Around this time last year, my mother came home extremely excited after a day of early Christmas shopping. Apparently she had found the one perfect gift to give every person on her list; her husband, her twin brother, her mother in law, her secret santa at work, the little boy down the street……..EVERYONE was getting this one, great present. I waited in curious anticipation as she opened the crinkly plastic shopping bag. I couldn’t wait to see what in the world could be so amazing! As if she were unwrapping the holy grail, she proudly presented her fantastic, fit for all find.….a wind up flashlight. To say I was underwhelmed would be an understatement. While I quietly hoped I wasn’t on the list of recipients for this gift, she went on to explain (defend) the dinky little gadget.
“Look, you just plug it in to the wall and it charges. Then whenever you need a flashlight, you have one ready to go!”
I stared back, unconvinced.
“And then if it dies and you have no power, you can wind it up and it will work again.”
She was beginning to sound like a crazy informercial person and I wasn’t buying it.
“Listen, you might not think this is so great now, but when you’re stuck in the dark and my little gift saves the day, you’ll be singing another tune. This thing is gonna be a life-saver! You’ll see!”
She was so excited I decided not to point out that the last time the power had gone out was in 2007 and none of the people she’d bought a flashlight for were avid campers, to say the least. It’s not that I didn’t think the thing could be useful, I just didn’t think it was a very exciting gift. It seemed the same as giving someone a smoke detector with a card attached that said “Hope you never have to use this but just in case, Merry Christmas.” Um, thanks?
Despite my lack of enthusiasm, my mother still gave the flashlight to all of her loved ones for Christmas that year. It was even included in my stack of presents under the tree, and wouldn’t you know my mother was right. Last weekend a tropical band of storms unexpectedly blew through town and I lost power. Desperate for any source of light other than the screen of my quickly dying i-phone, I remembered that silly little flash light, but lets face it, I hadn’t plugged it in. Actually it was ten months later and Istill hadn’t even taken it out of the box yet. As I blindly fumbled in the dark to remove all the packaging I could hear my mother’s voice in my head “Bet you think my gift is pretty cool now, don’t ya?”
All of a sudden, the wind up flashlight I had once thought so dull was now the one thing I wanted most. I just needed a little light to feed the dog and brush my teeth! Considering it had been sitting unused for almost a year, it took quite a bit of winding before it would work and I made a mental note to properly plug it in and keep it charged once the power came back on. By the time I woke up the next morning, my electricity was back and I returned the flashlight to its charger, securely plugged into the wall. I probably won’t use it again for a long while, but should I ever need it, it’s there just waiting to help me get through the dark and that’s comforting.
I guess what I learned is that everything can’t always be exciting and that comfort has a value too. We all need to get out of our comfort zone from time to time. When we push ourselves past the confines of what’s familiar we test our skills, keep things interesting and gain useful life experiences. But you can’t live there. You can’t spend all of your time pushed to the limit or you’ll burn out.
Just as important as stepping out of you comfort zone is returning to it. Just like that little flashlight, we all need to recharge every so often so that we can shine our brightest when facing the unknown. Whether it’s a home cooked meal, a nice weekend with loved ones, a favorite old t-shirt that you’ve had forever (and should have thrown out 5 years ago), we all have things that give us comfort, things that re-charge our soul and make us feel warm and fuzzy. The funny thing about comfort though is you have to leave it to have it, otherwise it’s not comfort its just same old same old. So don’t be afraid to try something new or hard, just make sure that every now and then you remember to re-charge with the familiar things you love.