In Three Parts
I’d worked my way across the store and the woman’s temper had not improved. When I saw her at the end of Aisle 9 (baby food & kids’ toys) I knew I had to say something—anything—to try to defuse her anger. The little girl was shrieking now; she had been hanging out the side of the car and the woman had rolled over her hand.
What I should do, and what I should say, I hadn’t a clue. The idea came to me as I pushed my cart down the aisle toward them, past a shelf of children’s books and magazines.
“Excuse me?” Nervously I put my hand on her arm.
The woman was fumbling with a box of band-aids and muttered an apology as she stepped out of my way. Her face was weathered; her cheek was pierced. Her dark brown eyes, while not exactly kind, were receptive.
I made up my mind to just do it.
“Would you like me to read to her for a bit while you finish the rest of your shopping?” I smiled in what I hoped was a sympathetic, nonjudgmental way. “These little ones get bored, don’t they?”
She looked self-conscious but smiled. “She’s my granddaughter. She’s tired.”
And then she shook her head and said, “That’s okay. Thank you, anyway.”
I murmured something lame to the effect of “You go, Grandma.” Seriously, it was something totally goofy and I don’t really remember what it was. (Would you blame me if I blocked it out?) Encounters like this are always a bit surreal for me—they go fast and I’m not always…um…in control of what I say. What I do remember is that the woman seemed—I think, I hope—a bit more peaceful as she walked away.
She stopped screaming at her granddaughter anyway.
So no big deal, right? A simple gesture, an offer that wasn’t even accepted. I really don’t know if any good came of it but I tried. At least I tried.
I don’t know, my friend. I am tempted to think that this Lent—my Lent—has been for naught. I’m still drinking coffee like nobody’s business, am still not making it to daily Mass, am still feeling as selfish and preoccupied as always.
I still don’t feel like I’m ready for Easter. I see that it’s already Palm Sunday and wince.
You are right, though, you who are thinking that we wouldn’t need Easter if we were perfect. You are right to tell me to keep on trying and to not lose hope. I don’t know. Perhaps the greatest lesson I am to take away from this Lent is not whether or not I have given up coffee. Perhaps it is whether I have loved as much as I am loved…
And perhaps it’s believing that I am loved.
“You are not a saint because you keep the rules and are blameless; you are a saint if you live in the real world, going out and loving the real people whom God has put into your life.”— Sister Wendy Beckett
May the rest of your Lent be fruitful and hopeful.
May you, too, believe in God’s great love for you.