Thursday, January 19, 2012

Stretching Ourselves

It was Oliver Wendell Holmes who said, "A mind stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions."

The life of Mr. Holmes honorably mirrors his words.  He graduated from Harvard University.  Served in the Civil War.  Was gravely wounded three times, once taking a bullet through the neck at the battle of Antietam.   Taught law at Harvard.  Served 20 years as  Supreme Court Judge in Massachusetts.  He was described as neither liberal nor conservative, but rather a steadfast defender of the rights.  He believed in the notion of law as accumulated experience rather than a science.

We can learn much from his eloquent quotation.  The key word is "s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d."  Every difficulty we  work our way through, every noble move we make, and every new thing we do stretches us into a bigger and better person.  We stretch like elastic, except we never go back to our old dimensions.

Yesterday we stopped for lunch at McDonald's.  Across from our booth sat an elderly, heavyhearted-looking gentleman.  Alone.  With a cup of coffee.  Watching the people.  When we were finished eating and got up to leave, my hubby (out of habit) walked over to this man and stirred up a conversation about the weather.  I wished for a camera just then to photograph the bright beautiful smile that came to the gentleman's unshaven face.  Hubby won't ever come back to the size he was five minutes earlier while we were eating our salads.

I'm pretty sure this is what Mr. Holmes meant.  It takes so little for us to stretch so far.