April 11, 2014

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Easter is the answer to the human condition

Cynthia DewesRemember those Burma Shave signs along the roadsides? They always bore a cheerful message in rhyme that amused us as we tooled along. They were, and are, just one of the many surprises we may see as we travel.

The Burma Shave signs were commercially motivated, but they’re not the only happy messages out there. I am always amazed at the creativity and optimism of the things people display for all to see.

In the poorest neighborhoods, we’ll see sprightly American flags flying in front of run-down homes. They reveal a faith in our country and its opportunities, and in its dedication to individual freedom. They show continued hope for the American dream.

People raise other flags, decorated with flowers or birds or other illustrations of gratitude for natural beauty. We also see sweet messages of concern for our fellow creatures: Beware—Bunny Crossing, or Watch for Ducklings, or I Brake for Animals. You can’t keep the human spirit down, thank goodness. There are endless expressions of people’s ideas of beauty or importance set out in their yards. We may not share their tastes, but we have to admire their spunk.

There are garish flamingoes perched in front of dignified colonial houses, and rather scary stone raccoons and rabbits lurking in flower beds. We see bird baths with basins shaped like giant flower blossoms. And birdhouses that rival the White House in elegance.

People make visual jokes, too. There are wooden ladies shown from behind bending over to see the flowers or little wooden boys, also shown from the back, doing something else in the flower bed in front of them. Well, I guess somebody thinks they’re funny.

Some folks present cheery greetings to visitors with pots of geraniums or petunias by their driveway entrances. There are welcoming signs and fancy light poles and lush ground covers spilling out to meet the guests. Even mailboxes are so attractive that the mail deliverers must be cheered.

Other people display their religious sentiments, maybe in an effort to evangelize. There are statues of St. Francis of Assisi and the Blessed Virgin, little shrines to favorite saints or scriptural inscriptions written on signs in fancy calligraphy. But religious or not, the things people show the world reveal the vigor of the human spirit, which comes from God.

All kinds of people show their innate hopefulness to the rest of us as we pass by. They may be lonely, impoverished, sick or just ornery people, but I think what they display helps us to share goodness and joy, also gifts from God. Whether we realize it or not, we all long for heaven, so in that unconscious effort we are generous with what we find to be beautiful, inspiring or meaningful in some way.

Easter is the fulfillment of all human longing. Now and then, we feel a mysterious wish for something else in life, something more valuable or important to lift us up and out of our everyday selves. Thus, there’s the urge to share publicly what we’ve found good. Jesus came to show us how to do that better, with the added promise of gaining heaven.

Those without faith in Christ must suffer without much relief, I think. The message of Easter is unknown to them, or denied or distorted in some way. That’s why we need to evangelize, to bring the Good News so that one day we’ll all enjoy eternal life together. Soon it will be a Happy Easter!

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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