“I honestly think in order to be a writer, you have to learn to be reverent. If not, why are you writing? Why are you here?...This is our goal as writers, I think; to help others have this sense of -- please forgive me -- wonder, of seeing things anew, things that can catch us off guard, that break in on our small, bordered worlds."
– Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life
If my job as a writer is to inspire awe, then I think we should all pack up and go home. That’s a heavy, heady responsibility that frankly I don’t want. But I do know that I’m an emotional, sensitive person who cries and laughs regularly and tends to write about those experiences. I fully admit to having a healthy sense of awe and wonder about this world, and I write, in part, to make sense of it. (Most of which I delete or crumple up.)
Since coming across the above passage from the great Anne Lamott, I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of reverence and awe especially now with the holidays upon us. This time of year can be a mixed bag of emotions for many, myself included. I’m saddened when I think of times past and the people no longer here. I miss my dad and brother Tom, and the simplicity of youth. I wish everything could be as it once was with my family; all of us were together, with my mom decked out in an apron all day, the consummate hostess, my brothers and I all jacked up over presents and jockeying for a position at the “adult” table, and my father refilling glasses, carving the meat, and leading extended family in a heartfelt Grace. I know it wasn’t all perfect, but a lot of the memories feel that way—warm and nostalgic thanks to the passing of time.
But before I get too morose, I have to remember that time has brought new blessings into my life, including a 4- and 8-year old that are huge fans of the big man in red, a traveling stuffed elf that resides on our shelf, and the tiny baby Jesus in the manger. Of the first two, I know their belief has an expiration date. At some point, some kid is going to ruin that for them. It’s a painful right of passage most of us go through. On religion, their choice about practicing faith will eventually be their own to decide. But for now, we talk about Santa and his flying reindeer. We go to Mass on Sunday and learn about three kings that come bearing gifts to a mother and child. Witnessing their unwavering belief in all these things is a perfect example of faith: believing in what can’t be seen. The kids have this season nailed; it’s us adults that need some work. Seeing Christmas through a child’s eyes is reverent and awesome, indeed.
From my family to yours, I wish you all a very happy holidays, and hope that you, too, can find some joy, faith, and a bit of magic along the way.