Living With Contrast

“The Giver”

A few weeks ago, we went to a play at the high school.  It is the same high school that Mr. U was the principal for 16 years and that all of our boys attended.  (Yes, he was the principal while our sons attended… and yes, that could be a whole other post.  Suffice it to say that you get more unsolicited information about your children than most parents.  Smile.)  Anyway, we wanted to support the drama teacher that he used to work with, as well as the students, so we made it a date night with dinner and a play.  The name of the play was “The Giver.”   I had not heard of it before, but I always enjoy live theatre, so I was game to attend.  It never ceases to amaze me how talented these teenagers are.  I was scared to death just to give a five-minute speech in my communications class when I was in high school. 

The Giver” is a play adapted from the book by Lois Lowry.  Apparently, the book was banned at some point due to inappropriate content, but the high school play version was squeaky clean.  The story centers around 12-year-old Jonas who lives in a perfect world that is under control and safe.  There is no war, sadness, fear, or pain.  Sounds like utopia, right?  Except that there is no joy or happiness either.  It is a world void of any strong emotions.  Young Jonas is chosen to be trained as The GiverThe Giver is the only person that keeps the memories of real pain and real joy.  We observe Jonas as he experiences deep pain and sadness, but it is tempered with the unbelievable joy and happiness that he also gets to experience for the first time.  His world turns from gray to all the extraordinary colors of the rainbow. 

I walked away from the play with a deeper appreciation of the contrasts in life and how we need one to have the other. We cannot fully appreciate great happiness without also experiencing the deep crevice of sadness.  I don’t want or choose the sadness that enters my life, but sometimes you just need to sit with it, knowing it will not last forever.  There is the deep grief and sadness of missing my mom who passed away a little over a year ago, that lives alongside the resounding joy of welcoming a new grandbaby into our lives.   This contrast of emotions sharpens my appreciation and awareness of life.

Characters and Contrast

I often think it would sure be nice if everyone thought like I did, or at least agreed with me.  However, it is the contrast of personalities that make our world more fun and interesting. When I was a nurse working in the hospital, I always found it a challenge to try and win over the crusty old character who complained about everything:  the lousy food, the Dr. who did not know anything, the nurses who kept waking him up in the middle of the night to take his blood pressure, bla, bla, bla.   But after you had gained this patient’s trust, you would see a smile crack through or a story about their past slip out.   Come to find out, that person had a very interesting story to tell.   

Note the sign that the “old codgers” put up on the tree at their fishing corner on the lake.
The bottom line of the weathered sign used to say, “old fish stories told here.”

I grew up on a small lake and for several years my parent’s owned a boat rental.  They thought it would be a great way to teach us kids how to manage a business.  We had about a dozen small row boats that people could rent, along with a few 7-horsepower motors in case you wanted to move a little quicker on the water.  We came across quite a few “characters” in that business.   The one that stands out the most was an older widow, Mrs. Woods.  We were always expected to address adults, especially elders, by their formal title.   So, “Mrs. Woods” it was to all of us, even my parents.  

Mrs. Woods was bold and opinionated. She had a world of living etched into the crevices of her leather face.  To a seven-year-old, who lived in a sheltered world, she was scary and intimidating.    Mrs. Woods loved to fish, so she came out to the boat rental frequently, wearing layers of old fisherman’s gear that had a distinct odor to them.  Sometimes she would ride her bike or even walk to the boat rental and after she was done fishing my mom would often give her a ride back to her house in town.  As far as I knew, Mrs. Wood survived on fish and the income from her costume rentals.

One afternoon my sister needed a costume and so my mom took us into the depths of Mrs. Wood’s eclectic house. It was a dark, older home with several small rooms that were packed to the ceiling with layers of beautiful, detailed costumes.  Aside from being an avid fisherwoman, Mrs. Woods was also a talented seamstress and had a costume for every possible event.  She would riffle through the layers and layers of costumes in the dim light and know exactly where to find the one she was looking for.  She was a businesswoman and everyone in town knew, if you needed a unique costume, you went to see Mrs. Woods.  Mrs. Woods was the epitome of a “character” and my young, sheltered life was richer for having known her.  Contrasts. 

Knowing Mrs. Woods prepared me for a life of meeting characters and to appreciate them – to dig deep and find their stories.  Because, just maybe, a craggy old fisherwoman is also a seamstress that makes beautiful, intricate costumes. 

The last boat left from the boat rental business.

Retirement and Contrast

Life is full of contrasts and, as with so many things, it is the contrast that adds texture.  We appreciate the warmth and color of spring more after a long, cold winter of white snow and gray skies.  And, as young Jonas learned, without the contrast of emotions, the world would also be dull and gray.  No color.  Bland and boring.  It is the same with retirement.   We can choose to let it drift into a beige, ho-hum existence or we can make the effort to add striking contrast and color. We can live an ordinary life, or we can live an extraordinary life full of character.  It is all in our attitude. 

“Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Abraham Lincoln

So, I salute all of the Mrs. Woods out there and the other colorful characters that add contrast and interest to help us see the world through a different lens. 

6 comments on “Living With Contrast

  1. Every blog post you write resonates with me. You are such a talented writer!! I hope you plan to publish your compiled posts. They outshine Chicken Soup for the Soul.

    1. Hi Sue –

      Wow – that is such a huge compliment. Thank you for your kind, encouraging words and for joining me on this retirement journey. You just made my day!

    2. Hi Cindy –

      Thanks so much! Here is to all of the interesting characters in our lives that make life more interesting!

  2. Loved this post Marian! I first read the giver about five years ago, and it completely changed my life… It is such a thought-provoking story. You are a gifted writer and I want to tell you how much I enjoy these posts… Keep them coming.😎

    1. Hi Robyn –

      I wish that I had heard about “The Giver” sooner. It really does make you think a little differently. Thank you so much for your generous comments and encouragement – I so appreciate it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *