There is a small pond in our neighborhood which changes drastically this time of year. On some winter days the sparkling water is marked with the wake of ducks swimming, other days it is frozen over with a sheet of white ice, and sometimes a ghostly caldron of steam hovers over it. Wintertime allows us to witness the miracle of change in real time.
It’s fascinating to see the water in the pond change from liquid to solid to gas and back again. The fact is, everything with mass and weight is made of matter and all matter can change. Stars and planets, butterflies and birds, rocks and rivers, you and I are all made of matter. Which means we all have to ability to change – a little or a lot.
Winston Churchill said, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” Literature is filled with dynamic characters who undergo a positive transformation. Ebenezer Scrooge, Beauty’s Beast, Daddy Warbucks and everyone off to see the Wizard are just a few well-known characters who by the end of the story make a change for the better.
One of my favorite childhood novels is The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. A sour little girl named Mary is sent to live in a sad and lonely place. As she tends a neglected garden, joy blossoms in her own heart changing the little girl and everyone around her.
History is marked by people whose change of heart changed the world. Rosa Parks bravely changed her mind about sitting in the back of the bus. The Apostle Paul saw the light on the road to Damascus. Abraham Lincoln’s view on the evils of slavery evolved. Call it flip-flopping, but George Bernard Shaw wrote, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
Ordinary people can change, too. Homeboy Industries is the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world. Every year it helps thousands of former gang members become valuable citizens. Founder Father Gregory Joseph Boyle expressed the ability to help people change their lives by quoting poet Galway Kinnell. “Sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness.”
It’s said a leopard doesn’t change its spots. Certainly, we must be wise in our interactions, but we can always leave the door open for change. We can start by looking for the loveliness in ourselves in in others. We can break our own self-defeating and hurtful habits. We can have hope that the people we care about can and will do the same. Just think of a few people wreaking havoc in the world right now and imagine how things might change if only they did.
Perceived injustices, old hurts, political division, discouraging headlines, personal challenges, fear and pure stubbornness can make us as cold as ice. Maybe the dramatic transformation we see in our winter landscapes is nature’s reminder to let our hearts melt a little, show grace and have faith that in this new year we can learn, grow and change into the very best version of ourselves. §
“Change is only another word for growth, another synonym for learning.”
~ Charles Handy, Irish author and philosopher