The other day I heard a kid say he didn’t believe in Santa Claus. Now of course this is said every year by kids all over the place—whether they’re too old to believe or they never had the chance to believe at all. But this kid was little. Really little. And my first reaction was slight shock. And then sadness. Because he was so certain. There was no room for discussion. And I am a dreamer who likes to discuss. And I’m usually uncertain about pretty much everything.
Which got me thinking. Not unusual, because I spend approximately 99.97598 percent of my time thinking about things. I’ve tried to stop. I can’t. There is no AA for this sort of thing.
So as I smiled at the little boy and resisted the urge to wrap him in a hug—which probably would have garnered screams from his mother of attempted kidnapping by me—I started thinking about this.
What do I believe? I mean, really believe.
It’s a broad question with about a million different answers, but in the five minutes I allowed myself before turning my thoughts to the caramel popcorn on sale at Dillard’s, here’s what I came up with:
I believe in a God who loves me. All of me, not just the part that makes him look good. Which means he loves the me who makes mistakes and thinks bad thoughts and lives with regrets and sometimes blames him for bad situations. Which means he loves the ungrateful me and the me who sometimes cusses and the me who hurts people and the me who isn’t perfect. That me. The me that—when it comes down to it—I don’t think He’s all that disappointed with.
I believe in people. In messed up people and happy people and sad people and people who wish they’d made better decisions. In confident people and kind people who tend to see the best in situations. In bitter people and angry people who tend to think life has dealt them a crappy hand. In successful people and struggling people and people starting over and people still hoping for a second chance. In the dreamers and the weird people and the go-getters and the slackers. People are people, and we’re all running the same race. For that reason, I believe very little is irredeemable. I believe there’s hope for everyone.
I believe in love. In lifelong love and second-chance love and love that heals broken hearts. In romantic love and friendship love and soulmate love and all the love in-between. In love that doesn’t hurt and love that stays steadfast. In love that believes all things and accepts all things and isn’t based on conditions. In love that doesn’t need public displays, but that grows and thrives in private. In real love. In timeless love. In love that covers everything, even the things we don’t like about ourselves. In love that takes the things we don’t like about ourselves and turns them into poetry.
I believe in friendship. In close friendship and distant friendship and friendship that doesn’t require constant contact to exist. In friendship that builds and never tears down. In friendship not based on competition or expectation. In friendship that believes the best and endures the worst. In friendship based on what’s inside and nothing superficial. In friendship that doesn’t demand and doesn’t withhold and doesn’t provoke anger. In friendship that cheers on success and grieves for failure. In friendship that never gives up and always believes in the chance to start again.
I believe in rainstorms and sunsets and moonlight and nighttime spent under the stars. I believe in thunder and lightning and walking without an umbrella. I believe in sitting lakeside and dangling bare feet in the water and in the healing power of ripping waves.
I believe in listening and speaking only when there’s something valuable to say. I believe in silent support and in not trying to fix problems. I believe in affirmation and propping others up and keeping ego down. I believe in speaking life and shutting up on criticisms and apologizing when wrong and asking for and offering forgiveness. I believe in open hands and outstretched arms and defending and not accusing. I believe in soft tongues and softer hearts and bendable opinions and lively discussions.
I believe in all these things.
I fail at all these things.
But I’m trying.
And where belief is concerned, sometimes trying is the most important part. Because belief isn’t tangible or concrete. It isn’t something we can point to or prove or force on others. But it is something we can practice. And practice always leaves room for failure.
Then again, to live is to fail. To fail is to learn. To learn is to empathize. To empathize is to understand. To understand is to accept. To accept is to love.
And when everything else is washed away and we’re left standing in the aftermath…
Isn’t love the thing that matters most?
PS: I do believe in Santa Claus. Of course I do. Because he’s real. Really real. As real as the characters that live inside my head. And they’re real too.