Definition of VIGNETTE
1: a running ornament (as of vine leaves, tendrils, and grapes) put on or just before a title page or at the beginning or end of a chapter; also : a small decorative design or picture so placed
The longest night is December 22nd. It is a metaphor for some. The Holidays aren’t always holidays filled with joy but are days earmarked by loss. We are surrounded by imagines of joy and family and gathering and great gifting. Our vignette may look like an Escher drawing confounding the mind with steps that go nowhere and balconies that are turned upside down. “Tis the Season” right?
For sure I love Christmas. It so often can bring out the best in us. For the Scrooges out there it even seems to touch some of them. We, as a community, tend to give abundantly during this season. So, while this chapter that describes Christmas or Chanukah or Cuanza may look like an Escher drawing with strange twists and turns and non-seneschal diversions there is still a whisper. A still quite voice that says, “Give unto others.” So, who are the others?
The “others” are people that we judge not to have as much as we. In some cases we are correct. I know that several children in the Treme will do OK for Christmas. The rent may not get paid, or the cell phone bill may cause a disconnect notice, or perhaps even the food will be stretched but most parents will try to make enough ends to meet to insure that kids get something. This year like last year The Phoenix in collaboration with other bars and organizations will do a toy drive. That drive will result in a lot of “others” getting toys in abundance. For a child or children that don’t know abundance that will surely mean something. We start a new chapter beyond Escher…this one is filled with light and hope and joy and meets the spiritual needs of many. Perhaps that utility bill can be paid, or rent met on time, and cell phones stay lit up. This toy drive effects more than the kids.
Bears, Leather, Lords, Queens, Otters, and whatever else there is out there have needs beyond their social life and fellowship. At least that is what I’ve seen. There is a deep need to give in the face of rejection. It sounds backwards doesn’t it? But this vignette takes a higher ground. In “The Community” men and women have learned over the years to become inter-dependant. There is a culture of giving and mutual support. That culture developed over many years of living in a ghetto real or imagined. The ghetto walls are coming down but not the spirit that has thrived in those walls. Giving. Perhaps the Longest Night need not be quite so long nor dark.
Toys upon toys no doubt will find their way onto a table top with hard body poster boys looking on. The gathered leather community or bear community or whatever community will drink rejoice and joke a bit about those toys. But within each gift I am sure there resides an essence of caring love that comes from the giver. You see those toys are destined for the children of the Treme and the fact is that in the giving comes the gift of grace. Grace is that feeling of warmth of knowing that one is doing something that is just and right and necessary in a world that tends to be a bit dreary or perhaps even violent. It is a still quiet moment in the back of a mind that says, “I did a good thing today.” That is Grace. Perhaps this chapter might be a quiet pool of water with a shaft of sunlight illuminating a dove. The oversized first letter of the paragraph is “G” for Gift giving gives grace. The Longest Night is not quite so long anymore.
This final chapter of vignettes is rife with possibilities. In the Christian tradition this is a season of Advent. It is a season to re-visit our lives with light and hope and expectations of a brighter future in the midst of a darker past. It is a season of hope. What do we hope for? Perhaps it is simply that today is a bitter better than yesterday. Perhaps today is a kinder day wherein we begin to appreciate diversity in more significant ways. Perhaps today we might find ourselves a little less hopeless and more hopeful even in the face of darkness.
In the first chapter we spoke about how difficult it is for some to live in this city but there was hope. In the next chapter we spoke about what hope looks like and basically it was valuing even the people, children, which are problematic. In this chapter it is finding ourselves in darkness and that finding manifests in generosity. All in all these vignettes, adornments of a text, are our stories and our lives. They may never be written in a great history of New Orleans but they will be remembered in the cosmos in the heavens for eternity. This book is our book. It is adorned with hope, justice, care, servant hood, and a desire for us to create a better life for each other and for the word and we do so one person at a time.
ADVENT the Season of Hope and Expectations.