One night I had a dream. There was a room full of people, including a small crowd gathered around a man. They were smiling as they looked at something.
When I got closer, I could see that the man was Jesus and the object they were studying was a mop. “What’s that?”, I asked. Jesus said, “It’s your life”, as the people around him looked at me, not unkindly. “But it’s dirty!”, I said. Jesus said, “Not, it’s not dirty, just stained.”
What I understood right away was that those stains represented the life I had lived, and there was nothing dirty or wrong about them.
Everything in your life to this moment has made you the person you are. The argument you had with your mother about the clothes you wanted to wear. The semester where you got up early for swim practice and ended up being all-conference. The guilt you felt about breaking up with a nice guy.
Nothing in your personal history is wasted.
A couple of weekends ago, a friend of mine ran in a relay and described it as “a life-changing experience.” I was delighted for her and have thought about it much since.
What is it that makes the difference between a fleeting moment and an important event in our personal history?
When I think about the moments that have been most life-altering for me, they were mostly about other people, my attitude, and what I brought to the table at that time. Helen Schucman wrote in A Course in Miracles, “When you meet anyone, remember it is a holy encounter. As you see him you will see yourself. As you treat him you will treat yourself. As you think of him you will think of yourself. Never forget this, for in him you will find yourself or lose yourself.”
It is my belief that we were put on Earth to be in relationship. While there are times we need solitude, it is our interactions with others that will provide the most beautiful colors of our lives.
I think this day of words spoken to me which changed my life, especially those spoken in kindness and love. When my mother died when I was twelve, my older cousin came into my room. He said, “If you try to break one pencil, it’s not hard. But if you hold many pencils together, they won’t break. Hold tight to your family and friends and you won’t break.”
Once a girlfriend told me “You are perfect”, and though I didn’t believe her, it’s remarkable how much I needed to hear it at the time. Just the notion that someone believed in me so much was the antidote to so much negativity I experienced at home.
A professor who I especially admired once told me the story of his brother’s suicide. That he would share something tender with me helped me see something worthwhile in myself.
I like to celebrate my friends any chance I can get. Sometimes I wonder if it’s too over-the-top, if I make too much of a fuss. Last night, I was considering that today is a friend’s birthday, and that I would see her in barre class early this morning. I decided to get her some flowers to start her birthday morning. She told me later that buying flowers was on her list of three things to do, and that receiving them was better than buying them herself. Our encounters aren’t just holy because of the improbability of circumstances that would bring us together. They are holy when we make them holy.
You will encounter others today and the degree to which it is a life-changing experience will depend on how you regard others. As your time goes on, the colors of your life will be determined by the words you give and receive. May those colors be rich hues, deep reds and greens and blues, reflecting the depth of a meaningful and rich life.