The Christmas parade has to be one of the best events in our little town. People show up hours ahead of time to guarantee a spot on the route, the churches and businesses spend countless hours and not just a few dollars on the beautiful floats, and the candy flows like water from the parade participants to the children lining the street. What’s not to like about a Christmas parade?
It was all wasted on the next to the youngest grandchild this year. She was okay for the first set of police cars, who momentarily triggered their sirens as they passed, and the first few floats weren’t too bad, but after the third or fourth fire engine with sirens blaring came by, she had had enough. “Me scared Christmas parade!” were the words which accompanied the sobbing, so the beautiful girl came in to sit with Grandpa and watch the activities from the sofa in the living room, safe from the racket, the unfamiliar people, and the shadowy forms that moved in the dark, illuminated only by the flashing beacons on the emergency vehicles and the twinkle-lights on the floats. Not that Grandpa was complaining, mind you. I had elected to stay inside, the cold air having activated a minor episode of breathing problems earlier in the day. So, her company was welcome, even if her conversation wasn’t completely intelligible to my untrained ears.
Knowing that she was missing out on the excitement and the distribution of candy and balloons, I suggested venturing back out a time or two, only to be met with the original plaint of “Me scared!” and the hint of approaching tears. So we were content to sit and view the scene, waving to the costumed children and adults on the passing floats and commenting on the changing vista, from dancers, to tractors, to more fire engines. I’ve watched the parade from the press of the crowd enough times to know that our perspective this time was tame and unexciting, but it was all the frightened little girl could manage tonight. Her brothers and sister finally came in from the cold, bubbling and excited about what they had experienced, but this little one was happily naive, not interested in the joy she might have missed, but only in the fear averted.
We laugh at the unreasonable fear of a toddler, but I wonder what we are afraid of from our advanced and allegedly intelligent viewpoint. We live our lives, many times paralyzed with fears which we can’t admit to ourselves, much less to each other. The list of “phobias” is seemingly as endless as it is ridiculous, from chronomentrophobia (fear of clocks), to phalacrophobia (fear of becoming bald), to xenophobia (fear of strangers), with a host of other irrational fears in between. Even those of us who don’t suffer from these fears, labeled as extreme, have things which we fear and keep to ourselves, things real or imagined which keep us from achieving our potential, which cause us to view life from the safety of the couch, never venturing into the street to experience life where it really happens.
I have spent the better part of my life terrified that people wouldn’t like me. I don’t mean the manufactured me, the contrived man who usually stands in front of customers, or acquaintances, or congregations in church. I mean that I’m afraid they won’t like the real me, the me I know myself to be, warts, scars, and all. In part, writing is a way for me to open the curtain, little by little, on that person. The fear that has kept me from doing that before is the same fear that the “Great and Powerful Oz” demonstrated in the Wizard story. I’m afraid that you’ll realize that I’m a humbug, a fake, and will no longer respect me. Look at the great phantasm, the contrivance, who inspires respect, awe, and an expectation of predictable outcomes. Pay no attention to the little, terrified flimflam man behind the curtain!
My sister asked me the other day if I plan to reveal every embarrassing story about myself. While the truth is that I won’t be disclosing all, I intend to keep telling the ones that, within the bounds of good taste, expose how I got to be who I am. There are a number of my experiences which would implicate others who haven’t given permission for me to pull aside the curtain for them, so they’ll remain untold. But, for all of us, the person we are becoming is shaped by our life experiences and our spiritual journey. So, this is me, peeking through the picture window, giving you a glimpse of the real me and getting up my nerve to go out onto the street, into the noise and turmoil. I fully expect that the process will take quite some time, but for now, it’s a start.
With the little girl, I’m still declaring with quivering lips, “Me scared!” And like her, I have Someone with strong arms and a patient heart, who is ready to comfort and hold me until I’m able to face the dark, scary world. He’s there for all of us.
“Not half the storms that threatened me
E’er broke upon my head,
Not half the pains I’ve waited for
E’er racked me on my bed.
Not half the clouds that drifted by
Have overshadowed me
Nor half the dangers ever came
I fancied I could see.”
(Anonymous [with thanks to my brother, Aaron for the reminder])