This time of year always reminds me of a story:
There was a wise, kind King, beloved by his subjects, who was about to retire.
(OK, so when I first heard this in the late 1970’s, the King wanted to marry off his daughter to the suitor of his choice. I’ve tweaked the story a bit to keep the good and eliminate the misogynistic. )
He had no children and loved his kingdom, so he wanted to leave it in good hands.
He devised a contest, and the winner would lead his people.
In his castle, the King had a small rectangular room with no windows and one door. He proclaimed that the person who could fill the room, leaving the least space, would be the victor.
So the first guy knew he could win. He collected all the logs he could and started stacking them in the room. He used every inch and many trees. He presented it to the King.
The King opened the door and found a full room, but noticed that between the logs there was a small space. Because there were so many logs, there was effectively a lot of space. Bummer.
The second person thought that paper would work better and went about collecting all the paper she could. She filled the room to capacity with paper of all colors and sizes. She was confident in her attempt.
The King opened the door to find a solid wall of paper. Yet, when he pushed his hand against it, indeed, there was some space made by the pressure. Good try.
The third and final contestant seemed calm. He wasn’t running around collecting items. In fact, he went to the room only minutes before the King was to see his presentation.
When the King opened the door a tear of joy and wonder rolled down his cheek.
The room was filled with the beautiful glow of candlelight. There wasn’t a corner untouched by this soft flickering light.
I just love this story, the unexpected ending. I love the simplicity and elegance.
The story reminds me:
Particularly during this time of year, we can get so busy focusing on things: things to buy, things to get done, things to give, things to get.
And yet this is also the season highlighting spirit, joy, kindness and grace.
This dichotomy is one of the reasons this season is so intense—both are true.
Finding the right balance is key.
This goes for eating in December as well.
Focusing solely on the sweets, treats and feasts, doesn’t end well.
But, balanced with presence, joy and warmth creates space for deliberate food decisions and satisfying moments of delightful connection.
It’s Hanukkah this week. Hanukkah is also known as the "Festival of Lights". So when you notice the glow of candlelight this season, remember to fill your heart (like the King’s) more than your belly.