This morning, well intentioned, I sat down in my red chair, coffee in hand, Magnificat open, ready to be inspired and start a day full of busyness.
“I’m up a bit early, this is good.” I thought. I’ll start with a some of prayer and get on with my day.
I read the Gospel for today, and came to the famous words of Jesus, “Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.”
I sat back in my chair, eyes closed. I remembered previous days, back in college, when I had worked with the Missionaries of Charity in Rome. I remembered my job working at our local transitional children’s shelter. I recalled my busy time in the pro-life movement, when I would take poor pregnant women to St. Vincent de Paul for assistance, and help them to get their lights turned on and sign up for food stamps.
“Man, those were the days,” I thought. “When I really DID SOMETHING for the ‘least of these’.”
I’ve got to find something. It’s been so long. Surely there is a way for me and my family to do some good around here. Maybe we can volunteer at the Food Bank, organizing shelves of donations. Or, serve at our local homeless shelter. We could set up a fund-raiser, collecting donations for any number of services in our community. Yes, that will really open the eyes of my children. This will be good.
My children… they are all home today, off for President’s Day, and so I hurry to get started. I jot down my long to-do list for my work: web design clients to contact, projects to finish, projects to start, team members to communicate with. A few hours would be good this morning… to get something done. If I use my time well this morning, I’ll be way ahead. Best get started. I set up my laptop, refresh my cup of coffee, review my list in my planner, and set to work.
Then, the interruptions begin. Someone is hungry again, two are bickering over a doll, my oldest can’t find her book. The frustration rises in my chest. “If I could just have a little time to myself, this entire day would be so much better,” I thought.
My voice a bit raised, “Just a minute.”
Re-microwave my coffee.
Start working again.
“Mommy, I can’t find my favorite pencil…”
Seriously, a pencil? A pencil. I’m stopping everything to find a pencil.
“It’s that pretty white one with the green eraser. I love it.”
My chin drops to my chest, I take a deep breath, look up at the time on my laptop: 7:23 am. Great.
My gaze shifts over to my little daughter, and in the shifting, crosses over my planner, open to today’s date and tasks and that verse I had copied down only 45 minutes earlier. “Whatever you did not do for the least of these you did not do for me.”
Oh my God. My Lord and My God.
My least of these are 12 inches from my face, with bed tousled blonde hair and a nightgown covered in frogs.
Here am I, dreaming fantastic dreams, once again lost in my head. Reminiscing over past times of grand service, of making vegetable soup in a 700 year old Roman building next to the friends of Mother Teresa. My noble acts of helping a young mother set up a home for her soon-to-arrive newborn. Of rocking to sleep a scared child who doesn’t know who her mommy is. Yes, I was so good. The least of these.
But my very own children are such a bother.
I am constantly surprised how God’s will for my life really looks nothing like how I might imagine it to be. He turns everything upside down. He makes all things new. And surprising. When he walked the sandy roads of Galilee, he continuously shocked his followers. Yes, he’s been doing this for a very long time. And he still does, at least he does in this little house at the end of the culdesac.
Life is more challenging than I ever thought possible. From the surface, it all appears much less valiant than the visions in my head. No glamor here. This scene will never be painted on the front of a holy card. It’s raw and boring and messy and pulls at me in ways I never imagined. But, I know down to my very bones that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. No doubt.
“For each one of us, there is only one thing necessary: to fulfill our own destiny, according to God’s will, to be what God wants us to be.” – Thomas Merton
The wooden legs of my chair squeak against the tile floor.
“Yes, love, let me help you find your pencil. Where do you think you saw it last?”