This I Believe

Barbara - Houston, Texas
Entered on April 28, 2009

I believe in discontinued angels.

I found a box of them once. I was browsing through a student art show, and there they were, tucked in the corner of a pottery display. A band of angel figurines made of clay, thrown carelessly into a cardboard box upon which someone had scrawled, Discontinued Angels.

Truthfully, I’d never paid much attention to angels. I grew up in a home where the heavenly type was never a topic, although my parents would declare that someone who had done something especially kind or humane was, indeed, an “angel.” And I did adore plucky Catholic schoolgirl Hayley Mills in the old movie “The Trouble With Angels,” bedeviling Rosalind Russell’s Mother Superior, only to be outwitted in the end. But the idea that there were angels watching over us? Or that I’d spend eternity on a celestial cloud, plucking a harp? Those just weren’t issues for me.

Still, there was something intriguing about the idea of a discontinued angel.

I’ll admit, first I was amused. How does an angel get discontinued? Had it been assigned to protect a now-extinct animal, proving that not only was it no longer required, it hadn’t been adept at its task?

Then I looked inside the box. The figurines had some tiny flaws. Cracks in the glaze. A slightly chipped wing. But beyond those imperfections, they were really quite lovely.

Angel popularity was sky-high then. No longer consigned just to Christmas cards and ornaments, angels were on display in almost every gift store. Their cherubic faces decorated everything from tapestries to tea cups. They dangled from necklaces, earrings and bracelets.

But because these angels weren’t faultless, they didn’t quite fit in. Because they weren’t “good enough,” someone had decided they weren’t good at all.

If angels are supposed to be messengers, the message I took away was this: when we’re too wrapped up in an unattainable quest for perfection, we overlook the beauty of the ordinary. When we’re always gauging ourselves against an external benchmark, we forget the value of doing something to our own satisfaction. When we’re afraid of failing, we deny ourselves the thrill of trying.

I look to this lesson in both work and play. As a professional writer, I recognize that others are more adroit and successful. Still, I’m fortunate to make a living doing what I love. Quilting is my hobby, and while my points aren’t always sharp and my corners don’t always match, my passion for color and pattern is obvious.

The best reminder, though, comes from my son. Diagnosed as a toddler with a life-threatening disease, he endured eight years of chemotherapy and other treatment. Now a high school junior, he deals with a host of long-term health consequences. He would agree his life has been far from perfect, miles from easy. Yet I can’t think of a day he hasn’t found joy. Or brought it to us.

When we let go of perfection, we’re happier. And whoever helps us realize that, is an angel.

This I believe.