n the deepest part of sleep, there is a sound, and I awake with a start. There it is again.
It’s not a loud noise; in fact, it’s almost a whisper. But I know what it means, and I am up and out of bed before I’m even quite awake.
“What’s the matter?”
“I had a bad dream,” comes the tearful reply.
Probably best not to ask for details. Better to simply enfold my daughter in my arms and tell her it was just a dream and all is well and she is safe and there, there, there, go back to sleep.
More often than not, that is enough. She sinks back into slumber, tears still wet on her cheeks, and I brush sweaty hair from her forehead, adjust the covers just so and listen to her breathing for a moment, just to be sure that the dream isn’t lurking, waiting to cruelly startle her awake again.
In the morning, the dream is usually forgotten altogether, though occasionally recounted in near incoherent detail. On rare occasions, it is still vivid enough to require more soothing, more reassurances that it was just a dream, it wasn’t true, that all is well.
Sadly, as adults, it’s not always that easy to find comfort. Often times, the things that keep us from a dreamless sleep are, in fact, real. There are worries and troubles and anxieties galore, and if we focus on them too much, finding solutions seems a Herculean task. So we fret and we toss and turn in the deepest part of night, and in the morning, there’s no respite to be found. In fact, things seem even worse in the cold clear light of day. Because now we’re not only stressed-out, we’re also sleep-deprived.
These are worrisome times, indeed. Every day brings more anxiety, and finding a silver lining seems a fool’s errand. But if we can look beyond the latest plunging financial statement, past the litany of woe on the nightly news, resist the relentless sense of impending doom that seems the default nearly everywhere we turn, there is an alternative to the sense that hope is a distant mirage.
For me, comfort lies in the small things. In my darkest hours, I turn to the beloved books of childhood, losing myself in Mary Lennox’s search for The Secret Garden, wishing yet again that I could be a member of the Melendy family and live in The Four Story Mistake, get caught up in Posey’s determination to put on her Ballet Shoes and flit across the stage like a graceful little bird.
And once I emerge from that warm bath of familiarity, I shake myself awake and make an effort to look up, to notice that clouds skitter across the sky like puffs of airborne cotton. I remember to breathe, to let the scent of lemon blossoms and honeysuckle and jasmine remind me that spring has arrived. I reach into my pocket and give a buck or two when confronted with an outstretched hand, remembering how lucky I am to have enough to spare. I remind myself that when we pay attention and celebrate the small things, it helps put the big picture into perspective.
Putting this issue together was a balancing act of sorts. In the pages that follow, we’ve attempted to offer up both an unflinching look at reality and a celebration of those who inspire us to keep the faith. Comfort is where you find it: whether it’s rolling your sleeves up and getting to work after disaster strikes, making people laugh out loud week after week, or tinkering with a recipe until the result is gustatory heaven, there is grace in offering up the best of yourself.
I hope you share my confidence that there will come a morning when we wake up, stretch and realize that even though it wasn’t just a dream, everything really will be all right. As long as we stick together and look deep within to find the best way that we can give comfort to those who need it, we will make it through to the other side, maybe even stronger, wiser, more compassionate.
Come to think of it, isn’t that what we’re here for?