This weekend I was at Target like every other American in the month of December. Most of the time I consider Target a happy red place where the middle class goes to high-five each other. But on Sunday it was anarchy. The middle class was turning on itself as children ran through the aisles accosting their parents with foam bullets and holiday meltdowns.
I didn’t exactly fit in because I wasn’t wearing boots with skinny jeans or a frantic look on my face. This made me uncomfortable because I mostly go to Target to fit in, just like I go to Whole Foods to feel healthy and the Apple store to feel relevant. I only go into Nordstrom’s to feel poor, which only happens by accident.
I eventually left Target without buying anything,walking quickly while swinging an empty basket in my hands.
On my way out the door I passed an oldish couple in their early 70’s that matched in every way. It’s like they were a siamese but conjoined at the hand by choice. Both had a short fluff of white hair and thin-rimmed glasses that were glossy under the fluorescent lights.They wore matching red hoodies with SAN DIEGO printed across the front in big white letters. I got the feeling that they weren’t tourists, but that they just wanted to wear red on the same day.
I imagined their home as one without mirrors. Like every morning they got up, faced each other, and used the other to reflect their symmetrical choices. I suppose mirrors are unnecessary if you are married to a living replica of yourself. That is kind of my worst nightmare.
By noticing this couple, I realized that I had actually done something revolutionary in the mayhem of Target. I had looked up. Not to check my phone or evaluate the checkout lines or even catch my svelte reflection in periphery mirrors. I looked up and, almost by accident, witnessed a story in progress, one that held hands and dressed to match on Sunday afternoons.
I almost missed the siamese couple because I was too distracted by myself. I almost never look up. In fact, I only look at the stars when I’m camping in the summer or listening to Adele by myself.
It makes me think that I would have missed the star in the sky if I was responsible for finding my way to baby Jesus. Sometimes I wonder if I fail to notice road signs and then blame God for for being unclear.
But the wise men didn’t miss it. They saw the star and were filled with joy. I imagine one of them looking up, then down, and saying, “Ooh…. I get it. So that’s what all this frankincense is for.”
This is not a cliche “stop and smell the roses” discussion, mostly because flowers smell like allergies to me and people who pick up pennies in crosswalks cause car accidents. But when I think about being filled with joy, I think about focusing on the right things. I think about focusing at all.
I need something beyond me, above me, and bright enough to draw attention. I need a sense of sovereignty to find any real purpose at all. I need a star to show me what all these gifts were made for.
Because I don’t think joy exists beside us or around us. I think it exists above us.
So today I’m thinking about joy and about looking up more often. Joy doesn’t always fit neatly into the anarchy of life. But it is a focal point that matches your whole self to a good idea. It’s like using someone else as your mirror on days you would otherwise feel unhealthy or irrelevant or even poor. It’s a target that doesn’t sell things.
Joy helps us know what all these gifts are for. It helps us notice the gifts at all.