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The Mirror


Author Robert Fulghum tells this story of one of his professors, a wise man whose name was Alexander Papaderos:


At the last session on the last morning of a two-week seminar on Greek culture, Dr. Papaderos turned and made the ritual gesture: "Are there any questions?"


Quiet quilted the room. These two weeks had generated enough questions for a lifetime, but for now, there was only silence.


"No questions?" Papaderos swept the room with his eyes.


So, I asked.


"Dr. Papaderos, what is the meaning of life?"


The usual laughter followed, and people stirred to go.


Papaderos held up his hand and stilled the room and looked at me for a long time, asking with his eyes if I was serious and seeing from my eyes that I was.


"I will answer your question."


Taking his wallet out of his hip pocket, he fished into a leather billfold and brought out a very small round mirror, about the size of a quarter.


And what he said went something like this:


"When I was a small child, during the war, 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 only 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 would never shine-in deep holes and crevices and dark closets.


It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places I could find.


"I kept the little mirror, and as I went about my growing up, I would take it out in 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 for what I might do with my life.


I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of

light. • But light-truth, understanding, 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 black places in the hearts of men-and change some things in some people.


Perhaps others may see and do likewise. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of life."


And then he took his small mirror and, holding it carefully, caught the bright rays of daylight streaming through the window and reflected them onto my face and onto my hands folded on the desk.


Jesus said, "I am the light of the world" (John 9:5), and as his followers, we are to be like that little mirror, reflecting the light of Christ into the dark corners of the world.


That is the meaning of the Christian life. "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).


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