That’s one of the Missy phrases that triggers instant attention every time, especially when accompanied by laughter. Our disabled ward likes to pull pranks from time to time, and the more she knows she’s doing something “wrong” – usually putting something where it doesn’t belong – the more jovial she’ll be.
I looked up from the book I had gotten out, on the alert … and laughed as well. Once again, Missy had just swiped my glasses from where they were resting and tried them on. My oversize lenses framed her face surprisingly well, especially when paired with her crooked grin.
“Go show Heather!”
Off she went. Soon Heather’s laughter echoed as well. And then later that night, after we’d put Missy to bed, she noted something.
“You know,” she said, “it’s amazing how much she looks like Andy with those on. I mean, I always knew there was a resemblance but with those glasses, you can really see it.”
She showed me the pictures – one she’d just taken, the other an old shot of Missy’s brother Andy, who had died in 2006 at the age of 40. Same smile and laughing eyes. Same coloring and facial structure. And now, even the big glasses were similar.
No doubt. None in the world.
I’m sure you know the feeling. It’s a little startling, isn’t it? And that sort of déjà vu can lurk around any corner, whether it’s a familiar face, a well-known location, or an old time that seems to become new again.
Maybe especially that last one. Lately, at least.
That may sound a little strange to say. After all, these last 12 months or so have seen an unprecedented use of the word “unprecedented.” (Sorry.) Maybe in reaction to that, we keep reaching out for comparisons that will make everything make sense. Are we once again seeing the stubbornness and desperation of the Great Pandemic of 1918? The unrest and division of 1968? Are we reprising the corruption of the Watergate years, the economic uncertainty of the Depression, the political uncertainty of Europe between the wars?
Ultimately, of course, every time is its own. But as the old saying goes, even though history doesn’t truly repeat, it often rhymes. It’s still made by us – and our hearts, our minds, still have a sibling’s resemblance to those who came before, however much the world around us may have changed.
And so we find ourselves dealing with the same sorts of core issues given new faces and forms. Fear. Injustice. Uncertainty. Prejudice. Anger. Round and round we turn, sometimes reaching for something better, sometimes grasping only for ourselves.
No, not so different at all.
And therefore, maybe not so hopeless as we might be tempted to think.
At this time of year, it’s common to quote the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Maybe a little TOO common, as we grow tempted to set aside meaningful action for beautiful words, or adopt a spirit of complacency instead of struggle. But with that warning in mind, his words on accepting the Nobel Peace Prize seem to fit these “similar times”:
“When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds and our nights become darker than a thousand midnights,” he said, “we will know that we are living in the creative turmoil of a genuine civilization struggling to be born.”
That’s not a pat on the head. It’s not an excuse to sit aside and say “Oh, well, things will work themselves out.” A struggle not joined is lost. But it is a call to hope, a reminder that working for hope is not futile. That the worst times carry the seeds of the best – if we’re willing to put forth the labor to plant them and help them grow.
Similar times. Similar fears. Similar promise, if we can face the moment with hope, courage and effort.
If we don’t?