lemonade-012.jpgWe humans love a good party and manage to find excuses for having one on a regular basis. We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, new jobs, weddings, retirements. Our yearly calendar includes festivities for the New Year, Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving and of course the Big Daddy of them all, Christmas. We call friends together to view special events like the Academy Awards or the Grammys and we have elevated the watching of major sporting events to a form of high art in our quest for the perfect gathering.

In our efforts to find distractions from the routine of our daily lives we go to great lengths to make our occasions special. We decorate our homes and prepare special recipes. We don appropriate clothing and take photographs so that we might record our joy for all time. It’s all quite fun and plays to our natures as social beings. Mostly such times make us quite happy, but because we are each highly complex individuals such well intentioned galas sometimes also have the power of creating problems for us.

Our lives are never simply smooth transitions from one era to another. None of us are immune to the slings and arrows of misfortune. We all experience illnesses, loss, heartbreak, loneliness, fear. It is part of our destiny to be up one day and down on another. Challenges pop into our lives without warning. That special person to whom we have given our love proves to be disloyal and hurtful. The phone rings and we hear unbearably bad news. A routine visit to a doctor reveals an unexpected and frightening diagnosis. Our personal world is turned upside down from time to time as inevitably as the rest of humankind celebrates. Suddenly we view all of those lighthearted images on Facebook from a different perspective. We wonder how it is even possible for so many to be so happy when we are so down. Our pain can be quite real and disabling.

There are angels among us who notice such things. Even in the midst of their own revelry they think of people who are less fortunate. While they are buying the hot wings and beer for the Super Bowl party they also take time to contribute time and donations to the Super Bowl of Caring. These are very good people like the little Cub Scout that I know who spent his entire Saturday gathering food for the hungry in the city that hosted this year’s football extravaganza. Perhaps he has learned his generosity from his grandmother who quietly visited her elderly mother in a nursing home on Sunday night while the rest of us were cheering at parties and sports bars. Such gentle and unselfish individuals remind us to be aware of the suffering even as we have a good time.

I think of life as a joyful experience and I believe that it is good for us to find ways to celebrate. I went to two wonderful parties yesterday. The first was for a little boy who turned one. He is both a blessing and a miracle. Before he was even born doctors worried that he might have major heath problems. His parents were counseled to be ready for some rather frightening possibilities. They are faith-filled and were determined to trust in the will of God. They believed with all of their hearts that they would be able to handle whatever challenges lay ahead. Gloriously the baby boy has flourished and enjoyed good health but in an ironic twist his mother has spent much of his first year of life being treated for cancer. She and her family have approached her ordeal with the same level of hope and faith that they exhibited during her pregnancy. At this moment it appears that her treatments are doing exactly what they should and that she will one day be restored to good health again. Yesterday’s party was more than just a milestone for the little boy. It was a celebration of life and hope and never ending love evidenced by the smiling faces of adults and children pausing just long enough from their own trials and tribulations to show their gratitude for the wonders that they have witnessed in this remarkable family.

The second party was centered on a birthday for my sister-in-law Allison. Each year she invites family and friends to enjoy her special day while viewing the Super Bowl which invariably takes place right around the day of her birth. I have always suspected that Allison was born with a big smile on her face and that she filled her family’s home with laughter from the very beginning. She is one of those truly optimistic souls who bring joy and sunshine into every room that she enters. It would be easy to believe that she has somehow been immune to the sorrows and tragedies that stalk the rest of us but that would be false indeed. She has had many crosses to bear, maybe even more than most, but she manages to do so with a determination to continue her journey without becoming overwhelmed. She does whatever she has to do to stay upright and rarely allows her optimism to fade. I suspect that her secret is that she almost never focuses on herself even at her own birthday party. She is always thinking of everyone else and it is in her generous spirit that her true essence resides. It is the stalwart that keeps her from crashing into a state of despondency when her world goes awry. The people at her party all love her because she is a giver who makes each person that she encounters feel special.

It is good and right that we find reasons to celebrate. God knows that we are surrounded by much sadness and want. We don’t have to feel guilty for being happy and nourishing our souls. We need not don hair shirts and beat ourselves for being fortunate. There is a special beauty in a gathering of souls connected by a bond of friendship and love. It is from these small communities of caring that the power of all that is right and just eventually grows. The goodness that we all want for the world begins in living rooms with people smiling and cheering and sharing common bonds. If it takes a ballgame to create such moments, so be it.

For a few hours yesterday many of us forgot about our problems and our differences. We enjoyed the amazing talent of individuals who are among the best at what they do. We tapped our feet as Lady Gaga showed us how to come together by remembering who we are and what we have in common. We sat with people that we love and sent posts to friends who were with us even as they were far away. It wasn’t just about the food or the decorations or the game itself. Somehow we all knew that it was mostly about our humanity and our hopes and our dreams. Sometimes it is a truly good thing to stop in our tracks and allow ourselves to just enjoy the moment. It’s how we renew our energies and mend our divisions. Perhaps the best advice that any of us might follow is to seize the day. There is something quite lovely about making life a party in which we honor the best of ourselves and the people around us. Finding reasons for happiness is not an ignoring of reality. It is a celebration of it. So when you find yourself losing hope gather all of your lemons, make some lemonade and have a party.

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