The Hidden Gifts
Holiday blessings to all of you. For those of you who are interested, I'll be putting this lovely but very anachronistic painting by A.B. Wenzell up on my website tomorrow, along with its story. Historically naive though it is, it has a hidden gift. It makes me smile, for it reminds me that artists and authors always see the past through the lens of their own experience.
It has also had me thinking today of the gifts we have been given this past year. Sometimes, when we look at all the trauma and sadness of the passing year, it's hard to find the gifts. But they're there.
It's been a year, I think, when many people who have been silent have decided they had been silent too long. Silence is an empty bell. It leaves the air undisturbed, and the world stagnating in its pain.
And there is a gift of change upon us. Change is creative as well as destructive, but stagnation is-- well, it has a tendency to remind me of pond water that's been around too long.
But I think the greatest gift we have been given this year is our gift from the Amish. Most of us surely remember the shock and compassion we felt, but perhaps even more we recall our awe and humility as we watched the way the very courageous Amish responded. We watched the strength and support they gave to each other and even reached out and gave to the stunned outside world. We saw the courage of the children who from the cradle had been given the skills to face death with courage, faith and peace. And we saw the gift of forgiveness for what it really is. We saw it for its deepest truths.
The man who attacked those children was caught up in anger and hatred he could not lose. He could not let it go, and he let it take him into the ultimate destruction of children he did not even know. How very different he was from the people he killed and those he hurt most. For what the Amish knew, he had not even begun to understand.
Hatred destroys, yes. But it destroys most the one who hates. It eats him alive, chews away at him and consumes his past, his present and his future, until there is nothing left of his life. In the desperate passion for vengeance, the vengeful person becomes a wraith, his soul burned away. He has victims, yes, but their destruction brings him no relief. After vengeance, then what? There is nothing left, for there is no room left for living. There is no place for peace and joy. Where he might have thought his pain would at last be assuaged, he has found only a vast emptiness. Perhaps he has found out what the true horror of Hell really is.
The Amish have shown us another way. They did not tell us; they showed us, with their lives. They will not spend their lives bound up in the destructive waste of vengeance. They will not rail at God or man. They have chosen forgiveness, and in so doing, they can go on with their lives. They will continue giving, sharing, supporting, loving, worshiping. Despite their pain, they will find peace and joy.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if the rest of the world would take up this gift they have been given? So that is my wish for the world: that we find and hold to our hearts this quiet gift the Amish have given us.