Do You See What I See?
I would guess most of us have a favorite Christmas carol. Mine happens to be “Do You Hear What I Hear?” The music is beautiful and the news of the birth of the Savior spreading throughout creation is wonderful to reflect on. But the title of the song came to me in a different way a few days ago when, in pretty quick succession, three different people reflected on the bad news that fills the airwaves. All three made the same statement: “The world is falling apart.” As fires raged through southern California (where I was born and raised), as each day brought new allegations and often the downfall of a familiar personality and as our country possibly came under the threat of nuclear attack by a rogue state, I could understand how we could all come to that conclusion. With all this bad news and even much more, I get it: It can look like the world is just falling apart.
But then the title of my favorite Christmas Carol came to mind: “Do you see what I see?” And not just in the sense of the Good News of the birth of the Savior that the song reflects on. I often wonder if people who see a preponderance of bad in the world see what I see. Because while I see what they see, I see so much more.
Last night, our parish volunteered to help our friends at Catholic Charities sort through the gifts that will bring some happy Christmas moments to over 1,100
children that are either already in the foster care system or are at risk of being placed soon. While that simple sentence sounds almost like cold, meaningless fact, what it means is that right in our wonderful city, over one thousand and one hundred little boys and girls—and not so little boys and girls—are children in families where it’s not clear that Mom and/or Dad can show them the love and care EVERY child ought to receive. Or even worse: maybe they could show that love and care but don’t even want to show it. Whether through substance abuse, mental illness, or just a lack of common decency, these kids are at risk in the place everyone should be safe and loved: home. It’s so bad at home that in each of these young lives, the government has had to step in to protect the child, even from his or her own parents.
Sounds like an awful world, doesn’t it? But then I ask you: Do you see what I see? Because what I saw last night was a literal mountain of toys. That mountain was made up of small packages, each one an expression of love from a stranger, who simply wanted to do a little bit to ease the pain of a child. It was a mountain of love! This also represented another mountain. Each one of the kids in foster care are cared for by a foster care parent–parents with so much love that they take in some of the most hurt, angry, and sometimes aggressive people you’ll ever meet. Because hurt kids sometimes just want to do the hurting instead of just taking it all the time.
So last night our parishioners moved a mountain: a mountain of toys that needed to be moved, sorted and displayed so that a mountain of foster care parents would have a little help in loving a mountain of hurt kids. After all, Jesus said with faith we could move mountains, didn’t He? And that’s what I saw last night: mountains of love. Sure, we could focus on the mountains of pain, loneliness, and fear, but if we only look at that, we’ll miss seeing the other, even taller mountains.
You’d think it’d be hard to miss seeing a mountain, but we all do it, every day. When I was a kid, I used to roll up a piece of paper and make a “telescope.” You can pretend you’re seeing something up close but in reality, you’re looking at one thing and blocking out all the rest that there is to see. We can do this in how we see the world too, and I wonder how often we’re doing this when we’re thinking that the world is just falling apart. Of course there is so much to be sad, fearful, and even depressed about. And it’s not just what’s in the news: Our lives are filled with enough pain, sadness and evil to justify the most negative of attitudes. But do you see what I see? Because alongside all that’s wrong with the world, there is so much that’s right with the world. If we look for it, we’ll see it: mountains of love and beauty that tower over the mountains of all that is hurtful and ugly.
Maybe you read these words and decide to try a little harder to see all that is good that surrounds us. I hope so. But if you’re among the more skeptical (or maybe just hurting) among us, maybe your response is just doubt. Maybe that world just seems like a dream, and one which feels risky even to consider as a possibility. If that’s you, I’ll make you an offer: Let’s go look around, together. We’ll call it the “Father Michael ‘Do You See What I See’ Tour.” Give me a half hour and all show you more reasons for peace and joy than maybe you ever imagined was there.
The Christmas Carol “Do You Hear What I Hear?” says that “this child, sleeping in the night…will bring us goodness and light.” And He did! It’s there! Mountains of it!
Do you see what I see?