So, I won this raffle. Not the big prize, which was a pick-up truck of some uncertain vintage, but one of the smaller prizes, a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses. The $20 that I invested in my great- nephew’s elementary school fundraiser was $20 that I considered a donation, $20 that I never expected to see reappear in my life in any form other than the great satisfaction of knowing that I had supported Jackson's school and increased his chances of participating in the pizza party.
I don't remember ever having won a raffle before this one. Contests, door prizes, competitions, and awards, yes, but never a raffle. I was, then, a little bit tickled to get a video text message from Jackson announcing my great good fortune.
Just as I had never won a raffle, I had never owned a pair of Ray-Bans. I had never owned a pair of really fine sunglasses of any brand. Because I tend to do things like leave mine at other people's houses or have them slide down my sweaty nose out in the woods somewhere, I generally don't spend a whole lot of money on them. The $10 rack at Walmart is usually good enough for me. I wasn't prepared, then, for the difference that my fun new shades would make in my vision.
It was cloudy and overcast at the t-ball game where Jackson made delivery, but even then I could see that through my neon aqua aviator Ray-Bans the glare was significantly less and the world was significantly clearer. I also noticed that the work required by my eye muscles to keep my eyes open had been significantly reduced. That is, I wasn't squinting. Not at all. It was the next morning, though, in the brilliance of an amazing sunrise, that I was able to detect the true value of my newly acquired eyewear as my unavoidable tendency to draw parallels between the tangible and the intangible took over.
I am all for looking at things straight on. Telling the truth. Eliminating filters. Abolishing subterfuge. Being honest with ourselves and others. What I realized, though, driving toward town in the early morning brightness, was that, in my sincere and vigorous attempts to find the truth in everything, I had too often done it staring straight into the sunlight. Staring straight into the sunlight and being blinded as a result.
I’d never considered that before, that truth can be blinding. That truth – offered or received, delivered without tenderness or at the wrong time, accepted without question – can leave both the messenger and the recipient in the dark, bumping into walls, tripping over furniture, bruising shins and hearts. That in the moments in which we are forced to tell or hear that which can not be denied, it may well be essential that we first don some quality sunglasses. Not the cheap kind that blur the edges of trees and fencerows and flowers. Not the flimsy kind that sit cattywampus on your nose. Good ones that eliminate the glare, reduce the shadows, ease the squinting.
Patience and tolerance and curiosity. Humility and hope and compassion. Those are the lenses through which I need to be looking when I tell the truth, when I hear the truth, when the truth steps into my path and blocks my way. They are not cheap, but neither are they flimsy. Like Ray-Bans and Oakleys and Maui Jims, they are well worth the price.
So, I won this raffle. Not the big prize, but the best prize. Excuse me while I go look at the sun.