I struggle to find space. I am private and avoid situations where there are pictures and promotion. I crave anonymity and, because of how society seems to be now, invisibility. I have seen a few minutes of “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” and I am horrified because I see us moving in that direction; craving “likes” and comments about our lives. I turn down invitations and avoid activities and places. But, with that, comes a feeling that I am anti-social or unfriendly. I hesitated to write about this, but I have come to realize it is not just me and maybe writing about it will help someone else. What about all the people, alone and hurting, watching social media and feeling more and more isolated? I have been reading studies and reports on the news about the growing suicide rates, depression, and mental illness which are affecting people because of the pressure, and the distortion caused by social media. Are we considering the pain people are experiencing?
I have spent much time recently thinking more about this issue and how it looks in other places as well.
I coordinate a program at work and we are seeing more students self-selecting out of opportunities because of their own doubts and fears. They do not see them as opportunities for them, but for someone else. Changing demographics necessitates that we do not just use words, assuring students of their place. It means we must change our space and how we conduct our processes so they see we are making space for them.
On the brighter side, this summer my community set aside a night before the local festival, where the carnival lights and sounds were dimmed for those with sensory issues (including those with autism). This very deliberate action, making space, was great to see. We are all able to change what “has always been done” to welcome people and make space. I saw this was also done at a mall in the Twin Cities when it came to Santa, and the music and lights of the holiday season.
As our priest gave his homily for the 1st Sunday of Advent, he discussed silence. We, as society, avoid silence. But, as he pointed out, silence is sacred and we need to try to stop being uncomfortable with silence. In this, I believe he means quiet times, quiet spaces where we can find God and find each other. I have written about this before. But when it comes to Christmas, as someone who seeks quiet and simplicity, I feel out of place. At Christmas my two favorite cartoons are: Charlie Brown Christmas, because of his wonderful little tree; and the island of misfit toys on Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, the place where all the broken or imperfect toys that are not “good enough” to be delivered by Santa get dropped off. I feel my views put me on the island.
I went to a wake the last week. It was a stark difference to other recent wakes I have attended. As I walked in, there were no big picture displays, no elaborate flowers or gifts. This family honored their mother by celebrating her the way she was and how she would have wanted – simple and humble. This woman, and her family, are some of the most welcoming people I have the honor to know. From the mother, to the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, there is a such a feeling of acceptance, love, and pure gratitude for the most simple and basic things in life. It was a different approach to a wake and it made me realize that I am not so alone. At my wake someday, I hope it will be OK to be simple, too.
A portion of Fr. Don Talafous’s December 2 blog (he writes daily from St. John’s Abbey.) Luke 21:34 says “Be on guard lest your spirits become bloated with indulgence and drunkenness and worldly cares.” “We hear often about the good of simplifying our lives, and usually we mean getting rid of unnecessary possessions, objects. …The worries and concerns of human life can obscure our vision and our purpose. …Worldly care means our anxiety about keeping up with fashions or the neighbors, our fussing about the non-essentials of life. These we can profitably forget in order to reduce the clutter in our lives, to help us focus on what life is really about.”
The First Sunday of Advent began the “new year” for the Church. I am going to make and attempt to follow resolutions that follow this new year, not the one that begins January 1. My resolution this Liturgical New Year is to follow the example of Rose, whose wake I attended, and focus on being simple, and reach out to those who are hiding because today’s world just does not seem to make a space for them. At the end of the “Rudolph” cartoon, all the misfit toys get rescued and Santa finds homes for each of them with children who love them. If you, like me, are a misfit, keep believing, like I do, that God will find us a space this Christmas, and forever.