MIRRORS OF LIFE
HEDWIG LEWIS SJ
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The best way to be introduced to the book
A psychiatrist was visiting an old client. During a lull in the conversation that evening the client's teenaged daughter took him out to show him her garden. When they were alone, she asked him in a tone of confidence, "What should I do to get rid of my vanity?" He turned to her quizzically. "You see," she explained, "every time I look into the mirror I tell myself I'm a Beauty Queen."
The psychiatrist gave her face a good look-over, then said tactfully, "The best thing for you to do would be to get your eyes examined."
It is said that ‘we see things not as they are but as we are.’ The way we perceive things colours our responses and even shapes our lives. Not seldom do we need to check our ‘sight’ to make sure we are seeing ‘reality’ objectively, so that our impressions and expressions are not biased one way or another.
Mirrors are often used as useful tools for enhancing one’s self-image. It is deemed a healthy practice to look into the mirror every morning, straight into ones eyes, and say with conviction something positive about oneself, such as the popular auto-suggestive statement: Day by day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.
The impact of mirrors is best exemplified in the movie Mask, which is a true story of a sixteen-year-old boy, Rocky Dennis. Rocky had a rare disease which made the bones of his head grow larger than normal. His face was out of shape and horrible-looking. Rocky accepted himself as he was.
Once, he joined some friends on a visit to an amusement park. The boys went into the "house of mirrors" and had fun watching distorted reflections of their bodies and faces. Suddenly, Rocky made a startling discovery. One mirror ‘distorted’ his misshapen face in a way that made it appear normal. Rocky realised that he was really very handsome. His friends noticed it, too, and from then on their perception of Rocky changed radically. They began to look at the beautiful person Rocky was on the inside.
The hundreds of inspirational anecdotes and stories in this book are meant to serve as little Mirrors of Life. They reflect the varied facets of everyday reality: happenings, attitudes, personalities, relationships, prayer, spirituality. Some of the ‘mirrors’ are held in front of you, bringing you into focus and blending you with the background. The questions they make you ask yourself are: Is this the real me? Is there something I must do about my ‘image’?
Other mirrors are kept at an angle to reflect the reality around you – the landscape, events, and people. They pose questions such as: How far am I responsible for the state of these things or these persons? What must I do to make the world a better place? There are ‘distorted’ mirrors placed here and there to enable you to laugh – at yourself.
The stories and anecdotes in this book have been reproduced, adapted, or abridged from multiple sources of varied descriptions – life-experiences, books, magazines, newspapers, brochures, calendars, posters, films, and even a music-record album cover.
I started collecting anecdotes, stories and quotes, over twenty-five years ago, because I needed them for the various ‘youth-camps’ I was involved in conducting earlier, and then for my Retreats, homilies, and seminars.
The idea of compiling and publishing them occurred only recently, at the urging of friends. I regret that I cannot give complete references or make due acknowledgments of the items presented in this book, the majority of which are by anonymous writers. But I am grateful to the hundreds of ‘authors’ whose contributions are the sources of inspiration here.
Mirrors of Life provides interesting material for writers and speakers, teachers and preachers. The stories can be used for meditation and prayer-services, as well as for general instruction, entertainment and to spice up conversation.
Preparing Mirrors of Life, and its companion-volumes Mirrors For The Heart, and Images In Mirrors, has been an exciting experience. It was like working on a jigsaw puzzle in reverse. There were these hundreds of little pieces of literature which I had to trim so as to fit them together to form a composite picture. Not all the pieces fit perfectly; some can even be transferred to other places in the picture – to provide a different shade of meaning. When one has ‘Life’ for one’s canvas, the scope is unlimited!
The original idea, and consequently the title for this book, came from a recent incident. While walking on the road alongside the college building, a student accompanying me picked up a tiny mirror that had obviously fallen off from one of the gowns the girls wear at festivals. In a playful mood, he held the mirror up against the sun and sent a beam into the classroom, then onto the eyes of one of his friends to call his attention.
I dismissed the incident as a boyish prank, then, but it later occurred to me that stories are like little mirrors. They reflect the inspiration, the ‘ray of light’ thrown on them by their authors. This ‘ray’ enlightens the mind and is used in turn to brighten ones writings and speech so as to attract the attention of others.
You, dear reader, now have these jigsawed pieces of ‘mirrors' in your hand. Create your own picture. Let each reflect on others the light you throw on it!
Take only one little mirror at a time. It will help you reflect a lot!
SAMPLES FROM THE FIRST FEW PAGES
A. KEEPING SPIRITS HIGH
STARTING OFF RIGHT
An officer who had some urgent business to transact reluctantly dialled his assistant at six o'clock in the morning. After several rings a sleepy female voice answered and told him he had the wrong number. He apologised, hung up, and scouted in vain for his telephone diary to re-check the number.
Some time later he risked dialing again, and was embarrassed to hear the same voice. Expecting a rebuff, he started to apologise profusely. But the woman interrupted him.
"There’s no need to be sorry," she said in a reassuring tone. "I’m sitting by my window enjoying a truly beautiful sunrise. I would have missed it if it hadn’t been for you. Thanks!"
At a high-rise office building in a large city, the manager of a company was waiting for the lift on a bleak Monday morning. He was soon joined by a lady from his department who was humming away cheerfully. Being of a rather grouchy disposition, he turned to her suddenly and asked, "What have you got to be so happy about today?"
Pat came her sing-song reply: "I have never lived this day before!"
No one finds life worth living; one must make it worth living!
A tall gentleman was hurrying down the street when out of the doorway came another man, also in haste, and the two collided with great force. The second man was beside himself with anger, and exploded into a fury of abusive language.
The tall gentleman smiled in a friendly fashion and pleasantly remarked: "My friend, I don’t know which of us is to blame for this encounter, but I am in too great a hurry to investigate. If I ran into you, I beg your pardon, if you ran into me, don't mention it."
And then, with another smile, he walked away.
A psychology professor was invited to the home of a student. While chatting with the family members after dinner, the student's little sister, bubbling with excitement, ran up to the professor and asked him to examine the school assignment she had earlier completed. He took a quick look at the sheet and noticed that not a word on it was spelt correctly.
However, he turned to the child and said in an encouraging tone: "This is beautiful. The margins are nice and neat; your handwriting is so clean and readable."
"Thank you, uncle," broke out the girl, beaming, "I’ve been working real hard on it. Next time I’m going to work on my spelling."
An eminent pediatrician had a standard treatment for frail newborn infants who failed to gain weight. As he made his rounds of the maternity wards, he invariably scrawled the following direction to the nurse in attendance:
"This baby is to be lovingly stroked and hugged every three hours."
A few kind words take only
seconds to say,
There is an interesting "Parable of the Pencil." When the inventor of the Pencil made his final product, so the story goes, he gave it the following instructions.
I want you to remember four things:
First, your goodness or true worth is within you.
Second, you’ll need to be sharpened as you go through life.
Third, you’ll be in someone else’s hand, otherwise you’ll make an awful mess.
you’ll be expected to leave a mark.
Rev Dr Robert Schuller, in his book Move Ahead With Possibility Thinking, describes his experience at a meeting of a board of directors. On entering the conference room, he found the atmosphere tense, and the six men assembled there sent him negative vibes. They stared at him in such a cold, unfriendly manner, that he immediately adopted the attitude of a cold, unfriendly person himself as he settled down.
After a while a strong and friendly personality entered the room. He too was greeted by cold and unfriendly stares, but he did not succumb to them. Instead, he exuded warmth, his eyes twinkling with excitement, his smile charming and infectious. Dr Schuller was amazed to notice the effect this positive attitude had on the others present there. Within a few minutes everyone was talking and joking, enjoying each other's company.
Enthusiasm is contagious
and so is the lack of it.
Excerpts from reviews
Most of the material is taken from real-life events of men and women – rich and poor, famous and infamous, past and present, from India and from abroad. The stories and anecdotes speak about actors and writers, leaders and tramps, saints and sinners at their best and at their worst. No explanation is provided, no judgment is delivered. One is expected to look and to locate oneself in the stories as one would look at a mirror, feeling part of the beauty and the brokenness that is life. The stories are categorized into sections that perhaps intend to assist anyone who looks for material on a particular theme rather than compartmentalize the work into clear-cut divisions; for understandably, many themes overlap.
Group animators, speakers and teachers will find the books handy for ministry. Besides these, anyone looking into "mirrors" – be they images of life or for the heart – will have plenty of rich material for reading and reflection. Vidyajyoti, (April 1999)