National Catholic Reporter
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Starting Point
Issue Date:  June 6, 2003

The lights of Colleen and Erin


Night before last I was at Winnie’s house, and her granddaughters were there. Erin is 12 and Colleen is 7. They were there for an overnight stay, and we sat around chatting and watching television. Erin’s hair is a light sandy brown, and Colleen is as blond as can be. Both have green eyes that sparkle. I sat in a chair watching them and the television. Erin was absorbed in a book. I asked her if she liked to read, and she said that she read all the time. I noticed that even though there was a lot of laughter and chatting, she could read and find a world through that. She smiled as she read. She was reading Edith Hamilton’s classic work on mythology.

Colleen was eager to show me all that she had in her little brightly colored overnight bag. She reached in and took out a plastic container that held a ball. She smiled at me, then giggled and took the ball out of the container. “Watch this, Jeff,” she said. She bounced the ball on the floor and I was fascinated when the ball lit up. There were small lights in it, and as it bounced the lights flashed and flickered. Erin was absorbed in her book, but in no way oblivious to what was going on about her. She was, I thought, finding lights of her own, lights that I hope she may share one day in writing or speaking about what she loves about myth and meaning and gods and goddesses. Her little sister bounced the ball and the lights danced and flickered.

They are very different. Erin seems to find light through the written word and seemed so at peace as words passed from the page into her heart. Colleen delighted in watching the ball bounce and the lights shine. She especially enjoyed watching me watching her and her little bit of magic.

I wonder how they will grow as the years pass. I knew, as I watched them, that they were already responding to the light that is life in ways that they do not yet understand -- but are surely willing to share with joy.

I told Erin that I had studied myth and would be glad to help her if she has to write a paper. She looked at me and said, “Awesome. Cool. We can talk about it.” And I told Colleen that maybe someday she could tell me why it is that she so loves the little ball that bounces with light. When I asked her that, she laughed a laugh that made me think that she will throw her gifts to life and brighten the lives of many people. She is the light that she bounces. Erin is the light that she is reading.

I even got a kiss goodnight -- another kind of light that shines through kids and us older folks as well.

The word bounces through life, in words and plastic and human hearts. That night as I went to bed I imagined a world that, if shook just a bit, would glow with light and warmth. And I thought how the Incarnation has made that happen. That night was very dark. There was no moon, and the stars were not visible. But I closed my eyes and thought of the light of words and smiles and kisses and overnight stays, and knew that the light that is God is all around, in the round of plastics and eyes and kisses and this wondrous earth that glows and shines with just a bit of a bounce is the love that is in each of us.

Fr. James Stephen Behrens lives and writes in Covington, La.

National Catholic Reporter, June 6, 2003

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