Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sixth Station

I say it every morning: I offer You my joys, my sufferings....and it usually involves water when I say it. I really ought to be able to remember to pray my morning offering as soon as I open my bleary eyes, but the reality is that I come around to it either when I'm putting water in the coffee pot (on those rare mornings that I, and not my husband,  make the coffee)...or when I step into the shower. In any case, the crystalline nectar of God seems to be involved. Yesterday was one of those days then water and suffering--albeit of a minor sort--- seemed to weave themselves into the fabric of my day.

I was on my way to California for a business trip, not my favorite activity. The feeder flight that shuttled me to Atlanta had no air-conditioning. By the time we were ready to land, sweat was trickling between my shoulder blades and I had turned the safety card in the seat pocket in front of me into an impromptu fan.

Without warning, the flight attendant materialized at my elbow and handed me a white cloth, my own personal Veronica. "Here's a cold towel. It will make you feel better. I always put it on the back of my neck."

I'm not unfamiliar with the restorative faculties of a damp cloth. At re-enactments, I am the one who hands out towels soaked in ice water to the exhausted, hot, returning troops. It's been a long time,though, since something that simple made me feel that good. Long after I had given it back, I still felt the towel on my neck and face. The flight attendant hadn't fixed the problem--there was still no air-conditioning--but she gifted me with grace, and that made all the difference.

Later that day, I walked the mile or so in the Southern California sun to the local parish, in time to stop in the adoration chapel before mass. The small chapel was packed and airless, and it wasn't long before I was flushed with my exertion, the sweat dripping from my face and running down my back under the black jacket of my business suit distracting me from our Lord.

Then, I remembered the cloth, and offered up that small annoyance. It wasn't long before a tiny breeze drifted in from the window above me. Like the cloth, it was a small thing to great effect. For once in my life, I was able to spend my hour not asking for anything, just listening--a difficult thing for one used to calling the shots to do. The cloth and the breeze were simple and restorative and persistent in my mind. The church bells soon called me to mass, where I joined the local Hispanic and Filipino faithful in a beautiful old church.

It was the Gospel reading that tied the whole day together. "...Whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple, amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward." Water again, cold water no less....and a day in the urban desert heat made me understand just how powerful that particular act of charity would be.

I'm prone to dreams of greatness, but the Kingdom of God is built with small bricks. Cold towels. Cups of water.

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