From Paraguay to Edmonton, Stars

People are so, so cool, bent toward courageously and determinedly creating great beauty and life and love and joy in the wake of much damage and loss.

Not all people are cool of course, there are plenty of small-minded, deceitful, egotistical and evil ones around too, I know. But still, so many of us are so cool, so inspiring.

In a desperate makeshift slum built on a landfill in Paraguay, a musical instrument is as valuable as a home. Here, children make beautiful music from violins and cellos made from trashed wood and oil cans and forks and other metal tools once used to make things like gnocchi. (Thanks to my sister for sharing this little video with me this morning.)

I will work harder to be less a princess, I promise myself.

The world, even this part of the world, is full of people demonstrating these same qualities of resilience and beauty. And at my husband’s company Christmas party last night, I came across a number of them.

The first was a woman whose daughter has been dealing with cancer at a time in her life when she might rightfully think she deserves to be occupied with more normal young-adult activities. She has lost things nobody her age should lose, and things no mother should have to watch her daughter lose. These two women are two of many, I know this, but still, up close, it’s impossible not to feel the impact of the familiar story. My heart ached for them, and I was, as I have so often been, filled with immense and unadulterated gratitude that it was me who got cancer instead of one of my own children.

Then there was a conversation with a fellow cancer survivor. This man’s treatment has exacted a high price, initially in the form of debilitating neck surgery, extreme illness leading to a hernia and a feeding tube, and I can’t remember what else except that it was a long, long, slow process of recovery, and that he’s still paying the tab in the form of neuralgic pain and hearing damage and more. But my experience with this stranger was that he is a generous and joyful person, despite the cost of being in his body.

Again, I promise myself to whine a little less.

And finally, inspiration and joy from a young man I just might be somewhat biased towards. He went out of his way to come say hello to me, something I don’t take for granted—he was there with his peers after all, and I am his mother. He introduced me to his colleagues on the dance floor, who unexpectedly offered hugs along with their smiles. He danced with abandon and joy. And every day, he injects insulin as often as the rest of us reach for a glass of water. He lives with blood sugar instabilities that are not only extremely frustrating at times, but very dangerous.

I know that most of us carry burdens or one sort or another, fears and heartbreak and things that are sometimes not visible, or are poorly understood by society, but that are acutely painful nonetheless. We’re lucky and unlucky in different ways, and to varying degrees.

And alongside that, I know this: Music and dance and beauty and creativity and generosity of spirit are in our blood, and I’ve been reminded that those truest and best parts of ourselves are the parts worth feeding.

 

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