We live life more fully by embracing contrast: spring, winter, life, death, creativity, career. Flowers radiate glory one day and wilt the next. Their exquisite beauty contrasts with their shriveled forms. This brevity makes me ponder my own worth.
If God would create such magnificent specimens whose lifespan is so short, would He not design my life with a purpose?
My mother fondly tells of an awakening in her own life when she held her son for the first time. As she studied his tiny face, fingers, and toes, she thought, “There must be a God!” In an instant, this miracle of life sharpened her perception of eternity. Her former disbelief contrasted with the miracle she now held in her arms.
I understand having held my own precious son in my arms.
Hard work contrasts with leisure making the reward of free time far sweeter. It is in the midst of labor that one decides to do something different in life.
I contemplate our culture’s tendency to seek the removal of contrast. A forced politically correct thinking often waters down diverse beliefs. Yet I wonder, is it not ok to disagree agreeably? Do we all have to believe the same way in order to be socially acceptable? Why can’t we love one another, still disagree, and maintain respect? Often loving in spite of contrast’s tension is the truest test of love. Contrast provides clarity and often that clarity is unpleasant.
Recently, I had a defining moment while admiring home decor that amazed me. While surrounded with such beauty, the thought came into my mind, “It is good that I am a teacher. Teaching keeps me grounded.”
You see, although I dream of becoming a fulltime writer with endless time to create, teaching keeps me in touch with reality and helps me to see the colorful flowers called human beings.
If given the dream of unfettered devotion to writing, the contrast between my writing world and the real world would diminish.
I question whether I could remain in touch with the human soul’s longings.
I wrote the following poem last year after hearing many of my students’ personal stories. We had just read a true article from the textbook about two sisters who overcame difficulties resulting from their mother’s imprisonment.
The exercise asked students to “imagine” how this would feel. I never imagined the responses that would follow during our discussion:
I let a little bird out of prison today
Perhaps only for the moment he smiled
Soaring above his father serving time
A burden no thirteen-year-old should bear
A chorus of stories poured forth
Fathers, mothers, brothers, uncles
Guns, abuse, unthinkable crimes
The textbook only asked “What if…”
I spoke of making better choices
While hoping my heart would hide
How little I knew of their pain
As cages of despair and grief opened
Students ravaged without choice
Prison sentences tearing up lives
Yet resolute they shared their stories
Drowning state testing into a distant hum
Innocence lost so early in life
Little birds with broken wings fighting for flight
I used to wonder why they struggled in school
Now, I go home and cry
JoDee Luna © 2008
There it was, contrast! Students’ harsh, depressive realities contrasted with my own blessed life produced thankfulness in my heart. My words challenging them to believe their lives had purpose and meaning seemed to dribble off my tongue and land on the floor with a SPLAT!
Yet I found that those who choose to blossom in the midst of such tragedy do so magnificently. Their faces filled with hope seem brighter in contrast to those of students withered inside due to grief and self-medicating with drugs and alcohol.
Teaching reminds me that life is about giving and receiving. I try to water their learning like a conscientious gardener and they give me back bouquets of inspiration.
I return home and marvel over the flowers blossoming that day in my classroom while I admire those blossoming in my garden.
This dual life of teacher and writer provides a much-needed contrast. The beauty revives my hope in humanity because it reminds me of God’s intricate design for each one of us.
The people I draw to are those who embrace contrast. Perhaps their suffering came in the form of a loved one’s death or the survival of a divorce. Maybe the grief born was a child destroyed by drugs or a spouse who wandered. I find that often their suffering provides a tolerance for imperfection and I drink deeply from their well of empathy and encouragement.
They have passed through despair that sharpened the contrast of hope.
Contrast creates either gratefulness or self-pity, the choice is ours.
Blogging Identity Quest Findings: I enjoy visiting other blogs that highlight the contrasts of life. There are so many gifted writers, artists, photographers etc. Each blog creates a unique world of intrigue. As far as my own blog goes, I need the contrast of images with words.
I have also accepted that my career consumes fast amounts of creative energy; therefore, I must be patient and wait until summer when I can freely explore art once again.