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Chaplain’s Corner: Tough Beginnings

BRADLEY ANG BASE, East Granby, Conn. -- The girl was absolutely stunning! I was just walking down the street when she stepped through the front door. It looked like she walked off the cover of Glamour or Seventeen. Everything about her looked clean and picture-perfect. Her sisters must have spent hours on her beautiful dark braids. She wore a sparkling white gown that highlighted her skin--the color of a perfect tan. Someone paid attention to every flawless detail from her head to her toe. (I mean, besides me.)

You'll stop wanting her phone number when I tell you that this happened when I was 21, so she is now probably older than your mother. I caught this vision of loveliness in the Dominican Republic.

This was not a wedding, but a weekly Saturday ritual preparing for the evening promenade at the central park. All the eligible boys walked around the fountain clockwise and the eligible girls walked around the fountain counterclockwise, exchanging glances or comments; teasing, laughing and flirting and blushing as they passed, then running back to the safety of their peers. Older folks sat on the surrounding chaperone benches and watched the time-honored event with clearly mixed emotions.

She stepped out of a small shanty that had no electricity or running water, and a dirt floor. That was her home. It was no different than most of the others in the neighborhood.

I couldn't help but wonder how a girl could step out of such a shanty looking so beautiful and so clean in a perfectly white dress. (How did she iron it?) I could only imagine obstacles to that entire sparkling enterprise. But she and her family saw no obstacles. They simply wanted to present her to society as eligible for anything--and anyone--in the world; clean and respectful and elegant. And they made sure that happened! Looking at her, you would never guess that she lacked for anything.

This is the triumph of the human spirit.

I've seen human dignity pop up in many surprising places, proving time and again that who we are and where we are from are two very separate things.

Somewhere between innocent childhood and adulthood there is a gap. We may be victims as children, but there comes a time when we put on adulthood and we are no longer victims. Now we get to choose. Now we need to own our choices.

We can use the past to make excuses for the present. By dwelling on the hardships of the past we can take those hardships with us into the present. Or we can move on. It is a choice. It is not an easy choice to make. It is like closing a door that doesn't want to close. Sometimes we need help to do it--especially if it involves forgiveness.

Leaving the past behind is the first step. Sometimes there is also a need to learn new things that we missed, because we tend to repeat patterns that are not un-learned. (It is harder to be a good mom or dad if you did not have a good role model.) That can be harder.

If you are in such a place, consider your resources. Listening friends can help you to vent, but they may not be able to lead you out. Counseling may be a good option. A strong faith community can offer a lot here. It is amazing when we let the love of God and the love of others change our lives. A faith community can fill the gaps of lost places and teach us new ways. Life is all about relationships. At the core it is all about God and people. It's about holding hands and sticking together. Happy New Year. Live well.

P.S.--I've been told that I tend to see the good in people. That's a good quality, mostly. You know that I believe in God. But I also believe in morons. I'm not being judgmental here, just describing the obvious.

Let's be honest, all of us take a shot at the moron title from time to time. But for some people, this particular quality seems more of a permanent residence than the occasional vacation spot--or 'oops I made a wrong turn' moment. And it is particularly disappointing when morons come from privileged places. Perhaps I should be more politically correct: so if you admit to being a full-time moron and feel singled out, I apologize. Stop by my office. I can make you a sign. I digress...