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The Beauty Spilling Out
The Beauty Spilling Out

"You look at people and… it looks like it's real because it's what we see, but there's so much wonder on the inside. As if you had a plain packing crate and it was filled with silks and Persian rugs and things that would spill out and make everything beautiful, if only you took the trouble to open it."
—KJ Charles, in An Unsuitable Heir

I had no idea what to expect from my first trip to Disney World this summer, but I left with lots of impressions: discomfort with the total commercialism; awe at the detailed work put into the park; and delight in the way that people visiting Disney World are “all in.” None of the visitors were too cool, or too world-weary, to put on a pair of Mickey Ears and sing along to “It’s A Small World After All.”

And: wow, they were all in on the T-shirts, too. It seemed every other person had a custom T-shirt declaring who they were: Disney Mom! Celebrating Jaden’s 6th Birthday! He's My Mickey, I'm His Minnie! I felt I could look deep into someone's soul just by reading what they had printed on their shirt.

Isn't that what we all want? Well, not to have our innermost thoughts always printed on our T-shirts, but to be seen for who we are?

I know how painful the opposite experience is. The hardest times in my life have been when I've felt misunderstood; when someone has experienced me in a dramatically different way than I experience myself. Sometimes, there's important learning for me there —- for instance, when I've been unaware of the impact of my words on a person of color, and I've been able to realize that impact is more important than my intention.

When that learning has happened — when through a relationship, through a conversation, through the trust of someone else, I was able to make the “me” on the outside match more closely how I feel on the inside — it’s been an opportunity to be even more deeply, and truly, known.

The truth is, we can't be summed up by a T-shirt (even a really cute one with Mickey ears). But it is indeed an impulse of the human self to be known fully by those we love, and that’s almost never possible unless we’re willing to risk the conversations that help us see past our initial impressions.

We’re so beautiful inside, so full of complexity and dichotomies and yearning. When we risk telling the world who we are—and when we risk truly learning about each other—we offer a great gift.

Prayer

Spirit of Life and Love, help us to be known and to know each other. Let us see the beauty spilling out. Keep us vulnerable and open, speaking our own truth and listening—always listening—to the truths of others.

About the Author

  • Rev. Amanda Poppei is a Unitarian Universalist minister serving as clergy at the Washington Ethical Society, a humanist congregation with roots in the Ethical Culture movement (which is also affiliated with the UUA). She lives in Maryland with her husband, Peter, and their two...

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