The United Nations celebrates the International Day of Happiness on March 20 and World Poetry Day on March 21. I recently celebrated both of them a little early.
Finding myself tired of entertaining negative thoughts about politics and war and international affairs, one day at prayer, I was working hard on cultivating an attitude of gratitude.
Now, I love Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem "God's Grandeur" and recite it to myself often. That day, I was struck by the line, "There lives the dearest freshness deep down things." I thought I might borrow it to consider: "There lives the dearest goodness deep down things."
I started listing the stories of goodness I have experienced in life. The list got too long and unwieldy to share, but here are two memories that illustrate my point (and always make me cry).
I was a cute little girl of about 8; my approach to celebrating my mother's birthday was still to ask Mom for money to get stuff. After I bought an ugly but extravagant piece of costume jewelry, a cake and a card, I still had a quarter left. Inspiration! I would get her some flowers. This seemed like a very grown-up thing to do.
I went into the florist shop and put the quarter on the counter.
"How many flowers can I get for this? I want them for my mama's birthday," I explained in what must have been heart-melting tones.
The florist looked me straight in the eye and said, "Little girl, you are in luck. We have a special on today, a Mother's Birthday Bouquet for exactly a quarter." And he showed me what it would look like, a nice armful of colorful flowers. "Now, would you like those delivered?"
I thought that would be very impressive. He didn't blink an eye when I told him the birthday was this coming Sunday, and he promised they would be there in time for breakfast.
I don't know how much my mother thought I had spent on those flowers, but the look on her face was worth a million dollars! I think about that florist a lot. May he be blessed.
A few years later, when I was a gawky, coltish teenager, I entered my mongrel dog in a neighborhood dog show down at the Mesa Shopping Center. Frisky was totally untrained (as was I). One of the many commands she did not know was "heel," so as we circled with the other contestants, she lunged rudely against her collar, gasping and wheezing, legs pumping wildly and claws scraping loudly on the asphalt.
Needless to say, we were eliminated in the first round. I was shocked. She was so cute! And there was no other dog like her. We stood over to one side, watching the winners claim their ribbons. I had Frisky draped over one hip, she of the droopy ears and spaniel eyes, and me no doubt a good match in a picture of dejection.
An elderly man came out of the nearby store with a brown paper bag in hand and struck up a conversation. "Honey, that is a fine dog. What kind of ribbon did she win?"
He acted shocked and indignant when I admitted she didn't win any.
"There must be a mistake," he bellowed. "You see, I am one of the judges, and I say that dog deserves a prize."
He rustled around in the brown paper bag. "Well, sorry to say I am out of ribbons, but I do have a prize left." And he congratulated Frisky effusively as he presented me with a blue velvet box. Inside was a string of cultured pearls, just teenage-girl size.
My feet did not touch the ground as I flew the long blocks home. I should have been insulted at how surprised my mother was when I announced Frisky had won a prize and at how she smiled when she saw the pearls (probably thinking that somebody's granddaughter was not going to get her pearls that day). I think about that fake judge a lot. May he be blessed.
I think there are many people in whom lives the dearest goodness deep down. I know because I have met them.
Do you have stories of goodness you would like to share? Consider writing a personal reflection for Global Sisters Report. Send it to Ursuline Sr. Michele Morek at email@example.com.
[Ursuline Sr. Michele Morek is Global Sisters Report's liaison to sisters in North America. Follow her on Twitter @MicheleMorek.]