When the evening pulls the sun down,
And the day is almost through,
Oh, the whole world it is sleeping,
But my world is you.
--Bloom, The Paper Kites
We are still--my friends, peers, companions--and I, trying to figure out what exactly we must do to give our lives away. We are still caught in the angst of not yet being complete humans and not having finished the work of becoming the people we are supposed to be. Part of this is because we are conscientious humans that think life is not just an extended shopping spree or weekend bender, but I think part of this is due to the fact that we really hunger for greatness, and let the complications of life worry us too much.
After many such conversations with young women this weekend, I was struck by the simple majesty of the mother of two young children in front of me at Mass on Sunday.
This mother and her husband entered after the processional hymn, during the opening prayers, in a rush, in a tizzy, breathless and hurried. How I remembered doing the same all too often when I was growing up, one of many young kids preventing my parents from getting to Mass on time with our antics, tantrums, and general haphazard manner of approaching mornings.
What struck me first of all was that these two parents looked like children themselves. They were so young, perhaps even younger than myself. But, the deeper impression that seeped into my perception of the scene was their stunning beauty. They both looked so full of peace and joy, even when their two-year-old son made a fuss about moving from mom's arms into dad's.
I was rebuked. Although I make a fuss about eschewing 'the world's definition of success' and all that, I really do--far too often--define success as how many degrees I will earn, how many people will know my work, and how much of an impact I can make, how much I can change.
As I watched this mother--dressed in a simple hoodie sweater and jeans--hold her baby so sweetly and make faces at her son, tears filled my eyes (thankfully, they didn't turn around, otherwise, they'd certainly think: why on earth is this creepy woman behind us is staring at us and crying?). This woman was just so beautiful, and the work she was doing was so worthy, I was overwhelmed by the fact that she would not be recognized for her work. That what she was doing: the hard, beautiful work of raising two precious souls, was actually looked down upon by so many of my peers, and by the world at large. Her motherhood was taken for granted in the eyes of the world, instead of being celebrated for the everyday heroism that it is.
Her little daughter laughed with that adorable, cherub-like baby laugh when her mother made faces at her; and her little son giggled as they read through a familiar book. I felt that I was looking at the holy family themselves: a small space in a dark and selfish world where love was free to rule. The light that radiated from them shamed all the parts of my heart that clung to all the silly promises of self-interest. The beauty of something so simple and ordinary as a mother caring for her fussy toddler during Mass is a beauty we overlook far too often. What greater achievement could I dream of than of learning to die to myself in all the simple, mundane, annoying ways each day brings, and giving all my love away?