Epiphany (noun): an illuminating discovery; an appearance or manifestation, especially of a divine being.
Arthur Fry was a pretty normal kid. He grew up in Minnesota in the 1930's, sang in the church choir and loved spending his extra time reading. He was the kind of person who loved books too much to mark them up with ink. Instead, he scribbled notes on scraps of paper and used them to bookmark pages. The only problem was that all of his notes kept falling out of their place in the book, that is, until the day of his great epiphany. It was the "illuminating discovery" of adding adhesive to one edge of his scrap paper to keep it in his books. What Arthur didn't realize is that his epiphany would lead him to become the inventor of an office supply that most of us have in our drawers: the Post-it Note.
I'm certainly no Arthur Fry, and I will never be famous for inventing the Post-it Note. My only claim to fame (or completely nerdy confession) is that in the third grade, I was the regional champion at the Invention Convention. Yes, my friends, you can now say that you know the inventor of the Cough Drop Sucker. I thought it was a pretty brilliant idea that kids would be saved from choking on a cough drop, with the added bonus of feeling like they were eating candy when they had a sore throat. Problem solved. I should have applied for a patent as an 8 year-old. Unfortunately, a couple years later, I was flipping through the Sunday ads next to the comics and saw my invention. It was on the opposite side of the page where they try to sell you those crappy commemorative coins that aren't worth anything. It turns out someone else had the same epiphany.
Perhaps it’s still the kid in me, but there’s something about a new year that makes my adult heart hopeful that an epiphany is right around the corner. I recently learned that it’s not just around the corner, but actually coming a couple days from now, on January 6th to be exact – The Day of Epiphany. For hundreds of years, the liturgical calendar has set aside this day to reflect on the time when the Three Wise Men from the East lay their gifts before the baby Jesus recognizing him as the Divine King. As these three men witnessed first hand “the manifestation of a divine being,” their lives were changed. They had spent their whole lives studying the stars, learning the historical and religious traditions, and their life’s work led them to the most powerful Epiphany in history.
The beautiful thing about an illuminating discovery is the ripple effect it has in the lives of others. Most of us will never experience an epiphany like the Wise Men, but we can certainly be encouraged by Arthur Fry’s own story. He saw a problem and combined two simple resources to solve it. It wasn’t divine, but it certainly impacted all of our lives for good. Who knows how many life-changing ideas have surfaced because of Post-it Note brainstorming, or how many days have been brightened by finding the words “I Love You” stuck to the bathroom mirror?
As we enter this New Year, I encourage you to think about the resources and talents you have been given to create a moment of illuminating discovery for someone around you. Perhaps it is as simple as combining the resource of time with a comfortable room in your house to listen to and let a friend solve a problem out loud. The possibilities are endless as we look for ways to use our creativity and resources to discover new ideas that impact those around us. May this be the year of personal epiphany for you, creating a ripple effect of common good for our community.
Happy New Year!