The Mirror

The following comes from a book entitled Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul,[1] published way back in 1997.  I used to give this piece to my students.  It’s called “The Mirror.”


“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 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 the light.  But light –truth, understanding, knowledge–is there, and it will shine in many dark places only 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 my life.”


Jesus says, “You are the light of the world.”[2]  If that is so, our light is obviously not our own but His light.  Our Lord is the Light.[3]  We are but mirrors.  Jesus is the sun.  We are but moons.  It is our job to catch, reflect, and direct the light of Christ anywhere we can.

As mirrors, we must first of all be positioned in such a way so that we can catch the light of Christ.  In other words, Mass, the sacraments, Holy Scripture, prayer, and Catholic teaching are all indispensible.  Second, if we are mirrors, we must be clean mirrors so that we can accurately reflect the light of Christ.  We need to go to confession regularly and to do everything we can to avoid sin.  Third, we must be people oriented so that we can direct the light of Christ.  We need to relate positively to our fellow human beings.  Finally, if we are mirrors of the light of Christ, we must remember that, as is true of the mirror on the right-hand side of the car, He who is reflected therein is closer than He appears.


[1] By Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Kimberly Kirberger.

[2] Matthew 5:14.

[3] John 8:12.