The back right. That’s where I sat today in my fold-out chair. I don’t know how long it’s going to take for the remodeling of the church to be complete, but I can’t complain about having Mass in the gymnasium of Holden’s future school. It’s bright in there, different from the usual dimly-lit 8:00 a.m. service across the parking lot.
My eyes can’t help but wander. Able to see everyone unlike being in the L shaped church on Sunday mornings. The same people are there though. Young ones, old ones. Lots of yawns and bed-head. Happy families and a bunch of solos.
Today I’m a solo. Mom and Dad offered to watch him early for breakfast while I went. Mom’s day out. Grateful a bit because when Mass is in the gym Holden likes to climb up and down the bleachers and yell as loud as he can. He’s proud of himself when he reaches the top and wants the whole congregation to be proud of him too.
Still groggy from a long night of thinking, the subtle hymns of the cantor carry in and out of my ears as I look around. From the back right of the gym.
A couple seats to my left is a woman by herself. Mid 60’s if I could guess, short combed hair with strands of gray throughout. I wondered why she was alone. Had she lost her husband? Was she visiting family around the area? Slight hint of a smile on her face. Contentment. I don’t know her story.
In front of me stood an elderly woman. She was put together in her Sunday best- a navy suit and red blouse with pearls. Her dark gray hair perfectly set from the pinned curls the night before. To the right of her was her middle-aged handicapped son. Balding. He would turn his head to the right and then back in front a few times in a row, time after time. I watched as his eyes quickly moved side to side, his mind focusing on something serious but his disability unable to communicate it. He too in his Sunday best. A striped cotton colored shirt and navy shorts. Tall tube socks and white Reeboks. There was a connection between the two. They barely looked at each other the entire hour but the body language emitted contentment. I don’t know their story.
Walking in late and sitting to the right of me. A handsome 30-something father and his daughter, probably 4. He had a five-o-clock shadow and her’s was in pigtails. I could tell he was a single dad right away. The unsymmetrical part down the back of her head between the pigtails showed his work took effort but screamed help. What he didn’t need help was in the love that he had for his little girl. She’d sit on his lap and lean her cute rosy face up against his chest. Put her hands on his scruffy jawline. He repeatedly kissed her on her head, next to the lopsided pigtail. It was a little breezy in the gym and her black and white polka-dot dress was sleeveless. I heard him whisper to her, “I’ll keep you warm.” Wrapped his long-sleeved covered arms around hers. She’d get up from his lap and sit in the seat next to his like a big girl. But she didn’t go too far from daddy, and soon after she’d be right back on top of his lap. I heard him kiss her again. During the collection he folded a $5 bill into an airplane. Her big blue-green eyes watched in amazement. Her dad the hero. She was so proud dropping that plane in the basket that her daddy had made her. I tried not to glance obviously. But something was missing behind his eyes that watched his daughter with a smile. Contentment. I don’t know their story.
No matter where my mind is during the service I always zone back in when its time for this one particular line. Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed. I think the actual words altered a few months ago when some big changes were issued within the Catholic Mass. But you can’t take the originals from the 25 years of repetitions going through my mind. This is my favorite part of the whole service. What a wonderful line it is- I am not worthy. This contradicts what I feel like is a major holdup in my own generation. Sometimes I feel as though one’s feeling of entitlement gets in the way of being humble, admitting mistakes. Personally, I like to recite it deep in my heart. I am not worthy. I am not worthy. I am not worthy. But, I shall be healed. Lord, just by you saying it. Shows what a forgiving and all-loving Father we have. I have. And I am not worthy.
As the mass was ending, the priest said something that really struck me. It applies to everyone, and I had heard it a million times over. But this time, it slapped me in the face. He advised to live in the present, not in the past, nor focus on the future. I’m guilty. And that there is an extraordinary God visible in an ordinary day. That we should live in the present every day, so that we may be able to see this. Appreciate it.
See it in the dark haired widow’s smile to my left, see it in the elderly mother and her handicapped son’s body language in front, see it in the single dad’s love for his daughter and his daughter’s admiration for her father on my right. The present.
An ordinary day. Ordinary People. Each with their own story. All with contentment. Extraordinary God.