Even worse, some spell had come over everybody. People seemed stuck in their smallest selves and in their least-forgiving outlooks. People seemed to assume the worst about others, especially about those whom they didn’t actually know. And nobody smiled at strangers.
Marley noticed a peculiar and frightening thing. Growing and learning had stopped. She observed that conversations had become mere exchanges. People would speak, but hearing seemed to have disappeared. Nobody seemed curious or asked questions. Nobody adjusted his thinking, or gained from the experiences of others. Marley was still in sixth grade, and like a sponge, she absorbed knowledge and ideas wherever they were — in her books, homework, experiments, lectures and outdoors. To her, learning seemed inseparable from living itself, and so seeing the adults shrink and close was scary.
She was about to give up on the Christmas spirit altogether when something extraordinary happened. One very cold, still night, after everybody had gone to bed, and when the full moon and a zillion stars sparkled off the white, snow-covered ground and illuminated the world, Marley heard a soft tapping on her window. She arose, went to the window and opened it. Outside, her gentle grandmother, seven years dead, smiled at her. Marley, she said, I know what you are afraid of.
You are afraid that all of the adults have stopped growing. You are asking, what if — by some ill fate — everybody is done? What if nobody could grow, learn, expand or develop further? What if all of us were frozen, right now, as simply the people that we are now?
But Marley’s grandmother smiled and told her not to fear the world. Instead, get up tomorrow morning and pay attention to all of the ways that people are constantly bigger than they need to be. You will be surprised by what you see.