The first time I saw the movie Star Wars, (it didn’t have the subtitle of A New Hope in 1977) my favorite scene was one that had made me laugh. After their harrowing ordeal in the trash compactor with well placed camera angles and the musical score compelling the viewer to hold their breath, the little droid R2D2 manages to stop the converging walls from killing them all. The heroes realize this and start shouting and whooping for joy. C-3PO, hearing this exultation thinks they’re screaming in pain and dying. I thought this mistake on 3PO’s part was hilarious. And maybe when I laughed out loud in the theatre part of that was relief also.
The way the intrepid heroes were able to laugh while still in the bowels of the universe’s most evil battle station also amazed me. In fact it reminded me of Gilligan’s Island. The castaways not only had to put up with being stranded on an uncharted island, but often times they were in mortal danger. Once they thought the island was sinking. Another time they were the target of a ballistic missile. Always in the end they learned that they would not be killed off and live for yet another week of wacky adventures. As the show closed the cast would cheer and shout for joy that they were not going to die after all. And as a young child watching them I considered something: They should be like that all the time.
I thought about how an escape from death shouldn’t be the only reason to be happy that you’re going to live. You should always be happy that you’re going to live. That’s what I thought anyway. I had not experienced life’s harsh realities like having an admired mentor sliced in half or a series cancelation. My youthful simplicity couldn’t comprehend that there ever would be a reason not to be happy to be alive another day. Maybe there is a lot to say for that child-like innocence. Maybe that’s why we’re supposed to be like little children to the kingdom of God.
Some times you can't bring yourself to take joy even in much at all. This deep and dark December is taking its toll as usual. We as a family are trying not to overschedule. I try to stay busy at whatever I’m doing at home or work. But like I wrote last week, the feelings can slowly ambush you. Even if the walls stopped closing in, you still are sitting there in the muck and darkness with only the prospect of more hurt once you’re out of this. You begin to think that you’re better off just staring the walls up again. Because there will never be a way out.
When you go out this month, you may be feeling joyful or you may be down at the other end. For the people on the high side, consider that person in line at the store with you. They could be sharing a bench with you somewhere, in the car next to you, behind the counter smiling though the pain, or in your own home. I have no specific suggestions for when you meet these folks. You can stop the walls and even open the doors. But the tractor beam. That invisible force field that gets stronger every moment it’s engaged must be shut down. But if you’re one of those who has escaped there is something you can do. I just can’t say what. Everyone has something they can do. Maybe it’s something extra in the tip jar, a thoughtful favor, a kind, patient word or just a smile. At the very least, they might see that someone is standing outside and there is a way out for them too.
I’m standing outside. I don’t feel quite like shouting for joy yet. I’m still covered in garbage and face obstacles ahead. But I’m pretty sure the tractor beam is off. It can be done.