Written by Laura Phelps
Columnist for www.catholicmom.com
She has been sitting in the same church as me for well over a year. I do not know her name, and I have no idea who she is. All that I know is she has the habit of wrapping her white rosary beads around her hands when she goes up to communion.
And how she whispers special intentions so that you can’t quite hear the words, but you feel them, regardless.
And that for an older woman, she dresses with a unique flair and style I have always admired, and how much I love her funky hair cut, with the white stripe that sweeps down the side of her face.
I ran into her in the bathroom after mass this morning, and finally decided I should say something to her. I complimented her fashion sense and told her how I loved her hair, as I walked into the stall.
“Thank you,” she smiled. “I am going to be losing it. I bought a wig.”
I stopped. I turned around. And I looked at her. Really looked at her. “You’re sick?” It was more of a statement than a question.
“Chemo starts on Thursday,” she told me.
She has been sitting in the same church as me for well over a year. And she has breast cancer. She is a mother. And she is a grandmother of five grandchildren. And she put that awesome white stripe in her hair for her daughter’s wedding just to spice up her look.
She is 74 years old. She had breast cancer 30 years ago. And now it has returned. And had I never opened my mouth to tell her how much I loved her hair, I never would have known any of this.
And we all do this, don’t we? We all are so busy and constantly running and so wrapped up in our lists of things to do and our own crosses to carry, that we miss it.
We miss the people that God’s mighty hand purposefully places in front of us. We miss the opportunity to connect or encounter or teach or encourage or learn or weep with or pray for. We miss the point of why we are here; to shine God’s bright light on everyone, to bring joy and love to another.
No doubt, this world can feel so dark, but God shines brighter. And if we get on our knees and pray that He fills us up with His light, He will! Every single encounter is an opportunity to live the Gospel, an invitation to shine. But if our heads are down, and our eyes and hearts closed, what exactly are we living? What message do we spread to others when we do not take the time to say hello? If God shines bright, should’t we?
I am not sure why I decided today, two days before she starts chemo, to compliment her hair, but the irony of this clearly points to something of grace. God’s curious ways and constant “coincidences” never escape me. I assured this new friend of mine of my prayers, and was amazed at how very much at peace she looked.
Had I not said anything to her, and just waited quietly for my turn to use the bathroom, I would have never known her story. She has never broken down in tears at mass, she has never prayed her intentions so that you can actually hear them, she does not look ill, her shoulders have never appeared to be shaking under the weight of her cross.
And so I sit here and wonder. I wonder how many people I have walked by, head down, eyes turned away, that could have used a “hello,” a simple compliment, or a friendly smile. Truth is, we are all carrying crosses, everywhere and everyday. People whose names we know, and faces we know but have no name. Every single one of them is just praying to God that they are strong enough to carry their cross for one more day.
We are one body, you know. We are not alone. We are suffering together. We are young and we are old. We are single and married. We are sitting in car line up at school, and standing at the check out line. We are driving our kids to sports, making dinner, and helping with homework. We are trying to lose those last ten pounds, save our marriages, get through to our teenagers, waiting for the school bus. We are caring for grandchildren, sitting by hospital beds, driving to work, looking for a job.
And we are sitting in the pews at mass, whispering our intentions, wrapping our hands in our beads, looking fashionable and stylish, allowing that beautiful strand of white hair to gently sweep down the side of our face.
Who will you encounter today? And how will you shine bright?
Article found on http://catholicmom.com/2014/09/23/discovering-gods-light-in-me-in-the-church-bathroom/
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