It is absolutely true that we all hold onto things sometimes a little too long. Whether it is a grudge from someone pulling into the parking spot at the front of the store even though you had your blinker on and waiting, or the friend who still hasn’t returned your favorite shirt even though you’ve asked 515 times over the last month, we all have the ability to let a small thing get in the way of our positive outlook.
The problem is, that when small things continue to add up and we keep holding a slight grudge here or there, then this is where feelings such as anger, hurt, and confusion come in. Letting the small things build up only makes a bigger pile to have to let go of in the future. This can be incredibly hard for some people. Just like it can be hard to apologize when we feel ashamed about something we know we have done wrong, it can be hard to let go of things that have angered us or hurt us, no matter how big or small.
I used to volunteer at a bereavement camp for children. The combination of words sounds strange, but it is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. A group of children come together for a weekend away at camp, who also have one giant thing in common. They have all lost either a parent or a sibling. What a hard, unimaginable shock to have to go through as a child, to lose someone so significant in their lives, and not be able to fully understand it. This sounds like a much more important matter than simply losing your parking spot close to the door, or wanting your favorite shirt back, but what I saw here at camp was an exercise in letting those hard feelings go that has stuck with me ever since. On the last night of camp there is a big bonfire, and every single volunteer and child at camp that weekend attends. At the end of the ceremony at camp, each group of children and their helpers surrounds the fire and speak the names of those they have lost, while they simultaneously throw a paper into the fire that they have written on. Most kids and the volunteer adults have written feelings down, that they have experienced during their grief process. These are emotions such as: anger, disbelief, confusion, hurt, anxious, lonely, or frightened. The symbolization of throwing these papers into the fire and getting “rid of” these feelings, or letting them go, is exactly what we all need sometimes.
Like I mentioned before, it can be so hard to let go of slight bumps in the road that we all face in our daily lives. To turn this into a physical event almost makes it easier, because you can see the paper burn and the written-out emotions disappear into the crisp nighttime air. Since seeing this event take place several times over my course of volunteering at these camps, this is one thing that has stuck with me. Sometimes, I picture this fire in my mind. When I’m having a very difficult time overcoming some type of hard feeling, I toss it right into that fire, and I move forward. Perhaps we can all try this the next time we notice we are holding small grudges here and there over day-to-day events. Write them down in your mind and toss them into that fire. They will burn, they will dissolve, they will rise and disappear into the air, and be gone. We are then free to be happy and positive again and go about our day with no negativity that we will later have to bear when it has gotten heavy. This is a gentle reminder to not sweat the small stuff, but rather toss those bitter feelings away and stay positive, with a big old happy grin on our faces.