Life is beautiful; It is a gift even when it is lived in difficult circumstances. It is always a gift. (Pope Benedict XVI)
One of my rarely broken rules of this blog involves not invoking stories which include what could be construed as unflattering tidbits about my husband, Tom. You see, I’m pretty into harmonious marriage. For the sake of making a point which I feel is valuable, I’m letting that one go today. He’s working so many hours right now, maybe he won’t notice, ha?
As you likely know, today is St. Patrick’s Day. I got up a few minutes early so that I could dig out some appropriately green clothing item and still get to 8am mass on time. Like any sane long married couple, we usually start our days best when NOT sharing bathroom space first thing in the morning. I like sleeping in and Tom likes seeing zero other humans, so it usually works out.
Use of blow dryers is frowned upon in the wee hours, as is casual conversation. Tom is NOT a morning person. In fact, my irritatingly cheerful “Good morning!” used to be greeted with “Is it, though?” I outed my handsome guy on that one, and he’s curtailed it. I’m proud of him, as I know it’s not easy being married to me, especially at 6:45am.
Today, my mistake was pointing out that he wasn’t wearing green. “Do you think I give a rip about wearing green?” he barked. I retorted by pointing out that his Irish grandmother is looking down disapprovingly at this move and steered him to the area with the green golf shirts just begging to be chosen. My idea was summarily and immediately rejected.
Transparency is important here. It’s tax season for my favorite CPA. When I went to bed well after 11pm, he was still in our home office working. Also, we’re on the verge of WWIII, it costs $100 to fill up a tank with gas, the pandemic refuses to end, and his Dad has end stage colon cancer. This moment in history is a difficult one for so many of us. Some of the reasons we share, and some are our own crosses.
Voracious. That’s the word I’d assign to myself where reading is concerned. I definitely read my fair share of beach smut, but I am also drawn to historical works—fiction and nonfiction. Many of my favorite books are based on the stories of ordinary heroes who stepped into the gap for the sake of others at some of the most cruel and terrifying moments of World War II. For much the same reason, I am inspired by the stories of the saints. The tie that binds the most inspiring people I’ve read about is hope. They were hopeful folks, which allowed them to be fully present in the moment.
Hopeful people show others the light. They are sacrificial and kind. They raise money for one small family fleeing the Ukraine. They show up with Starbucks on a rainy day. They clear a stranger’s sidewalk of snow or offer to take a friend to the airport. Hopeful people are upbeat, cheerful, sanguine and they keep the faith. Interiorly, there is something inside these heroes. I’ll call it grace. This grace allows folks to somehow intuit that they start the world spinning again towards peace, towards compassion.
Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier. (Colin Powell)
The Lord isn’t calling most of us to do something as dramatic as say, St. Maximilian Kolbe. He was a polish priest who volunteered to die in place of another man (who had a wife and children) at Auschwitz. However, Jesus might be calling you and I to be beacons of hope.
Are you feeling down? The absolute best solution that exists is to be present in the day you’re living and think “what can I do to make someone else’s day sunnier?” Then, just choose one small, optimistic thing. Call your Dad. Buy coffee for the fireman you see at Panera. Teach a first grader how to play “crazy 8’s”. Pray a decade of the rosary for a friend—then tell her! These signs of hope send goodness into the world, and it is transformed. The same goes for your own heart.
I’ll give you a personal example. At the beginning of the year, I was having a particularly blue week. I then learned that several of the regular volunteers at the Merciful Help Center (a food pantry and so much more) near me were all out with Covid. I offered to fill in for a day doing whatever was needed. The hours that I spent that day simply making phone calls to folks in need were nothing special—or so I thought. The truth is, that day left my bucket filled. When we focus on what we can do for someone else, the Lord has a magical way of using our compassion for the good of folks in our path to other ends as well.
Hopefulness expressed outwardly is a big fat “Get behind me, Satan.”
The world is full of overwhelmed people. The danger of surrender to the collective consciousness, to the attitudes that surround us have long been a warning siren. Mark (chapter 8) tells us “Do not go into the village” for what I personally think is this exact reason. The polarization created by technology is absolutely an existential threat to us as well in this same way. We can no longer agree on truth.
The solution I propose is this. Focus on being the best friend you can. Don’t wait to be invited. Notice. Listen. Smile. Give more than you take. Make the time.
This past fall, I heard a great talk from a Dominican Sister. My takeaway from that talk was the pairing of these gems spoken by our Blessed Mother. They are out of wine…do whatever He tells you.
In other words, if you spot someone whose eyes are are dead today, if it’s your own heart that’s battered, (or even if it’s just that your husband doesn’t even have the good sense to put on a green shirt on St. Patricks day, because life is just A LOT) first, notice who’s “out of wine”. Then, listen to Jesus and do what He says.
My solution for Tom was pretty small. It won’t solve what ails him that I ran a couple errands specifically for him today or that I have pork chops waiting for him when he gets home (because no tense German guy wants corned beef after working a 14hr day) even if it is St. Patrick’s Day. Maybe, though, a little part of him will be assuaged by love.
Trust in Him. In defiance to all that is difficult or even evil, be hopeful today. In optimism, there is victory.
St. Patrick, Pray for Us!