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The gifts we seek


Christmas Day is over. We’ve eaten the food and opened the gifts. Family has come and gone – or were not able to come. Now what?
What if there were gifts I could give that would change the world, at least change my world? What if, despite these dark times, I could experience the promise of Christmas: comfort and joy?
Last summer I was visiting my 4-year-old granddaughter. We were walking together, and she saw a lighthouse in the distance. She was convinced, as only a child’s imagination can do, that it was Rapunzle’s tower.
She wanted to go to the top. We drove to the lighthouse. I paid the admission fee. We went through the gate and walked over to the base of the lighthouse. Then she looked up.
It was much, much higher and bigger than she’d anticipated (and the admission fee was much, much more than I’d anticipated). Her enthusiasm dimmed. “No,” she said, “I don’t want to go in.”
“Let’s at least walk inside,” I suggested. We went into the lighthouse. The view of the small, open, spiral metal staircase looked even more daunting. But I’d already paid the admission fee.

“Just take the first step,” I said. She was doubtful. “You go first,” she responded. I walked up a few stairs and looked down on her. “Just take one step,” I repeated. She stood at the bottom for quite a while, looking up at me, undecided.
Then she said, “I’m a little scared, but I’m really brave” – and she took the first step. And then she took the next step and the next. Together we slowly climbed to the top of the lighthouse.
Getting back down was equally challenging, step by careful step. When we got to the bottom and were sitting outside looking up at the lighthouse again (me, exhausted, tired and grateful for having had the health and strength to do the climb), my granddaughter said with enthusiasm, “Let’s do it again!”
I’m convinced that the elusive gifts we seek, generation after generation, are like that climb: longing for peace and beauty in the world, hungry to be seen and heard and loved for who we are, having the courage to take the next right step.
I believe there is something each of us can do today to create a more loving, just, and sustainable world. As I look towards the beginning of this new year, this small child’s words strengthen me: “I’m a little scared, but I’m really brave.”

Marguerite Chandler lives in Newtown.