Today is Purim, the Jewish holiday when what we see on the surface is not really what’s going on. We dress up in costume because truth is hidden, and we remember a time when the Jews were almost annihilated in ancient Persia, but were saved thanks to the courage of a beautiful queen named Esther.
I read the story to my son’s third grade class. And when they heard the part about Haman, the evil guy, being hanged on the gallows he had built to hang the story’s hero, Mordechai, the kids thought the punishment for his horribly behavior was quite harsh.
I love to see the world through children’s eyes. The innocence and natural goodness that exists in our children is only stamped out by us cynical and withering adults, you know.
I looked around the classroom as the kids were engrossed in decorating masks with glitter glue and feathers and fuzzy shiny felt balls and I saw my beautiful son staring focused and intent on the project before him.
The surge of love coursed through me as I recognized his innate goodness. The kindness that lives in his heart and that yearns to come out constantly.
I looked over at another boy at his desk, building a beautiful mass of feathers atop the glittery glue. He asked the teacher for construction paper to fashion a beak, which he would attach below the nose of the mask. Creative. Intent. Good-hearted.
When we are allowed to run free with our creative instincts, it is
amazing what we can come up with.
In another corner, two boys were involved in a tousle. Of wills, of personalities, for control. I’m not sure the content behind it, but they were not in a moment of peaceful interaction.
And yet, in their eyes, I saw the love and innocence and desperate desire to be understood.
I commented to the teacher that we all start out so filled with love and trust and innocence and our nature is to cuddle in and throw our arms around the person we love so much and nestle into this idea of acceptance and warmth and the cocoon of family.
Some few of us are lucky enough to retain that all our lives. Most people, though, weather the charges of bullying or being misunderstood or not fitting in or being made fun of because our hair was too big/puffy/not in style.
I remember fifth grade as my awful year, when my hair wasn’t right and my clothes weren’t cool and I had all of two friends. More than once I meandered to my little sister’s third grade classroom in tears, asking her teacher to let her come out of class to comfort me. How desperate I must have been for connection to do that!
When a boy who has asked me “to go” with him the prior spring created an art project that made fun of my hair, and the teacher, who didn’t understand it was a parody of another student, posted it high in the main school hallway for all to see, I believe I was fully and completely alone in the world.
I may have been bossy. I may have had a big mouth. I may have had a take-charge personality.
But I was also a little kid yearning for love and acceptance.
I found it later, and refilled the holes left by being an outcast. Most of us have experienced that in some way, at some point, and the thing that amazes me is that it never really goes away.
As adults, we see cliques and groups, we are accepted and shunned, often because of the same things – our clothes, our money (or lack), our fill-in-the-blank. It’s so silly. Ridiculous.
As it ruins a perfectly good life by focusing us on the wrong things.
A good friend of mine who is a church pastor has said on many occasions, “I get paid to think about God. How lucky am I?”
I wonder if she was popular as a kid, to feel that passionately about something so uncool. And yet, she is one of the coolest people I know, living a great life, inspiring others to do so as well. Truly making a difference in the world.
This holiday today is about standing up for who you are, no matter who hates you because of it. It’s about having courage and daring and being clever enough to outwit the meannest people in power.
It’s about right triumphing over wrong, goodness winning out over hatred.
Who you are deep down in your soul is absolutely perfect in every way. What you love to do, what you are passionate about, everything about you is wonderful, absolutely to be celebrated.
And those who don’t see it can train their gaze elsewhere.
Happy Purim to one and all. I hope you can find peace within and peace without on this and every day.