When I was a kid I believed in miracles. All kids do. In fact that’s the best part about being a kid. You believe in practically everything and everyone.
You believe in Santa, cowboys, Bigfoot, love songs, happy endings, and you seriously believe that if Rachel Alison kisses you it means you’re automatically married.
Personally, I was a big believer in eating SpaghettiOs for breakfast. I also believed in the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and especially in Dale “The Intimidator” Earnhardt. I believed in angels, in magic, and most of all I believed in miracles.
But something changed over the years. I quit believing in stuff. I can trace this change back to fourth grade when my family life sort of went downhill.
By fifth grade, my home life completely fell apart, and shortly thereafter things got even worse when my father used a hunting rifle to remove himself from our lives.
That same year I learned some basic lessons about human nature. Firstly, I learned that nobody—nobody—knows how to deal with you after you’ve experienced trauma. So they just don’t.
Friends quit returning calls. People instinctively distance themselves from you. They don’t mean any harm, but you end up getting blackballed just the same. Eventually you become a kind of foreigner in your own homeplace.
Which is why I dropped out of school, I felt like a sideshow among my peers.
By high-school age I was working on construction sites, and I was missing out on teenage rites of passage like homecoming, prom, football games, applying toilet paper rolls to trees, and mooning law enforcement officials on spring break.
The way I grew up left me disappointed with this world. I was disenchanted. And miracles? Don’t make me gag.
But one summer when I was an adult, this too would change.
I had just finished my high-school equivalency classes and enrolled in community college. I was trying to get my life back together.
I took a psychology night class that was filled with plumbers, food service workers, cocktail waitresses, and single mothers with infant car seats parked beside their desks.
I wasn’t thrilled about this class, I’m not particularly into Freud, and night classes are miserable. But I remember our professor was a nice woman, with wire-rimmed glasses and coiffed hair who gave great lectures.
One night during a class she told us that she believed in miracles. And she made a big thing about all this, and about how deeply she believed in the supernatural.
Pretty soon the whole class was in on the discussion. Students started joining in and describing miracles they had witnessed firsthand in vivid detail, and this confessional lasted for two solid hours until everyone had shared their own miracle story.
Our teacher concluded by explaining that humans are hardwired to believe in the power of good. We all need this belief. Our biology needs it. Our cells need it. To deny ourselves this human need would be like refusing water, or like swearing off calories—which doesn’t work because my aunt actually tried this once.
That night, I remember sitting in this professor’s classroom with my mouth slightly open and moisture gathering in my eyes because for the first time I realized I had let this world steal something beautiful from me. A little piece of my soul.
The soul, I believe, is your body’s flight recorder. Your little black box. Throughout your life your brain forgets stuff, but your soul doesn’t.
Your soul recalls every heartache, every sadness, and every time the kids on the schoolbus scooted away from you. The soul carries every pain, every scrape, every contusion.
But the beauty of the soul is that it also remembers every miniature miracle. Whether or not your brain chooses to acknowledge these miraculous events, your soul already knows them to be real.
The soul will forever remember the elderly woman from church who once gave you $600 in secret to pay your rent.
Your soul will remember the complete stranger who embraced you at your father’s funeral while you ruined the man’s shirt with tears.
The soul remembers the night you almost had a head-on collision in Geneva County, but didn’t.
Your soul keeps it all.
But if you’re not careful, some will try to paint over your soul with mud. The sting of living will make you numb inside, and pretty soon you’ll find it much easier to believe in nothing.
Which is why I’m writing to you. I want to remind you not to give up believing in good. Yes, I know this all sounds painfully simple, and that’s because it is.
But the truth is you can be happy. You can find peace, true meaning, fulfillment, purpose, or whatever buzzwords float your rubber ducky. You can find it. I can’t tell you how. I can’t tell you where, and neither can any mass-market paperback. But I can tell you this:
You can become everything the haters said you’d never be. You can prove your naysayers wrong. You can hug people who once blackballed you, people who hurt you deeply, and you can honestly forgive their human shortcomings. You can forgive yourself, too, while you’re at it. You can become like a kid again.
But you can only do such wondrous, spectacular, monumental things if you believe in miracles. And I sincerely hope you do.
Because you are one.