From a flat and external perspective, The Midnight Mission in Los Angeles handed out toys to approximately 2000 kids on Christmas. And me and 5 friends left Las Vegas at 4:00 AM to be a small part of the 300 volunteers who showed up at the 100-year-old mission to lend a hand. And that’s a nice story, the kind you might see on the news. In fact, that’s where I clipped most of the facts.
But in addition to expressing a nice story (whose expression, no doubt, always seems to hope that its shameless self lauding is missed or overlooked in the glare of the story’s niceness), I want to talk specifically and emphatically about a little girl named Anna with the hope of losing myself in her and, in the wake of that loss, lose the need for self lauding altogether.
First of all, let it be stated clearly for the record that I wanted to be with my kids on Christmas morning but a series of scheduling confusions made that impossible. I didn’t want to stay awake for 24 hours, drive to LA, serve food to homeless people all day, and drive back. I wanted to be with my kids and, barring that, I wanted to eat chow mein and watch movies in my underwear. I also want a better job. And I need a bigger TV with a magnificent audio system, you know? One that makes you feel like you’re really there. This paragraph consists of things I want and it’s a fair rendering of my default style of thought. Sizing up the world next to how I feel and think about it while taking special note of what’s wrong with everything. The addiction recovery people call this being trapped in the bondage of self, but I call it consciousness.
So it was an accident when I said nothing to a guy named Bob who asked me what I was doing on Christmas. And I accidentally said I guess so when he asked me if I wanted to go feed homeless people in Los Angeles because the truth was, no, I didn’t want to do that at all. I’d rather eat candy and look at Facebook. Actually, I want something sexy to break out with famous people and I’d also like to do some interviews.
Anyway, when we got there, it turned out that we weren’t going to feed homeless people after all. We were going to give toys to little kids and before I could fully process why I didn’t want to do this, I was holding a little girl’s hand. Her name was Anna. She was wearing pink sweatpants. Sometimes, when I’m walking alone at night the moon will catch me off guard and I will stop and I will stare at the moon and I will think things that don’t seem like things I would usually think.
Anna, 4, was very calm. She had the patience of someone who spent a lot of time waiting, just waiting for whatever, whatever might happen, so she looked up at me and I looked down at her and, together, we waited for whatever might happen until I said It’s very nice to meet you, Anna and she smiled. And then that was that, by which I mean: it was not what it was before.
I was suddenly consumed by wonder about Anna that questioned everything about her, which led to provisional answers that led to more questions and so on. It was my job to help Anna find the perfect Christmas present and, in order for us to reach that end, I had to ask lots of questions, watch her nod and shake her head, watch the way she touched toys, the way she reacted to toys, the way her eyes focused and the way her lips curled. In order to help Anna, I had to imagine being Anna; I had to quickly ascertain Anna’s horizon of playing concerns and assess what toy would yield the most Christmas joy. In the end, it turned out to be an enormous castle play set. Anna went large. She could barely hold the box in the span of her arms. That castle! It had a very spacious purple balcony. Anna would no doubt enjoy many nights counting the stars from her majestic purple balcony with perhaps a prince or a cat or calmly alone. After returning Anna to her mother, I watched them walk away as Anna’s residency in my imagination continued to grow. I wondered where she was going, just then, and much later. I wondered if there was more I could do for Anna and other little kids than helping them pick out a Christmas present.
And it wasn’t until just then that I became self-conscious again, wanting to do more than I was right then able, me, a self again, and insofar as I was encircled, in bondage. And only from this perspective of being enclosed was I able to intuit what had just happened in the process of such focused attention on what Anna wanted. By imagining that I, myself, was Anna, 4, I was too free to notice. There then, lost, is no one in want or need of anything. Only in oblivious forgetting can Anna truly stand in awe of the moon on her majestic purple balcony. I wonder where you are today.
Read more from me at Black Hockey Jesus.
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