This week my husband finished working at a job he really, really loved. It's the only time he has ever been sad to leave a job, and he was very sad. He was working in mental health as a case worker and for the past year and a half and we tried to make it work, financially, because the good he was doing was worth our own struggle, but it came to the point where keeping his job was beginning to cost us money, and at that point it was time to let it go. He'll be working in town now, which is great, and doing similar work to what he was doing before, which is also great, but still, the move was not emotionally seamless.
While we were discussing this shift in jobs, I told him how I felt his two years there had really made him a better person. He had this same job ten years ago when we were newlyweds, and since then he's had different jobs and four children, and has worked with a large range of people, but something about this most recent time in this job really brought out the best in him. And I was thinking about that and I was thinking about the Transcendentalist movement (which I've been spending an awful lot of time thinking about lately, by the way) and I thought, "You know, I think all humans are really excellent people at their core. Some just need more chipping away than others to find that bright center."
Now, you might read that and think that my husband was a big jerk-face before this job, and that would NOT be true. He was a fine, nice person. But this job chipped away a little more of his roughness and really brought out the inner shine. And it made me consider that maybe we are all super shiny on the inside, if we could find something that could chip away our outer layers to let more of the shine spill out.
This has been on my mind for a few weeks as we go through this job transition, and then tonight the girls were reading bedtime stories and Greta read the Russian story of "The Snow Girl." In case you are unfamiliar, this story is the same tired tale of the two old people who love each other so very much and their only sadness is that they have no children, so then they somehow come to have a child that isn't quite.... well.... normal. Thumbelina. Tom Thumb. The Gingerbread Boy. Pinocchio (did he have a mother, or just Giupetto?) Anyway, in this case, the parents have this daughter made of snow, and they are so happy but they wish she could come inside and sit by the fire and eat the hot cabbage soup instead of her crushed ice in a wooden bowl that the mother fixes her for every meal. And the old lady cries a lot. And she's also not a very good listener, so even though the daughter tells her that she has to continue sleeping outside in the snow and keeping her distance from hot cabbage soup, the mother just can't take that, and on Christmas Eve brings her in (I'm sorry if I'm giving away this story, but let me assure you, it's an easy one to guess as you're reading it) and the girl melts away. (Duh.) But then, surprise! the snow girl has been turned into a REAL GIRL in the night and everyone is happy and the old lady cries some more.
Anyhow, the point of the story is that all the old man and woman wanted in the WHOLE WORLD was to be able to TAKE CARE OF SOMETHING. They didn't want a child as a status symbol, they didn't want a child so they could order her around. They didn't want a child just because they were tired of chopping wood and making cabbage soup every day and wanted someone else to do it for them. They wanted a child so they would have something to take care of, and their only unhappiness with the child made of snow was that they felt they weren't taking good enough care of her. And this comes back to the shiny goodness that is inside all of us.
I guess I believe that there are horrid people in the world. I do. But FOR THE MOST PART, I really think we all have an inner desire to love and care for something. Not necessarily for everyone (although, if you're looking for the recipe for world peace...) just something. And I think this is why people have office plants, and this is why people have pets that they absolutely adore, this is why people fill up their houses with tumbling rugrats. It's easy to look at someone and think, "Okay, wow, she reeeeeaaaallly loves her house plants, what is up with that?" It's because THOSE PLANTS NEED HER. We are all searching for something whose survival depends on us. Cats, dogs, plants, children. And it isn't because we're narcissists who want to be worshipped, it's because we all have that shiny inside that's filled with love and we want to let it out in the form of caring for another creature. And those creatures, and other people and experiences that require some sacrifice and love, inevitably chip away at our hard outer shell and let a little more of our Goodness Rays out.
Doesn't that make happiness seem so attainable?!?!?
So there you go. The Secret of Life is love and shiny insides. Let's let our light spill out! Chip, chip!