My daughters are particularly insightful. When they met met the person who runs the Provost’s office at HBU, they knew that they had met a most excellent person and began to refer to her as Saint Linda.
Really, since she is very much alive, she should be called Saint-In-the-Making Linda, but their message to me was clear: listen to Saint Linda. And I try. I am so trying that Saint-In-the-Making Linda is getting to sanctity faster.
I am so loud and she is so quiet, that I tried to think of a way I could get her attention without just hollering “Linda!” into the other room. Of course, the simple solution would have been to use the amazing device, the “phone” that HBU has given me or to get up and call graciously to her.
And that is, in fact, what I am now trying to do, but on the way to the obvious right idea, I detoured by way of the wrong. I bought a beautiful bell. . . and let me assure you it is a beautiful bell. It rings with a perfect “D” . . . and I thought: “I shall not be rude. When something is needed, I will ring this bell.”
Thanks be to God, I have learned to pass my clever ideas by Hope for her approval. As I articulated my idea, and saw her face, I knew: this was a very bad idea. She did a quick word association with me after hearing the piercing D: Pavlov. Hotels. Servants. Poe.
She laughed at me next and I laughed with her.
When I had thought of bells, I thought Paradise, music, and melody, but in the workplace ringing a bell had none of the associations I was seeking. The bell was a bad idea as I had intended to use it: so bad that it gave me another idea.
So I took the bell to work and gave it to Saint Linda . . . the Bell of Saint Linda with permission for Linda to ring it when I said something particularly foolish. I like hearing the bell now and when I do hear it will know it is time to have a laugh at the Provost. But for Saint Linda, no bell shall ring tonight or any night.
I had good intentions with the Bell of Saint Linda, but if I had ignored Hope and used it, then all my good intentions would not have covered for my folly. Being sincere and well meaning may help the Great Pumpkin, but it will not help the people I am called to love. It is good to mean well, but better to do good. Like the Christmas present I like, but the recipient loathes, other people’s needs and desires must dominate my thinking when I try to serve.
“Help” that is unwelcome or words that are ill timed ring loudly and pierce the peace, like the Bell of Saint Linda.
Do I love Hope as she wishes or based on my needs? Are my gifts what I think she wants or what she has communicated to me? Am I listening or clanging away on the bell of Saint Linda?
It gets worse. How much do I give to God, that He would rather not have? How much worship is what I wish God would say to me, not what God would hear? Do I leave church wondering what I got out of it, instead of what the Beloved received?
Is my act of worship a clanging bell of Saint Linda?
So here I sit in my office alone and know that I must never again assume without asking what anybody needs. My rule?
I must ask before the bell tolls, or I may simply be tolling for me.