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Even purple mittens can find their match

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

My youngest sister is a trip. I guess the Southern expression that best describes her is: “She’s a mess!”

Those are not demeaning words, but ones of smiling affection, terms of endearment to capture the intoxicating delight one feels in her presence.

Sylvia is her name; a wood nymph, a creature whose habitat is the forest—and her forest is the world. She finds joy both in the verdant freshness of new encounters and the steadfastness of long-lived relationships. Life, for her, is the proverbial banquet and she defies the sorrowful comment of Auntie Mame by enjoying it all!

Ten years my junior, I continue to learn life’s lessons from her, especially those that teach compassion, empathy, understanding and sensitivity. Her touch is as tender as her words. Her mind is always open to new ideas, not for their novelty, but for the expansive opportunities they offer for growth in wisdom and grace. Quick to encourage, Syl is neither dismissive nor permissive. She is an empowerer.

Why do I write about her? The answer is simple. I love her. I love the way she thinks and shares her thoughts. I love her generosity and openness. I love her creativity and kindness. I want everyone to know her as I do.

Our family always awaits Sylvia Day. That is the appointed time when she arrives with bags of “discards” and accompanying stories about each item. “Auntie Syl’s here” is the clarion call before the horde descends to see what goodies they can capture and use. Because her taste is as eclectic as her thinking, there is bound to be something for everyone. Trendy or retro, practical or frivolous, the items fly into the arms of new owners. She buys well so there is long life to be shared.

After one of these unique recycling events, one of my daughters discovered a sole purple mitten residing among the many interesting items she had retrieved. She searched high and low for its mate, to no avail. What could one do with one purple mitten?

Before seeing to its demise, she decided to contact her aunt. Perhaps the mitten’s mate had been left behind. Perhaps what was apparently lost would be found. Perhaps she was blinded by the affluence of her gifts and could not see the mate’s presence. Alas, no mitten was discovered! In its stead, she received this note:

“The purple mitten was alone. I thought you might have a friend for it. It needs a friend. Someone to go places with, do things with, maybe even take in a movie now and then. It doesn’t have to be the same color. Mittens are color blind so it’s okay to match it with another mitten...mixed matches are good.

“This is a good mitten, so it would be best to match it with another good one. Sometimes, if mittens get in with the wrong crowd, they go astray...and end up in the gutter. It’s a shame. I’ve seen so many of them come to tragic endings, alone, beaten down, cold and wet. No fingers to help themselves crawl to safer ground. So keep the purple mitten and, well, let’s just say, love it the best way you know how.”

Tears tugged at my heart as I read the words. My sister had felt the pain of being a purple mitten. She knew the anguish of all the purple mitten people in her forest, the world. Her creative response, a modern day parable, rang with a cry for universal compassion, for all of us to recognize we share in the purple mittenhood of humanity.

All of us need a friend, someone to go places with, do things with, even take in a movie now and then. All of us need to remember we imprison ourselves in a too small space when we forget mittens do not need to be the same color to get along with each other, to be useful. In fact, a new fashion statement might be made.

Mittens are color blind. Are we?

Sadly, in the matching process, we often overlook the fact that a mitten’s goodness can be easily undermined. To find the correct match, we need to look only for integrity, wholesomeness and sound moral fiber.

Repaired and redeemed mittens are fine, but it is so easy for mittens to get lost. They can fall from pockets, get left behind or forgotten. Frequently, they are simply shoved out of the way. We are too embarrassed to have them dangle from strings pinned to our clothing. That would protect the mittens from disaster, but it would make us look like little children.

People would laugh. Besides, the attachment is a reminder of our propensity to forget and lose things. It is only when the temperatures drop and cold becomes a felt reality that we begin to look for our mittens. It is only when we realize how much we need them to keep us warm and comfortable that we pay attention to the mittens–and discover our loss.

Sometimes that attention comes too late and at great cost—to mittens and people alike. Sometimes, the mitten people go astray, end up in the gutter, come to tragic endings, alone, beaten down, cold and wet. With no fingers to help them crawl to safer ground, they remain helpless. They yearn for someone to come and take them home. They want to be loved, no matter their condition—or ours!

Purple mitten people know the sorrow and cost of loneliness, rejection and isolation. Purple mitten people also know the joy of being redeemed, of being lost and found again. They know the power of being well matched, the potency of being in good company. They want to be in a family that cares for them.

My sister said it well. There is a crucial lesson in the story of the lone purple mitten. There is a challenge for us all to keep our purple mittenhood in sight because, deep in the heart of humanity, we know that all we can do is to love it the best way we know how.

Fran Salone-Pelletier has a master's degree in theology and is the author of, ”AWAKENING TO GOD: The Sunday Readings in Our Lives“ [a trilogy of scriptural meditations], lead chaplain at Brunswick Community Hospital, religious educator, retreat leader and lecturer.