Doyle-Schechtman: Unexpected Gifts
12/06/11 7:55AM By Deborah Doyle-Schechtman
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(Doyle-Schechtman) The holiday season is upon us. According to the calendar it's time to trim our trees, don our gay apparel, and head over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house. Trouble is that this year many of us can't find our decorations, have lost our fancy clothes, and won't be able to cross the river for another 18 months or so.
I'm good on the trimmings and festive duds, but the river thing... not so much. For the last three decades I've taken both comfort and joy in the simple white lights and evergreen wreaths that have adorned the covered bridge at the foot of our little hill in Quechee. I could observe the picture perfect scene from just about every room in my house. No matter how challenging any given winter's day was, the magic of the snowflakes caught in the glow of the lights and nestled on the red bows of the wreaths made me feel happy and safe. Thanks to hurricane Irene, my post card image has been replaced with sinkholes that are big enough to accommodate Santa's sleigh, his team of reindeer, and most of his workshop for that matter. The bridge stands alone on its pilings, dark and tattered. To say that my view has changed is an understatement. To say that my perspective has changed is a surprise - and a gift.
If you think about it, some of our best gifts come to us from the strangest places, and in the most unexpected ways. They are gifts we can't return, and oft times are not what we thought we wanted - or needed. This present of a new perspective didn't come in a brightly wrapped box, nor was it received graciously. It's hard to see what broken pipes, ragged facades, orange storm fences, rolls of yellow police tape and chipped cement barricades have to offer - never mind the constant stream of uninvited sightseers parading through my neighborhood. It's difficult to discern how chaos contributes to the greater good - to our overall sense of well-being.
And yet, the mess outside my door has helped me release some deep-seated lessons I no longer need. My mother, for example, taught me to be responsible, polite and hospitable at all cost. Mother Nature has made it clear to me that I am not accountable for other people's actions or decisions, nor do I need to attend to the unreasonable requests of complete strangers. As the oldest of twelve I learned to always be at the ready. Irene showed me how to go with the flow. Looking out the window every day reminds me that while I can't control a raging river, or thoughtless people, I do have the freedom to choose how I perceive and react to them.
Irene has left each of us with a story to tell this year. If we look closely we'll find a gift wrapped in it, along with a healthy reminder of our place in the broader scheme of things.