Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Non-event. Really!

Probably the most important event to occur this past week was a non-event that took place yesterday. I always (well, almost always) attend Mass at the little chapel near my office on Wednesday and Friday noons, the only times that daily Mass is offered. Yesterday, however, as sometimes happens, I had a meeting at 11:00. I hoped that I would be able to make it out in time for Mass, and I even announced at the beginning of the meeting that I needed to leave at 11:45. However, since the meeting was a briefing for me about an upcoming project in which I need to be involved, there was no way I could simply duck out at the appointed time. As it turned out, the meeting did not end until 12:15.

Disappointed, I returned to my office and rummaged around for something that would serve as lunch. Just at that moment, one of the employees from another division who usually attends that same Mass and whom I rarely see otherwise came into my office and asked to talk. He has not been at Mass for a couple of months, and that is what he wanted to talk about, how he is going through a down period, a dry period, a questioning period.

We talked for more than half an hour. These are topics that are routine in my life -- the same questions that come up in catechism classes, at prayer groups, in email conversations, and in spiritual discussions with friends. I have a somewhat different view of some of the trials of life, perhaps because I have been through so many and such difficult ones, perhaps because I am a converted Catholic, perhaps because my conversations with God have taken me in a slightly different direction -- perhaps because of all of these things or because of none of them. Anyway, most people with whom I get into such conversations believe that God is testing them. I don't see it that way. Why would God test people? Why would God need to give a test to someone to find out his or her tolerance level, survival skills, depth of faith, or the like? God knows that already. It seems like a waste of time to me. I think that God is rather trusting people -- trusting them to accept Divine help and support, to accept challenges and difficulties and not blame, to grow/increase and not decrease, to come closer to God by sharing just a small sip from "the cup" or carrying just a sliver of "the cross." I thank God for entrusting me with the trials that get sent my way; they have been the most meaningful part of my life.

Perhaps I was meant to miss Mass today so that I could share something more intimate with that colleague. I hope, if nothing else, I was able to hold the cup a little steadier for him and provide a little bit of additional lift to the cross he is carrying. Although I never made it to Mass for a blessing from the priest, a sacred moment was sent to me, a blessing from God. So, I now have more to thank God for!

(Also posted on 100th Lamb.)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Of Temptation and Arrogance

I am always among the first to enter an aircraft—if I am running on time, that is. That is because I travel so much that I have become a
frequent-frequent flyer. Therefore, in returning from Prague a couple of weeks ago, I sank into my seat on the Lufthansa Frankfort-San Francisco flight many more minutes before anyone else in the
economy plus cabin. Often, I receive a complimentary upgrade to business class or first class, but that did not happen this time. So, I entered with all the business class and first class passengers but trekked down into the main cabin. 

As I arranged my pillow, blanket, sweater, books, computer, and purse—certainly not the way St. Francis would have traveled (I have to work on austerity a bit more), I noticed the individual television on the seat back in front of me but found no headset in the pocket. Looking down the row, I noticed that all four other seats did have headsets, and no one was on board yet.

I was quite tempted to grab the headset in the seat pocket beside me. That person would never know that s/he initially did have a headset and I did not. What would it matter really? So, I removed the headset.

Then that little “do-the-right-thing” spirit  slapped my hand, and I put the headset back. Why did I deserve that headset more than the passenger who would be sitting in that seat? Probably there were spares somewhere, and I could ask the stewardess for one. However, I have been on a few flights with no spare headsets. So, once again I eyed that other pocket. By now, all the seats in the row, except for
the one beside me, had been claimed. I decided to read the email on my Blackberry (this was definitely not a Franciscan journey) to divert my attention from that headset that now seemed to be calling my name.

After another ten minutes or so, the stewardess came by to close the already stuffed overhead bin, and I asked if she happened to have a spare headset she could bring me when convenient. She wasn’t sure but would look. It took some time before she reappeared, but she had indeed found a headset.

A few minutes later, the rest of the passengers had loaded, and the doors were ready to be closed. Two friends, obviously traveling together, chatted animatedly as they arranged their bags. One was across the aisle from me (19B) and one in the seat immediately in front of me (19C). Clearly, once everyone sat down and the plane started moving, I would be separating them. I asked the lady in front of me (18C) if she wanted 19C so she could talk to her friend. She jumped at the opportunity, thanking me heartily, and we both quickly settled into our new seats. The young man beside me (18D) showed me his electronic toys, and the plane was ready to depart. We began rolling down the runway.

At that point, I noticed two things: (1) the young man beside was mildly ill (Just a cold, hopefully. Where were my Airborne tablets when I needed them? Oh, right, I had stopped taking them a couple of years ago because their heavy salt content sent my blood pressure soaring.), and (2) the passenger in 19D never had shown up. I could have had an empty seat beside me and an easy, roomy flight. As they say, no good deed goes unpunished! Nonetheless, there was something about foiling Temptation that left me with a good feeling that a filled seat beside could not spoil. Besides, why did I deserve an easy, roomy flight more than the person from 18C? 

And so started the next round of reflective ruminations—ten hours of them, punctuated with eating,
drinking, computering, reading, and, oh, yes, movie watching.