I wouldn’t exactly say that Vegas is the obvious place to find Peace on Earth but given my earlier resolution to find the Christmas Spirit within the busyness of my days, I assumed I could easily find it in the sunshine of the Las Vegas Strip.
While I must say that I loved the moderate temperature and the sunny skies, I didn’t exactly have to dodge in and around the Christmas Spirit on our first days. In fact, I had fully expected all of the hotels to have ‘Decked Their Halls’ but the truth was that it was a lot easier to find a ‘Great Deal on Dinner and a Show’ than it was to find some garland and a Christmas tree. The Babe in the Manger must have missed his flight for there was not a sign of him anywhere. Knowing that the Christmas Spirit often appears in disguise, I was undaunted in my search.
On Day Three of our extended weekend I caught my first real glimpse of Christmas Present. We had rented a car and driven from Vegas to Zion National Park, located just inside the Utah border. We had been there before and we were looking forward to a peaceful day of hiking in the mountains. We were not disappointed. The park was quiet. The sun was shining. Santa’s deer were grazing in a meadow getting ready for the big night – or at least I assume it was them since they were exactly nine in number.
My moment of peace arrived when we were getting close to the top of the Emerald Pools hike. This hike climbs up and up, to three beautiful pools of water. Just in between the middle and top pool the terrain changes from fairly smooth pathways to very rocky and unsteady footing. Every step up must be considered so as to not lose your balance. Along this stretch we saw another couple ahead of us. Although this couple was younger than us and they looked to be in better shape, we easily closed the gap between us and them. As we got close enough to say hello, we saw that the man was blind; completely blind.
Every single step he took was carefully choreographed. The woman held his left elbow and he held his white cane in his right hand. She gently have him instructions. “Pick up your right foot. Lift it about eight inches up and place it slightly forward. You will feel a rock to step on. That’s good. Your left foot won’t fit beside it so you’ll place it a bit in front of your right foot on another bigger rock. Got it.”
And so it went. Step after slow step. All the way up the mountain. I have no idea how long the hike took them. It was about a 6-7 km trail, round trip. Although it was a spectacular view from the top, the vista did not give me that ‘Spirit of the Season’ feeling I was seeking. The couple however, did. There, on the side of the mountain, watching them patiently work together, I felt peace. I understood what it was to give from the heart. The difficulty of this climb for them would have been insurmountable for most. Somehow, in the midst of it all they worked together and they modeled peace: peace with each other, peace with their abilities, peace in the feeling of perfect trust with each other and peace with life. What a gift to behold.
My second peek into the Spirit of Christmas came on our very last day in Vegas. We checked out of our hotel, leaving our bags behind to pick up later and we struck out for our last walk up the strip. We had seen most of the hotels by then but had left the inside of the Bellagio for last. I’m so glad we did. Whereas in the other hotels there might have been a token wreath or a few bulbs hanging from the ceiling, in the Bellagio, Christmas was alive and well. The lobby was beautifully decorated and ahead of us was a huge open foyer decorated as a magnificent winter wonderland. There was an electric train bound for the North Pole, a massive Christmas tree with elves on ladders decorating it, there were penguins and polar bears. The thing that caught my eye in the midst of all the tourists and cameras and talking and pointing was a man, a worker, who was putting the finishing touches on one of the polar bears. The huge bear was made entirely of fresh flowers. Beside the bear sat the man, patiently attaching one white carnation after the next on the side of the bear. This man had obviously been hired to do this. It was simply his job. But to watch the way that he placed his full attention on every single detail of his work was to recognize peace. The world bustled past him but he gently continued to take great pride in his craftsmanship. I watched him for quite some time and thought about the many jobs I had yet to complete at home. I was hoping that I had left enough room in my suitcase to pack some of his spirit, his peaceful gentle way and his understanding that the busyness of the season does have to outshine the beauty of the moment and that peace can be found anywhere we choose.
I wish for each of you peace this season; peace within your heart, peace within your home and peace among those you meet.
In keeping with my strong value of family, I will not publish a blog next week. Instead, I will be very busy preparing for and being grateful for the opportunity to spend Christmas with our family who will all be together this year.