I know that I have said this before but it merits repeating. We have no idea how we impact other people. I do not think I am the only one who is clueless in this regard but I do suspect that I do not pay much attention to this Mystery. I am careful not to hurt people on some levels but yet, I am not one to focus on the good that I do, even when I do my daily Examen. I miss a lot of the little kindnesses I do and sometimes those are the ones that make the most difference.
Last night was my farewell party for work. After 17 years of consulting with Deaf and hard of hearing children, I have said goodbye to my colleagues. One colleague called the event the Suzanne Tribute Dinner which is a little humbling. It is hard to really know what it was because it was not a retirement party and it is not really a happy situation to be leaving under these circumstances. I have not worked in this capacity for over a year now which seems odd having worked in the Deaf Community for over 30 years. I was perhaps in denial leading up to the supper. I had procrastinated in thinking about a speech. I had not wanted to think about ending this part of my life. Though I have retrieved my personal belongings from my office, I still need to go in and sort through the files that remain. Last night though, I had no choice but to face the inevitable. This chapter of my life was done.
I wanted something classy and comfortable to mark the occasion. I chose a French restaurant within walking distance of my home and the office. The place was closed for this private function, allowing us to linger leisurely and speak freely. The food was spectacular. The company was stellar. The gifts were perfect. The time flew by for me. The introvert in me creates a bit of a tug-of-war with the extrovert which means I can look a little like a deer caught in the headlights if you are really paying attention.
My manager and two former members of the team delivered speeches, telling funny stories about me and toasting my achievements. As I listened, I gained new insights about myself. Mostly I wondered how I had missed all these lovely parts of myself. Yes, we tend to be hard on ourselves in my profession but I really had no idea how my life had influenced people. Seeing your life through other people’s eyes is a treasure. Of course, even the challenging parts of life take on a different tone years down the line in a situation like mine. I do not mean to downplay people’s kindnesses but more so it is the fact that in the end those really hard moments do not matter. That is not what sticks with us. What stays are the small generosities that you do not even know you are bestowing because they are consistent and at the essence of who you are. These are the defining moments that transform the irritating ones.
Tonight was the Lenten reconciliation service at my parish. I had several sins to confess but the two that I will share are pertinent to this train of thought. The first is anger. I confessed that I am experiencing a displaced anger watching people squander their lives and gifts. I had to really think about this during Lent but when I understood what was going on, I realized I could be free of it.
The other sin was less clear to me. I could not figure out what to call it but it is what I described above–my cluelessness about the impact of my life. George Bailey is my identical twin. Was it pride somehow–or false humility? I was being honest in my admission of what was going on and the priest knew that I wanted to know what it was. You’re not going to like what I have to say, he started and then looked at me. Tell me anyway, I begged. His eyes smiled back at me as we sat in silence for a few seconds. It is your sanctity, he responded at last. I do not know if he saw my physical reaction–it felt like my head exploded–and then I began to cry. As much as I joke about being a saint, I cannot embrace my own sanctity. Few of us can. We are uncomfortable to acknowledge on some level that we are saints that the Divine uses to bring about the kingdom.
Now that I am faced with death, the impact of my life is being made clear to me in ways that few of us get to experience. We should not wait to tell people that they are doing holy work, that their lives matter, and that God is indeed using them for concrete building blocks for the Kingdom palace. If we had any idea how our lives impact not just a handful of people but thousands of people, we would collapse under the weight of that knowledge. That stranger you smiled at today, that service person you thanked, or that colleague who needed your ear…these may seem like nothing but in that moment, you made a difference. That child that leapt out of her desk when she saw me come into her classroom, that resource teacher who keeps banging her head against the wall in frustration that you took the moment to affirm, that parent who is not sure that they are making valid choices who visibly relaxes because you are in the meeting with them….they are better people because of you. As better people, they will reach out and make that difference too. The ripple effect is unknown. We are all unaware of our sanctity to some degree, I suspect. I continue to encourage you to embrace yours. This is gift.
How well do you embrace your sanctity?
What would surprise you to learn about yourself from someone else?
Holy One, we are nothing like you–and yet, we are made in your divine image. What paradox is this? Help me, Creator, to accept my creaturehood and my sanctity. Amen.