Even now, I’m aware of class lines and distinctions that apply to me. I grew up in trailer parks with severe attention deficit disorder.
I’ve been on the board of a child advocacy center. I served on the board of a rape crisis center. I did a fair amount of pro bono work for victims of domestic violence.
I’ve buried three children. I’ve sat by helpless unable to do anything for a child with PTSD. My youngest child has Tourette’s Syndrome. I’ve had dreams stolen from me.
I’ve no illusions.
But I take joy in life.
Too often I hear people claim that they’ve seen reality and that they cannot unsee it. That they’ve earned their anger, their self-righteousness, their rage, their judgment on the world.
I first thought about it when a friend of mine, a Black Justice of the Peace who had to run with a white man’s name (because if she hadn’t, she would not have been able to get re-elected in a district that was dominated by whites), commented on the terrible disservice that had been done to children she knew who faced the world through a lens of anger and betrayal. She knew the world was sexist, racist and terribly unfair. But that did not mean we had to be sexist, racist and unfair creatures that mirrored the world.
I’m not Pollyanna. But I also know that I eat better food than the Sun King ate. I sleep in a better bed. My central heat and air conditioning work better than his did. I have far fewer bed bugs or lice than he lived with. I can expect to live longer, with better health.
I can choose to take joy in things, to treasure my living children and love them. To watch them overcome and make progress. To find joy in my life and to look towards the future and to Christ forgiving me of my sins and the wrongs I’ve done others.
I take the following passage of scripture very seriously:
Is there a point to this essay?
Bad things can happen to us, but we do not need to become what has happened to us.
The world is filled with both great ugliness and great beauty, and we do not have to choose to reflect the ugliness.
That does not mean that we give in (I would never have volunteered in the places I have volunteered if I thought that). Nor does it mean that we need to rage against the dying of the light.
Instead I think it means that we can seek charity, the true love of Christ, to love without envy or vaunting, to care and to know joy and hope. That I can see the truth that is in God and God’s love for the world.
That is my testimony of what I seek in this life, what I hope to remember and to regain.