“It is, without doubt, the gifts we get from our excursions into differences—the people we come to know whom we could never have met otherwise, the wisdom we see in those we consider to be simpler than ourselves, the downright goodness of those we fear because we do not know them—that make us bigger of soul, greater of heart, than we could possibly ever have been otherwise.” — Joan Chittister
Typically at this time of year we wish each other happy times with family and close friends, and of course I wish that for all of you. But beyond that, I wish you a gift rarely chosen intentionally, but perhaps even more weighted with divine blessing: I wish you the gift of time with those whose company you did not seek out; who seem to serve no desired purpose in your life; those who have nothing much to give you that the world generally values.
We often hear stories about the unbelievable financial wealth we might have today if we had bought a few shares of this or that stock before anyone could have known how valuable it would become someday. If only we had known, we may tell ourselves. Yet we may be missing an even larger secret, one now invisible to mortal eyes. What we may never know fully– at least not in this life– is the value of everyday people with whom we are brought into contact through quirks of fate or circumstance.
In more than two years since Jeff’s death, my life often has been dependent on people totally outside my demographic group, as I found that many of those I had expected to depend upon were not around with any consistency. These new people who showed up in my life and Matt’s– whether they were black, white, Asian or Hispanic, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, or Christian, younger or older than me, with or without significant disabilities, to name only the most obvious differences– gave me more than the reassurance that Matt and I were not alone. They taught me that having no choice about my own circumstances or Matt’s (which in our culture is surely one of the most feared and dreaded of conditions, as it means an almost total loss of control) can bring hidden gifts and unexpected transformations.
There’s no question that such encounters are not easy. And I hesitate to wish you anything difficult. Yet there is much of inestimable value that goes unrecognized and undiscovered. This Christmas season, I hope you strike an untapped lode of downright goodness in the hearts of friends you didn’t realize you had– goodness that will fill your life with spiritual dividends beyond anything you might have imagined.