My parents got into stained glass when I was young. (I realize that I just made it sound like a new street drug, but stay with me.)
I can distinctly remember creeping down the wooden stairs of my basement to peer through the small space between the wall and the staircase to watch my father shape the glass pieces he was using. The shrill sound that the machine made as he meticulously ran the piece against it is still loud in my ears. Then he would take a ribbon of copper-colored foil and cover the edges of the glass with it. After that, he would make sure that the foil had stuck to the glass by using a plastic knife to flatten it. When he was finished, he would carefully solder it all together, the liquid droplets streaming like mercury, to make a small angel or a hot air balloon or a sunflower or a unicorn. Soon enough, his creations would pepper every window in our house and our friends’ houses. Then, when we needed a new creation, my mother would take me to the stained glass store so that she could pick out clear dark blues, milky pinks, and opalescent whites. Sunlight would strike the shop through the windows and illuminate her choices with dust motes swirling.
And so, I’ve always loved stained glass. I’ve sat in churches, fading in and out out of sermons, wondering how anyone could get that much detail into a window, how they could render the images of saints and souls in vivid color. I would watch light shift and undulate through the panels, making them shimmer and come to life.
But in the end, coming to life is what it is all about. We’re all stained glass windows. No, really. Light shines through us all of the time, through what we do and what we feel. We let light pass through us out into the world, and we also let light pass into us from the world. We are simply mediums for what we see and experience. This is living.
But what will you do with your life? Will you make it more than you were given?
Because you always have a choice: you can be the window, everyday. You can let the light shine through you, no matter how smudged or mud-covered you may get. (And that’s good enough. I promise you that). But you can also be the stained glass window, in which light not only shines through you, but allows you to project color and beauty outward. Through this, you are able to give something back to the world when it is giving so much to you.
So, what will it be for you? Will you dazzle in a technicolor display? Will you, no matter what, let the light shine through you? Will you be like stained glass?
I hope more than anything that you will. Because once you see yourself for the piece of art that you are, you will make use of the light that shines through you.