The Beads of Life
It’s been said that Angels can really only see in metaphors, and this fact tends to be as inconvenient for Heaven, as it is for the people many of us attempt to help in life everyday. Each and every Angel has a very unique and complex interpretation of the world. This particular one happens to be associated with beaded bracelets. While realizing that our daily earthly lives consist of far more complex things…falling in love, dealing with illness, achieving a dream or perhaps losing one, all I see are millions and millions of people calmly sitting on the floor and quietly stringing colored beads upon strings.
Over here is a man making a bracelet of only one solitary color. Over and over again, he simply adds another light blue bead to the string. He never even glances at all the other beads lying in neat piles around him. I think his true life must be very repetitive and he is afraid to seek change. I kneel in closer to him and gently whisper, “It’s okay to try something new.” He strings another light blue bead, so I try again. “Different doesn’t always mean frightening. See what else may be out there.”
After looking at the colors suspiciously, he selects a green bead and adds it to his bracelet. He returns to light blue after that, but I am proud of him just the same. I don’t know what that particular bead represents, but the experience wasn’t easy for him. “Good job,” I whisper, softly kissing his forehead. I trust that God has a good reason for only allowing us metaphorical views of the world, but I still think it’s sad that my advice is so vague. I wish I could do much more.
Here is a girl struggling to force a bead over a knot. This means that some obstacle is keeping her from having an experience she desperately wants. She grinds her teeth and yanks at the bead, and I am afraid that the string will break and all of the previously ordered beads will scatter wildly into chaos. “Slow down,” I whisper to her, but she shuts out my words. “It’ll be okay. Just untie the knot.” But I’ve made a mistake. To her, it isn’t merely a knot; it’s an injury or financial difficulty or unfulfilled obligation. I try again . “Take a step back. Trust me.”
She then hesitates, but now pulls the bead off the string with tears hovering at her eyelids. “I know, Sweetheart. I know it’s frustrating. Let’s just look at the problem, okay?” What’s the real reason you can’t move forward?” I want to continue helping her, but I don’t know what that knot represents, let alone how to untie it. That is something only she can do. After a long time, she starts picking at the knotted string. I kiss her and say, “Well done,” and move on. An old woman reaches out to me as I pass. Her eyes meet mine, so I know she is praying. “What’s wrong?” I ask. In response she holds out two beads, yellow and purple, begging for help deciding between them. These are the moments in which I feel most useless. How can I possibly tell her how to proceed without knowing what the real choices are?
“Follow your heart,” I whisper. She holds the beads out again, eyes pleading with me to choose for her. I know she would follow my advice without question. Why am I here if I can’t answer the prayers of a woman with such admirable faith? “I’ll stay with you,” I say, because it’s all I can offer. She chooses purple, and I am proud of her, but ashamed of myself. I did nothing. Then I notice a young man who hasn’t put a single bead on his bracelet. What could that possibly mean? “Are you afraid?” I ask, but he doesn’t hear me. “Are you lonely?” No response. I look at the string. “You’re empty, aren’t you?” He whimpers softly in a way that tells me I’m right. He begins tying a knot in the string. “No… You don’t want to do that, ” I say, hovering my fingers close to his and wishing I could touch him.
“Please don’t,” I beg him. “I’ll find a way to help you. Wait for me.”
He gives me a fleeting nod, but his eyes are so glassy I know I must be quick.
I search for people with the same sadness. I see bracelets with little sections too knotted to hold any beads. Some just accept the gap and move on. Some become angry, looking at fuller bracelets and seeing their own as ugly and incomplete. Then I find a woman with the answer I was hoping existed. Her string is filled with knots, but they are not merely hindrances to the beads. She found ways to make knots decorative. It was a much harder bracelet to make, surely, but it was beautiful beyond words. I turn back to my sad boy, but then stop myself; How can I describe the woman’s life without mentioning bracelets? I look back to the lady as she weaves beads in with the knots, and I know I can’t teach him how to do that.
But maybe she can.
I bend close to her and whisper, “Will you come with me? Someone needs you.” She stands and follows as I lead her to the boy. I’m sure they talk in real life, but I can’t hear their words. Through my eyes, she sits down beside him, shows him the bracelet she is weaving, and he makes a hesitant attempt at copying it. It isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t have to be. For once, I don’t resent only seeing in metaphors. I can see enough to know which people can help each other. That’s all I really need to know…