Beauty in unexpected places


I don’t know about you, but I go to great lengths to avoid calling customer service departments. I’ll deal with phone or internet issues as long as I can before I am willing to invest two or more hours to call for help, listening through long messages telling me to press 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 but never actually the department I really need — not to mention the 4- or 8-hour time block they insist you set aside for their representative to stop by and flick a switch and make things magically work again. It seems like there’s always so much red tape. Before the person on the phone will even talk to you, you have to tell them your mom’s maiden name. The name of your favorite elementary school teacher (or first family pet)? Make and model of your first car? Favorite singing group? Last four of your Social Security number? Birthdate? Account number? Favorite superhero? Exact count of the hair follicles on your head? And how many of those are gray? Grr.

So when my friend Tami’s gas was turned off — a mistake, not due to lack of payment — she was really upset at all the hoops she had to jump through to get it back on. Her frustration built and built, but what choice did she have? They needed heat.

When, at long last, the gas man came to re-light the pilot lights, he noticed something. Tami’s water heater was venting carbon monoxide into their basement. They never would have known about this potentially lethal problem if their gas hadn’t been turned off.

There are times when we feel that our prayers have gone unanswered. Is it that God doesn’t hear us? Or is it that He doesn’t care? Or maybe, just maybe, we wonder if He in fact caused the situations that bring frustration and anger and sadness and a whole range of other emotions. We’re quick to judge whether something is good or bad. I think we tend to forget that sometimes what seems on the surface to be bad may actually be good. A blessing in disguise, if you will.

Just like graffiti. I know I’m not supposed to like it. I realize that the act of painting on a brick wall or the side of a train is trespassing, a form of violation and destruction. I’m aware that all of that is true. The thing is, though, some of the graffiti is actually quite beautiful. It can be art. Beauty where it’s least expected, often found in run-down, decrepit areas. As I pass through those places, I look around more, my heart lightening as I see the bright colors, bold outlines, and strong strokes. The sheer exuberance found in creating something where there was nothing before. Turning it into something new.

You have every right to disagree with me and disapprove of the markings on the buildings and bridges and walls you pass. I can’t really defend my position from a legal standpoint, just from an emotional one. While I don’t want to condone the activity, I can’t help but admire the beauty in the finished product.

I’ll have to try to remember that the next time the world seems to be conspiring against me, putting up obstacle after obstacle, making my blood pressure rise. 

After a couple deep breaths, I hope I find myself looking around, like a kid on a scavenger hunt. Anticipating the thrill of discovery. Attempting to look around me with open eyes and an open mind. Trying to find beauty where I least expect to see it.

Because I’m certain it’s there somewhere.

This is a small representation of the high-quality writings you’ll find in every issue of TIFERET.

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