It’s been a grim year for many of us. People continue to lose their homes and jobs. Many have lost their lingering faith in politicians, government and the media. Some have lost their sense of security. 

I suffered a loss when my French school relocated to San Francisco and I lost my teaching job. When I told family and friends, the universal response was “Oh, no!” The “Oh, no’s” helped, but sympathy alone can’t heal us. 

In most cases, the person I was seeking sympathy from was facing something far more difficult than the loss of a job. It was humbling to hear real problems like the loss of a loved one, or a health crisis. I had to find a way to feel better about my situation on my own. It took me a month. Now when I look back at my three-year teaching gig, I don’t see it as a great loss. No, it was a great gift. Not only did I connect with over 500 brilliant students, but I found I had a gift for teaching them. 

The initial pain of losing the job reminded me of how I felt when I lost my parents. When I look back at that terrible loss, though, I can only see my parents as a wonderful gift. Our depth of pain is directly in proportion to the depth of our love. I was thinking that maybe we can see other losses in our lives as gifts.

It’s not easy to see the Great Recession as a gift but many of us had to re-invent ourselves as a result and found careers we never dreamed of. Many returned to simpler values, after years of consumerism. We had renewed appreciation for our family and friends. Others, however, never got over their losses. It’s tempting to hold onto our hurts, to see ourselves as victims. We isolate ourselves and refuse to recognize our many blessings. There are people who define themselves by some great hurt. 

I don’t expect anyone to see the positive when they lose a spouse, family member, or friend. But someday, we have to move past this pain and look back at what a gift they were. I’ve seen people who are still miserable, years and years after they have suffered a great loss. You wish they could look back and see what a great wife they had, or how their friend wouldn’t want them to brood. 

Sadder than that are the people who never risk their hearts and souls in the first place. They are careful not to invest too much, lest they be burned. They may save themselves from great heartache but will also miss out on great joy. To quote the Beatles, “You know that it’s a fool who plays it cool by making his world a little colder.”

The Beatles are wise but I also took comfort from the wisdom of a 12th-century poem by the Sufi poet Rumi that a friend sent me: 

“This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival, a joy, a depression, a meanness; some momentary awareness comes up as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all. Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows violently sweeping your house empty of all its furniture. Still treat each guest honorably. He may be cleaning you out for some new delights. The dark thoughts, the shame, the malice. Meet them all at the door laughing and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes because each of them has been sent as a guide from beyond.”

Merry Christmas!

 John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.

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