The homily at mass this morning was about the significance of seemly insignificant things. The priest used the example of the number "0." If placed to the left of a number, things remain the same. However moved to the right of that same number and suddenly that number is compelled to take on new meaning and value. He went on to note that Christmas is really the celebration of insignificant events. At face value, there is nothing really extraordinary about the story of the birth of Jesus Christ. He was born to a young girl and a poor carpenter from an insignificant town. They weren't well-connected and belonged to a small religious group in a small province in the mighty Roman Empire. And yet the life (chronicled by the historian Josephus) that began with this mundae event changed the world.
I love this paradoxical idea of how significant insignificant events can be! For example, the amazing story of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, came about from someone striking up a conversation with someone else next to them on an airplane! (How many times have I gone through entire flights and the only I said to the person beside me was "Excuse me, I need to go to the bathroom, thanks?") The last book club I belonged to read a rather boring book about how random mistakes and insignificant events (such as the weather or coincidence) changed the course of human history. Christ celebrates a widow who gave a seemingly insignificant amount (a fraction of a penny). A random conversation with a substitute teacher during a boring recess duty lead to me landing a position at Seoul Foreign School. Another example would be making friends first with M, which led to me making friends with his Guri (a suburb of Seoul) friends from Canada (N and A) which then led to being introduced to M when she moved to Korea and through M, I met A! The best example is the 4-year relationship I'm in now that began with an insignificant dinner date that I didn't expect to turn into anything significant at all!
I was going through some boxes (I seem to have accumulated a few over the years!) and came upon some farewell letters written to me from students at Halstead Middle School before I moved to Korea. I was struck by how significant insignificant things were to these students. Some of the trivial events were humorous. One remembered a time I sang "Oops! I Did It Again!" by Britney Spears one time in the hall while when I made some mistake. Another recalled a craft project where we blew out the inside of an egg and painted them. One girl loved the origami cat head I taught them and said she would keep it forever. And some of the events were more personal. One girl thanked me for never interrupting her when she was talking to me. Another child said she loved the stories I read them and she discovered how fun reading books could be. I guess the saying is true "nothing you do for children is ever wasted."
These examples and others made me think of all the "random acts of kindness" we may do everyday that mean nothing to us but may mean a great deal to the people around us. For example holding the door open for a person with their hands full might change the attitude a person has that day. It also gets me thinking of all the activities we do to celebrate Christmas and that sometimes, it really is the "thought that counts." For example, someone going to the trouble to hunt down that special book, CD or that you offhandedly mentioned being interested in sometimes is more touching than the actual gift itself. I find this also to be the case with gifts that are made by the giver. I love to marvel over the time and effort invested and that makes the gift so much more special.
So during this busy holiday season, I hope we all can find ways to appreciate the significance of insignificant things! Merry Christmas Everyone!