Robert Fulghum

I don’t normally repost other people’s work, especially in full, but we were lucky enough to have Robert Fulghum speak at my middle school near Seattle back in the mid-90s. It’s rare that someone says something you remember from a year ago, but exceedingly rare that an entire story pops in to your head from a decade ago. This is the story he told in front of my school one day.

A story is told by Robert Fulghum, a Unitarian minister, about a seminar he once attended in Greece. On the last day of the conference, the discussion leader walked over to the bright light of an open window and looked out. Then he asked if there were any questions. Fulghum laughingly asked him what was the meaning of life. Everyone in attendance laughed and stirred to leave. However, the leader held up his hand to ask for silence and then responded “I will answer your question.” He took his wallet out of his pocket and removed a small round mirror about the size of a quarter. Then he explained “When I was a small child during World War II, we were very poor and we lived in a remote village. One day on the road, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place. I tried to find all the pieces and put them together, but it was not possible, so I kept the largest piece. This one. And by scratching it on a stone, I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun could never shine. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places that I could find. I kept the little mirror, and as I grew up, I would take it out at idle moments and continue the challenge of the game.

As I became a man, I grew to understand that this was not just a child’s game, but a metaphor of what I could do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of the light. But light – be it truth or understanding or knowledge – is there, and it will only shine in many dark places if I reflect it. I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have, I can reflect light into the dark places of this world – into the dark places of human hearts – and change some things in some people. Perhaps others seeing it happen will do likewise. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of my life.” (1)

Do we reflect the light of Christ into the darkness of other people’s lives? Will the world be a better place for our having been in it?

From It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It, by Robert Fulghum. Ivy Books, 988.

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16 Responses to Robert Fulghum

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