I went to a beauty pageant last week and emerged with a profound sense of joy, hope and serenity.
I have to confess, it was not what I expected. I normally associate beauty pageants with competition and vanity. This pageant was different; more about inner beauty, hope and joy. It is called the Pageant of Hope and featured 51 “Princesses” — girls and young women with special needs. We went to the pageant to see my niece and God Daughter, Anna, who was participating in the pageant for the third time.
The pageant was held at a magnificent ballroom in St. Paul’s Intercontinental Hotel, decorated to match the finest wedding or prom. The evening consisted mostly of “contestants” answering questions and parading up and down the elevated walkway, smiling and waving; first in regular clothes, then in comical costumes, and finally in beautiful dresses.
It was long; nearly four hours, but the time flew by. Watching Anna smile and wave, looking beautiful and confident with a funny twinkle in her eye made it worth every minute. It was also a great joy to watch these 50 other pageant princesses have their evening of stardom. I did not know any of them; but their stories unfolded before us and we watched as they came down the aisle beaming with joy, their proud friends and family members cheering and shouting with delight. There was palpable warmth in the room that brought tears to my eyes; many times.
There is, I am told, a Hindu teaching that suggests that our lives have two true purposes: To experience joy; and to bring joy to others.
I have always loved the simplicity of that wisdom, but I have often struggled with the idea that our life purposes could be summed up this way. I thought of this Hindu wisdom many times as I watched Anna and the other “princesses” express their joy so readily and spread so much of that joy to those around them.
As a parent, and a Godparent, I have particularly tried to hang on to the simple truth that our happiness in life does not depend on achievements. Yes, we are all proud of our children’s accomplishments, and that is much cause for joy. But Anna and her friends were able to help me see how much joy can be spread by simply walking down the aisle; smiling and waving with confidence.
It made me realize how Anna, in addition to being a wonderful niece and God daughter, has so much to teach me. Way too much of my life has been spent trying way too hard to achieve things that I hoped would help bring joy to myself and others. Turns out all I really need to do is walk down the aisles of my life, smiling and waving and spreading joy.
Thanks Anna; you are truly beautiful and an inspiration to me.