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Posted: May 6, 2011 12:00 a.m.

From weddings to disasters

Wasn't it all just too beautiful?

Wasn't it just perfect? Aren't they a handsome couple? Doesn't she have the most winning smile? And didn't that Irish Guards uniform fit him grandly?

I am, of course, referring to last week's wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Millions around this country, I among them, got up excruciatingly early to view the royal vows. I'll concede here and now to a fascination with all things about the British royal family, but when it comes to television, nothing could top the spectacle.

Too much on television, from news to sitcoms, is ugly, disgusting and rude, but on that morning, we were treated to something that was just plain pretty and happy.
The most intriguing moment came in the Bishop of London's remarks to the couple when he advised them that marriage is to be a transforming relationship, not one in which one seeks to reform the other.

To reform, says the dictionary, is to "improve by alteration, correction of error or removal of defects," and, further, "to cause (a person) to abandon irresponsible or immoral practices." The definition of the verb transform is "to change markedly the form or appearance of; to change the nature, function or condition of; convert." The meaning of the noun "transformation" better conveys what we mean in common usage: "a marked change, as in appearance or character, usually for the better." Interestingly, the thesaurus explains that both verbs - transform and reform - can be interchanged with the words "change" and "make better." So what exactly did the Bishop of London mean?

Marriages founded on the hope and desire of reforming bad behavior in one or the other are marriages made in or destined for hell. It is a mistake I've observed more often among women than men. She thinks she's going to change a heavy-drinking, irresponsible, hard party-er (probably the very reasons the bad boy got her attention) into a Sunday school superintendent when the I-do's are said.

Soon enough she learns that the answer is "not." He is what he is, and all her cajoling, fretting and nagging aren't going to change him. They split or settle into a long-term toxic marriage of sorts.
Marriage does have the power to transform the lives of those who live with a single focus. In relationships, one takes on the concerns and needs of another, particularly so when children come along. Life becomes less about "me," and more about "we."

Some years ago, a friend who was a confirmed bachelor was nearing 40. He was dating a nice woman, but there seemed to be nothing electric about their relationship, until he decided that in marriage, he would have someone "watching his back." He proposed, they fell in love and have had a long and stable marriage, including a son now in college.

There are certainly many ways in which lives can be transformed or reformed for the better. The discovery of long-denied faith in something greater and more powerful than life here on earth is both transformational and reforming. Teachers and mentors have the power to do both in the lives of the young. A near-death experience renders its survivors changed and made over with a vision that perceives life on both sides of death. A terminal diagnosis often opens eyes on the real meaning of and most important priorities of life. On your deathbed, you will not worry over missed messages, un-kept appointments, promotions denied or bills unpaid. Love, family and forgiveness will trump any other concerns or issues or grudges.

Natural disasters have a way of transforming lives as well, and surely not for the better. We've seen and read the horrors of communities destroyed and blown away in the aftermath of history-making tornado damage recently. The survivors stand stripped of all they treasured.
People who had little must start over with nothing but the breath in their bodies. Good lives vanished into the howling winds. Homes and possessions were simply erased from the face of the earth.

However, in heartening counterpoint to all the pain and destruction, other lives are being transformed by joining in rapidly developing, Facebook-inspired efforts to respond to the critical needs for the most basic provisions: food, water, tarps, clothes, toiletries, baby supplies and tools.

A front-page story in the "AJC" on Thursday detailed the spontaneous efforts to meet these needs by complete strangers, compelled in like ways to do more than just send money and "clearly reveling in the communal energy of giving," wrote AJC reporter Craig Schneider.
Moments of transformation can be right around the corner.

Barbara Morgan is a Covington resident with a background in newspaper journalism, state government and politics.

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