I was walking my dog, Goldie, coming off of Barbee Street, by a dark red brick house with a net-enclosed trampoline in the front yard. Inside the enclosure stood a little girl, maybe three or four, with long brown hair. She had her back to me as we rounded the corner, but I shouted out to her, “Why don’t you jump?” She did not turn around, but her mother, or grandmother, sitting on the ground beside her while attending to an infant, asked the little girl to jump. The woman turned to me and said, “She’d rather dance.” But the little girl simply stood there as Goldie and I kept moving toward home.
I have taped old episodes of my favorite show, Psych, which I watch every day. When the music comes on, I beat the armrests on my chair to the beat of the drum, to which Goldie reacts with barks and other noises, and my wife shouts, “Do your Goldie dance!” Simple pleasures!
I was thinking about this when I was pondering the Christmas season in which we find ourselves. This time of year carries such huge expectations, that no time of year has a right to carry. All the ills of our society, all the violence, greed and neglect of the poor and of our children, all the wars and rumors of wars are supposed to be taken care of in this season of joy and peace. No wonder there is a spike of suicide attempts during this time of year.
We can’t buy joy or peace or love, but we seem to keep on trying. I remember sharing a rare Christmas with all my family in Chicago. It was shortly after my sister got a divorce from her first husband. They have two daughters who were in grade school at the time. The haul of gifts those two girls received was not just lavish, it was so extravagant, it made me uncomfortable. I, at least, was embarrassed for those kids, though I would never tell my sister that.
But that’s what we’re taught to do in this society, aren’t we? Mask the pain, cover over the sadness, and buy your way to happiness. Hopefully, we discover, as my sister has, that you can’t run from your pain. It would be good if we learned how to embrace it, make it a part of who we are, so we can move on, and spend the majority of our time relishing the moments we have on this beautiful planet we call home.
Maybe during this holiday season, we can pay attention to all of who we are: the sad and the happy, the depressed and the joyful, the angry and the glad. Then when we think about it, we can learn to dance with these opposites so that they can both find a place inside us, and we don’t have to deny one to experience the other.
That’s at least what I want to try to do, watch my dog, and remember to dance!
Mark W Stoub is a retired Presbyterian minister living in Kyle with his wife, Janie, Goldie and cat Calvin. He is the author of a novel, “Blood Under the Altar” and the upcoming “Fire in the Blood.”