Yesterday, at Porter Square Books, I ran into Wendy Jehlen. In her mid-thirties, daughter of good friends Alain and Pat Jehlen, mother of two beautiful daughters, Wendy is a gifted dancer who’s also an interpreter for the deaf. Seconds before she’d entered the bookstore, apparently, Wendy had learned that the mother of one of her daughter’s friends had just died. “She was my age,” Wendy said tearfully.
The grim faces of the people I’d passed on the way to Porter Square very much on my mind (people, I’m guessing, suffering from what’s happening to the economy), Wendy’s sad news, and knowing how many of my own friends and family are presently going through hard times, I commented on what a challenging Christmas this was going to be.
Wendy’s face brightened: “There’s a wonderful piece written right after Pearl Harbor,” she informed me. “I’ll try to send it to you. But basically it’s saying ‘Christmas happens even in the midst of hard times.’ ”
Ah ha! We’d talked about exactly this same concept in yoga class last week. Annie Hoffman, our amazing teacher, had read us something about how we’re essentially and fundamentally joyous beings. Sounds like the Quaker construct of Inner Light, doesn’t it? Put in another way: Within each of us is Joy, Light, That of God, Love, or as this shiny, hopeful, loving and generous whatever-it-is thing is sometimes called at this time of year, Christmas Spirit. (Since we’re talking constructs, here, I can be a little sloppy with language, right? YOU try writing about the Unexplainable!)
That’s the thing about essential and fundamental: Like the sun, it’s always there. Even at night. A New Yorker short story about a deeply unhappy family on a ski trip who, to their surprise, were touched by the spirit of the season, ended: “Christmas happens.”