Saturday, February 23, 2019

Serenity

It's been almost a year now since I've returned to the church of my childhood. It's become a good practice for me, a good way to start the week. It's a place where I can feel both exulted and grounded. But last week something different happened. 

Just before Mass, I saw my sister who's been a member of this parish since we were children. She teaches CCD. She volunteers to help wherever she’s needed.

Inside the church, I sat beside her. “I’m leaving a few minutes early,” she whispered as the Mass began. “I’m going across the street to help out.”

“To where?”

“It’s a shelter for the homeless. Do you want to come?”

I shivered. “No,” I responded, determined to stay inside until the Mass ended. But when my sister got up to leave, I followed her. “I’ll walk with you,” I said.

“Come inside,” she said when we got there. I followed her into the kitchen where a woman was stirring a large pot of food. “It smells good,” I said as she smiled. 

“Come with me into the dining room,” my sister said. Inside my mind, the words “dining room” conjured an image of a large mahogany table. Instead, I found an assortment of folding tables covered with pink- and rose-colored cloths. There were two women sitting at one of them. “This is my sister,” my sister said by way of introduction.

Oh my God, I thought when I looked at them, struck by their demeanor. They barely glanced at me. I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. They looked so forlorn. They looked so unloved. Why aren’t they in church, I wondered, asking for help. Later, I wondered why I wasn’t in church asking for help for them.

Their image stayed with me throughout the long and tumultuous week, a week of holidays and storms. Finally, at the end of it, I returned to church and got to my knees.

God, I said, did you see those women?

Did you? he answered.

Yes.

What did you see?

They looked - I stopped, unable to put my feelings into words.

What?

They looked lost.

Really? Are you sure that’s what you saw? Think again. Think back. What else did you see? 

They looked as though they had given up.

Given up?

Resigned. They looked as though they were resigned to their situation?

Are you?

I sighed. What should I do?

Do what you came here to do. Say a prayer.

I bowed my head. Lord, I said, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

Okay, he said.

But it’s not enough, I told him. There must be more. There must be something else I can do.

Say it again, he said.


Dear Elvis, my story about love and loss, is available at amzn.to/2uPSFtE

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