Present packs a punch

Come in! And know me better, man!

Your arrival signals a welcome, like a surprise party. Waiting in the best gathering place in your home is the larger-than-life Ghost of Christmas Present to your Ebenezer heart needing a bit of a kick-start this year. Huge and hearty, always laughing, enjoying the moment, Present is eye contact and wonder, full of zest and vigor and sweets and gifts. He is groomed and lively. He grows old as he wears out his welcome. He knows only your now and forgets your past. He cleverly links elbows with you and guides you around the party engaging with the people of your present. His bad memory comes in clutch as his go-to is conversation and questions, flattering each interaction into a level up from acquaintance to friend.

He somehow has no fear. The future doesn’t frighten him. No ominous clouds roll past his head. He is present. He is here. He is grace in the moment.

In his poem, ‘To A Mouse,’ Robert Burns rescues a rodent from a near disastrous run in with his own plow, lifts, then speaks to him. He greets the mouse, he apologizes, and then he recognizes a sad comparison: that the mouse, though cold and newly homeless, is better off than he is because the mouse has no worry or fear. “The present only touches thee,” he says with the disappointed backwards glance in hindsight at failures in his life. He even looks ahead at “prospects drear,” to which he can only “guess and fear.”

Perhaps that’s the secret. Present people have no fear. Here. Now. Life gets so harried, bustling, crazy busy. We shop for things we think they’ll like or need. We rush to get those deals. I saw a fight break out on Black Friday once when I was young. Two older women were after the same Mickey Mouse snow globe. I don’t know who won or if managers had to get involved. They were handing out pretzel samples nearby and it seemed more important than the outcome of the fight.

I have to talk myself into parties. I love them. I’m an odd extrovert who makes an entrance but prefers safe corners and tasks to that limelight, long honest conversations to snippets of weather chatter.

So I am determined to break my past patterns forged by fear or worry this year. To be a Burns is to recognize and move forward after realizing we have broken more than a mouse’s house with our tempestuous worry, doubt, and fear. We’ve broken the hope found in claiming the moment. We must stop and refocus, gazing deeply into the given. Healing comes from these gifts of grace.

When we enter the warmth of outspread arms, we pause now closer to another’s heart, where the beat is unstopped by tomorrow’s what ifs or yesterday’s pace. It’s here we stay and say to passersby, “Come in! And know me better, man!”

STEPHANIE PLATTER is a teacher, writer, film critic, and coffee lover who is always up for a good conversation at a party if you find her in the corner of the kitchen.

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