We long for the happily ever after
Even when we often don't get it
It’s Christmas Eve and pitch dark. A mother whips the horse into a frenzy as she races her sled through the snowy forest.
Wolves are howling in the distance. Winter has been cruel this year.
Suddenly, she sees an old woman struggling through the snow, lost in the forest. She stops. Get on!
The wolves come closer; the sled is too heavy to outrun them.
She thinks about her children and how they need her. She looks at the old woman. It will only take one push.
Here, approximately 10 minutes into the story, I stop.
I give the young teens listening to me a choice. A choice that will determine how the story ends.
Should she throw the old woman to the wolves, or jump herself?
Almost all of them throw the old woman to the wolves.
And so I continue.
The wolves have their fill. The mother is safely reunited with her children. A happy ending. All together around the hearth.
However, in the dark months that follow, the mother locks herself more and more evenings in her bedroom. They can hear her wailing all through the night.
At this point, I can deeply feel the darkness and sadness that covers us.
No boisterous teenagers anymore.
The silence is painful.
It presses us down.
After an eternity, I softly ask: “Some of you chose differently. Would you also like to hear your ending?”
Relief floods the room.
Everybody wants another ending. Please, let it be a happy ending!
The other ending is not an entirely happy ending; that would be too dishonest.
The mother loses a hand. Permanently. Everybody lives, though.
A teacher once told me afterward: “I’m glad that the story still got a Christmas ending.”
We crave happy endings.
Story and story again, I find that we, as human beings, mostly want a happy ending. Especially when the story is live, and we can’t put the book away or press pause.
In real life, we all have discovered that, more often than not, there is no ‘happily ever after.’
We don’t always succeed. Friends leave us. Relationships break down. Terrible things happen. The world can be a cold, hard, painful place.
Almost none of us get as many ‘happily ever afters’ as we wished.
And yet, amidst all that, we crave, we hope, we wish.
We long for the happily ever after.