This afternoon, I passed by the house of a woman in our neighborhood that I have met only once, but think of every time I drive by. A few years ago she gifted me a small princess cup for my then-infant daughter – I had been perusing a garage sale in her driveway and was about to walk away when she gave me the cup, saying “Your little princess will need this someday.” She has probably forgotten this small act of kindness, and probably would not recognize me if we met on the street, but I remember action every time I pour my daughter a glass of milk or drive by her house. How lovely, that such a brief interaction can have such a lasting impact.
A couple of years ago, I was dropping off some clothes at the thrift store that our parish operates. I had all three children in the car with me, and didn’t want to drag them out of the car for the 30-second errand. I grabbed the bags of clothes and sprinted to the drop-off area and back to my car again. As I was about to get into my car, I saw the security guard who drives around the parish grounds and waved, smiling. To my surprise, he came over and scolded me – “Ma’am, you’re lucky that I was here. Someone could have come by and kidnapped your children.” Shocked, I said, “Excuse me, what did you say?” He repeated his words, and with a bright red face, I closed the car door and drove away. I could see him shaking his head at me in the rearview mirror. For days afterwards, I felt a knot in my stomach every time I thought of the incident. I felt ashamed, misunderstood, and embarrassed. Every time I see this security guard, the feelings return to me, even though he has quite obviously forgotten the entire incident. How interesting, that such a brief interaction could have such a lasting impact.
There are many resolutions that I could make for this new year of 2013. I need to be better about flossing my teeth. I should probably be more patient with my children, eat more vegetables, and do a better job of keeping family albums. My resolution this year, however, will be quite simple: To deal with people in a way that leaves them feeling encouraged and understood, and not ashamed and misunderstood. I never know how deeply my words and actions, no matter how insignificant, will touch the soul of another human being, and God forbid that I would ever say something that would lead a person down the path of shame, loneliness, or discouragement.
May God bless all of you today. Mary, Help of Christians, pray for us!