Jim Mayzik SJ                   Everything Matters
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Jim Mayzik SJ Blog

I'll be using this space from time to time to share my reflections and thoughts on various topics.  Please feel free to add to the conversation by writing some reaction in the COMMENT section! 



Searching all your life.


“It seems only yesterday I used to believe there was nothing under my skin but light.  If you cut me I would shine. But everyone grows up, and now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,  I skin my knees and…  I bleed. 

But sometimes, late at night, when I sleep in darkness upon my bed and let down the guard of the day, my hand will scratch my arm or my chest or my leg, and I swear that-- for a moment--the light will shoot out.”

This is the story of a woman named Donna, and her husband John, the story of what happened to them on the Eve of the New Year.  It’s a true story, or at least I believe it to be true, as true as any story you could tell me about someone you know. 

It’s a story about a long buried hope, and about an epiphany. 

It happened on the subway, on New Year’s Eve, on the D train.  It was early in the evening, and they were on their way home from an appointment at the doctor’s.  They sat in the middle of the car, surrounded by a crowd of animated young men and women on their way to a night of happy partying. Some were dressed to the nines for fancy affairs, others bundled in layers for the frigid blasts of Times Square winds. 

It had been a long time since Donna and John had celebrated on New Year’s Eve, a dim memory of their youth, and recent New Years had gone unheralded and unmarked, asleep in their bed long before the great crystal ball would begin its descent toward another year. 

Donna looked at the crowd around her, breathing in the mix of perfumes and colognes, seeing their smiles and hearing their excited voices, and for moment she was a little envious, a little jealous of the possibilities they still dreamed.  She looked at her husband’s weathered hands folded upon his lap and wondered how it was that they had grown so frail and so spotted, those hands which had once held her securely and tenderly, which had caressed her and reassured her and comforted her in times that now seemed so long ago.  Within those spotted and wrinkled hands, blood with poisoned cells now flowing, spreading throughout his whole body. 

Perhaps if they had been able to have children, if a real family had been at the center of their lives… she thought, and then there was a lurch in the train and a young man bumped against her knee. 

“Sorry,” he said. 

Donna nodded, just as John opened his eyes for a moment, drifting back into and out of consciousness from a subway sleep.

Sitting just across the car from them, visible at times between the shifting bodies of standing passengers, was a young Latino woman and her little son.  He looked about four or five years old, and adorable.  He had a puffy red and blue jacket on, and a brand new Yankee baseball cap, and a ball in his lap, and he was sitting next to his mama, wedged in on one side by a very large woman.  Donna noticed them, mother and child, only briefly, when the standees would move for a moment or two opening a line of sight.  The mother was clearly attentive to her son, bending her head down towards him, speaking to him, smiling, occasionally patting him or putting her arm around him.

 The train got progressively more crowded as it made its way towards mid-town, and at each stop more standing passengers pressed closer around Donna and John, who was awakened by the closeness in the car.  As the train approached the 42nd street stop, many of the passengers began to jostle and ready themselves to leave or reposition somewhere in the car, and when the doors opened on the platform, there was a surge of bodies moving all at once.  For a moment, the path was clear enough to see across to the other seats, and the mother and son were still seated as before.  Donna looked to the other end of the car, where there was a man raising his voice in irritation to another passenger for some unknown offense. 

 At that instant, there was a loud cry, and Donna looked across to the other side of the car. 

The woman was alone on the seat, her son’s seat was empty, and she was suddenly hysterical in face and voice. 

“My boy, my boy…!” she screamed, and before she understood what was happening, her John was leaping towards the closing train door, getting caught within its gripping black lips, half in, half out, as the train began to lurch forward down the platform.  For a moment, for what seemed like an eternity, he was caught like a fish in a net, unable to free himself even as he was being swept up in the movement of the train. 

Donna heard her own voice cry out, and then, suddenly, he was free, unleashed by the monster and spit out onto the platform, as the train continued to gain speed.  Donna and the mother looked helplessly out the window  as the train plunged into the darkness of the tunnel.  

 Suddenly they were linked together in the drama, and they shouted to one another, to the other passengers—to anyone—for the train to stop.   Someone went forward through the doors at the end to try to find a motorman, but within moments the train had already arrived at the next stop. 

Donna and the young woman leapt off the train, and rushed to the other side of the platform.  It was jammed with people, more New Year’s Eve revelers, who were completely oblivious to the drama unfolding within the lives of these two women.  There were no policemen in sight, no one in authority. 

“Don’t worry, we’ll find them,” Donna said to the mother, whose face was wet with tears and running mascara. 

“Calm down, dear, calm down,” she said as she reached around, put her arm on the young woman. 

A train came within moments, and they were swept inside with all the others.  Donna grabbed hold of the woman’s hand, squeezing it tightly.  She noticed how soft it felt, and how young.  It trembled in her grip.

The train arrived at 42nd street, and they were disgorged with all the other bodies.  They looked around, but it was chaos, hard to see anyone who wasn’t rushing by in every direction.  The young mother was almost wailing in fear and grief. 

And then Donna saw them first.  Over by the side of a newsstand, crouching down beside the little boy, John was talking to him and putting his finger under his chin. The little boy had tears on his cheeks, but now was laughing against his fear as John pulled a magical nickel out of his ear. 

Donna motioned to the boy’s mother, who immediately cried out and ran over to her son, sweeping him up into her arms, covering him with big salty lipstick kisses amidst all out crying. 

Donna looked over to John, who was holding the boy’s ball, and watching the mother with her son.   Her John, her husband, and suddenly she saw him as he had been when they were young and hope-filled, when they were newly wed and passionate in love and life.  This man who had always been her mainstay, her security, her light—she suddenly found him again with the same stirrings in her heart that had been there the first time she met him. 

He looked over at her with a familiar grin not often seen these days.  He tossed the ball up in the air for a moment and looked right at her, and she knew right then and there that the light of her life was standing before her, her hero of the moment and of the years. 

It was a moment, an epiphany, when you learn what love really is, when you find the one thing you’ve been searching for all your life, which is always right there beside you but you never notice it. 

That’s the way it is with all of us, with everyone, that’s the way it is when we follow the light that shines out for us in all the new years of our lives. The star in the sky signals to all who are searching where to look for what we so desperately need. 

And always, sleeping under it, is a babe and a love who shows us what life is all about. 

“It seems only yesterday I used to believe there was nothing under my skin but light.  If you cut me I would shine. But everyone grows up, and now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,  I skin my knees and…  I bleed. 

But sometimes, late at night, when I sleep in darkness upon my bed and let down the guard of the day, my hand will scratch my arm or my chest or my leg, and I swear that-- for a moment--the light will shoot out.”