A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love. –St. Basil the Great
When my son was 10, he and his friend Jake came running to me declaring with enthusiasm that they had decided what they were going to do with their lives.
One cannot overstate the absolute “squirreliness” of the bright light that was Jake at this particular age. I braced myself for the split second between the door slamming behind them both and the beginning of his loud declaration. ‘WE’RE GOING TO BE PRIESTS, MRS. THIEME!!”
“Well, that’s a noble thought, gentlemen. What makes….”
“It’s the PERFECT JOB!” They both chimed spontaneously. “Your house is totally free, and there are no girls living with you, and you work ONE DAY A WEEK! We’re going to be priests together and play Xbox all day long. It will be awesome!!”
“That does sound pretty sweet. Why don’t you fellas go outside and play in traffic a while, huh?”
THWAAAP! With that slam of the screen door, the silly ying-yangs were back outside getting muddy.
It’s funny how memories come flooding back to your mind from time to time. This gem was called forth this week, almost against my will, as I picked up a skinny vanilla latte yesterday. I went inside the coffee shop on this particular afternoon because the line of cars was wrapped around the building. There was my mistake, I scolded myself interiorly. Interacting with the world face to face PRIOR to the caffeine is just not always an idea laced with wisdom.
“Those guys are a joke.” said a woman within earshot just behind me.
“What parish are you again?”
“I hate priests. I really do. What cush life. They work like 2 days a week……………..”
And so there I stood thinking, “Well, now, she shouldn’t do that. I should tell her that…” Let it go.
That was the instant the old Jake and Drew life of priesthood and Xbox entered my mind, and I began to giggle. It just struck me funny that the shade these gals were throwing on the priesthood (which is chock full of hardworking guys I just love) was essentially the same ridiculous view shared by Jake and Drew’s childish babble years ago at age 10. God just gets me, I smiled. The giggle happened audibly. Like, out loud just a little. Here I was trying to LET IT GO and now I’ve gone and done it, I thought, as I saw the glare behind me.
“Umm, excuse me? Did we say something funny?” Her tone was in the snarky genre.
“Well, yes. You kind of did, but I don’t think it was on purpose. Hi, I’m Shelly by the way. I’ve just paid for your coffee.”
“Oh. Oh. Well…”
Is there a point to my rambling? Well, yes, there is.
I had just come from confession. At said confession, I had basically shared with my favorite confessor about how the world needs less of my opinion and more of my holiness. So, to follow up that decade of the rosary I had just said as a penance with a smart mouthed defense of my view of what an amazing gift authentic priestly life is for all of Starbucks to hear—in my never quiet voice—well it just seemed ill-timed.
What the world needs from me is optimism and sunshine as well as reassurance and comfort. Jesus girls should be about His good news. You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. Whatever I say should be constructive and life building. That includes to myself, by the way.
No more pity parties when things don’t go my way or when things get tough. You know what happens in a pity party? Satan brings the chips! I have to get up and do what I have to do and thank the good Lord for the day. If I’m beginning to feel resentful or angry or whatever, I’ve got to heed the wise words of Carrie Fisher.
“Resentment is like drinking poison….and hoping the other person will die.”
Princess Leia was wiser than you thought, huh? Same. An “evil” priest gave me that jewel too—via text on a day when I was in fact drinking that poison. It made me stop and smile just like my gracious God in the coffee shop. He’s right here beside me, a fact He shows me constantly…so what more could I want?
It doesn’t pay to even dab in negativity.
Pope Francis quite agrees with me. It’s true. He said this week that “news may be good or bad, true or false. The early Christians compared the human mind to a constantly grinding millstone; it’s up to the miller to determine what it will grind: good wheat or worthless weeds. Our minds are always grinding, but it is up to use to choose what to feed them.”
He acknowledged that naïve optimism isn’t necessarily called for either—meaning we shouldn’t be blind to evil. He simply proposed that “all of us work at overcoming that feeling of growing discontent” which happens interiorly to us all.
Exuding positivity requires humility. I have to admit, I missed the feeling of superiority I occasionally get from using a cynical comment or some puncturing humor with the cranky anti-priest gals at the coffee shop. A willingness to choose sunshine requires modesty—and I realize that maybe makes me sound slightly mawkish. The thing is this. I want to be a lot more like one of those joyous people who draws me in when I am around them. You know them and so do I. Are they not THE BEST??
A prayer attributed to St. Augustine includes the line “shield your joyous ones”.
Tend your sick ones, O Lord Jesus Christ
Rest your weary ones; bless your dying ones;
Soothe your suffering ones; pity your afflicted ones;
Shield your joyous ones.
And all for your love’s sake.
I read it years ago and wondered why the heck St. A worried about the joyous ones? It’s easy to be heavy. It’s hard to be light. That’s why.
Are there joyous people in your life who buoy your spirits and can be counted on to cushion your anxiety? Maybe now’s the time to make an effort to use your good cheer to support them. Play the “glad game” and call it “Pollyanna week”. Be their sunshine.
I’m brand new today. CLEAN SLATE. Yeah me! I’m not going to dwell on little hurts and irritations. I can’t be who God means me to be if am making snide comments and unleashing my opinion on all.
I’m calling a Pollyanna week. There will be positivity, optimism, and listening. I’m going to be grateful for all that’s going on in my life, and for the gift of faith and be at peace. Less me, more God.
Who’s with me?
Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.
-St. (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta
Peace out, folks!
P.S. When her friend lingered in the coffee shop, sweet gal #2 stopped me in the parking lot. She said, “We weren’t being very charitable earlier. Thank you for the coffee.”
You get more flies with honey. It’s true.