Mary Oliver wrote a wonderful poem, “The Uses of Sorrow,” in which she says: Someone I loved once gave me/ A box full of darkness./ It took me years to understand/ That this, too, was a gift.
On the bus the other day—and you don’t have to eavesdrop to overhear conversations on a bus—I heard a young man talk about being adopted as an infant. The only thing he knows about his birth parents is that they were unmarried teens. “Yeah, they did something they shouldn’t have,” he said. “But if they hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here. They gave me life and gave me up to a good family. I’m glad they did.”
Teen pregnancy probably meets most people’s definition of a box full of darkness, yet it gave life, a good life, to this boy. Sometimes our own actions bring sorrow to our lives. Sometimes other people’s actions do, and sometimes the universe spins sorrow our direction for no fathomable reason. This overheard conversation made be aware than one person’s box of darkness may be another person’s gift. Hopefully, one or both of the boy’s birth parents found some positives from their experience—perhaps a gaining of maturity, judgment, compassion or some other value they could take forward into their lives.
Bad things happen to good people and smart people do foolish things. How wise if we can learn to love the person, even if it is our self, who gives us a box full of darkness.