Friday, December 9, 2016

"It's not you!"

     It was Thanksgiving Day morning, just a couple of weeks ago. We were hosting another family -- actually the parents were the first couple at whose wedding I officiated. They live in Boulder, and we've seen them off and on over the years we've been in Colorado. As is often the case when guests are expected for a holiday meal, there are many last-minute details that need attention, some small, some less so. Some aren't absolutely necessary, but desirable.  Of course, "desirable" to me implied "necessary". And, so I got serious, and donned my "get-it-done" hat.
      Putting on THAT particular hat, however, has its downside. I become so focused on the tasks at hand that my mood, my demeanor, changes. At root, of course, is my desire is to extend gracious hospitality. It is up to me to make my guests' experience top-notch. But I find that, instead of gladly anticipating guests, I begin to resent anything that might stand in my way of accomplishing my chores. And what seemed to "stand in my way" were often family members.  Harumph!  How dare they!
      Fortunately (although I wouldn't have characterized it that way at the time), my wife called me on my mood. She confronted me and demanded to know what was wrong . . . and she made it clear that I needed to calm down and shape up.  It was the "slap upside the head" I needed. And while my attitude didn't immediately change, I moderated my external focus long enough to turn the gaze inward.  By the time the homemade ice -cream was done, the bathrooms cleaned, and I was just about finished washing the windows, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and I began to relax. When our friends arrived, I was ready to put on my "host' hat, and we had a lovely Thanksgiving.
      The events of that morning returned to my mind the other day as I heard Fr. James Martin, S.J., in an interview, recount a piece of advice that had been given him:  "I have good news, and I have better news.  The good news is that there is a messiah.  The better news is that it's not YOU." I certainly hope I don't have a "messiah complex", but there are times when I can feel that if I don't "do it", "it" won't get done, and that would be "bad".
       We are coming into that time of year when many of us find ourselves in a similar place. We need to buy the "perfect gift". We need to provide the "most wonderful meal". We have to make up for Uncle Horace's inappropriate behavior. We have to apologize for Cousin Ethel's strange muumuu and bathroom slippers at the neighborhood New Year's Eve party.  But WHY do we need to do that? Who, really does that help?
       Maybe it would be better to recall that any gift is "perfect"; any meal served to another is "most wonderful". Maybe it's simply good to be glad that Uncle Horace and Cousin Ethel are still at the table. Maybe it's good enough just to do what I can, with a glad and gracious heart, recognizing that I'm not the messiah.


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