by Father Mark Goldasich
Now that the feast of the Baptism of the Lord is over and another Christmas season is put to rest, I can’t help but sing, “It’s the least wonderful time of the year!”
The bright lights and beautiful trees that decorated homes these past few weeks have been put away. I notice more the shortness of daylight hours and the biting cold. My steps have been more halting as I navigate icy patches on sidewalks and in parking lots. And even the coziness and comfort of church are diminished without the poinsettias, wreaths and other festive decorations.
As our front-page story this week proclaims: Welcome to Ordinary Time in the church. And what follows this short burst of winter Ordinary Time? Lent. Hoo-boy. Fire up the band.
But just when I’m tempted to hibernate until Easter, I remember that each day is a gift from God and a new opportunity to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. And oddly enough, that usually happens not in a grand fashion, but in small, everyday gestures, as this story, told by a mom and recent college graduate, illustrates:
The last course she had to take was sociology, taught by an inspirational professor. The final project of the class was simply to smile at three people and document their reaction.
The mom, being a friendly person by nature, thought the assignment would be a piece of cake. Soon after, she visited a McDonald’s with her husband and 3-year-old child. While standing in line waiting to place their order, suddenly everyone, including the woman’s husband and child, backed away. She felt glued to her spot as a sense of panic overwhelmed her.
Slowly, she turned around and was repulsed by the powerful smell of body odor coming from two homeless men standing by her. As the woman looked down at the shorter gentleman, he smiled, and his beautiful sky-blue eyes were full of light as he searched for acceptance.
He said, “Good day,” as he counted the coins he was clutching. The second man fumbled with his hands as he stood behind his friend. He appeared to be mentally challenged, and the blue-eyed man was his salvation.
The cashier asked for their order and the shorter man said, “Coffee is all, Miss.” They had to purchase something if they wanted to sit in the restaurant and warm up.
The woman was overcome with emotion and wanted to reach out and hug the short man with the blue eyes. She soon became aware that every eye in the place focused on her, wondering what she would do. She smiled and asked the girl behind the counter for two more breakfast meals on a separate tray. Then, she walked to the corner table where the two homeless men were huddled.
The woman placed the tray on the table and put her hand on the shorter man’s cold hand. He looked up and, with tears in his eyes, said, “Thank you so much.” At a loss for words, she patted the man’s hand and went to join her husband and son. Flashing a huge smile, the husband said, “That’s why God gave you to me, honey, to give me hope.” (Adapted from a story in Meir Liraz’s “Top 100 Motivational Stories.”)
These cold months ahead can be extraordinary if we have the courage to be messengers of hope and bring the warmth of God’s love into the world. Yes, it can be as simple as treating homeless people with respect or giving a friendly wave to a stranger. Checking in by phone or email with an elderly neighbor or relative can brighten their day.
From scraping off the ice on your spouse’s car to surprising someone with a home-cooked meal, there is no limit to the ways these ordinary days can be transformed into something special.
Wow, I finished this column ahead of time. Now, that’s something extraordinary!