On Christmas morning, Mom and I took the kids to mass at her church, the parish in which I grew up. The kids and I don’t get to church very much these days, for a lot of reasons (which may or may not be the topic of some future post here in A Mom’s World), but one reason is that I’ve never found another Catholic church that comes close to being like St. Jerome.
So I do look forward to going to church whenever I’m back home. Aside from the recent changes to the prayers (darn it), the place never changes and I find that comforting, even if I’m not a fan of the organist or the vocalist who sings in that annoying impossible-to-understand churchy warble. (During the responsorial psalm, Cooper leaned across his sister and stage-whispered: “What is she saying?” I just shrugged and pretended to mouth the right words.) The interior of St. Jerome is warm and welcoming, soft woods and easy lights, open and unfussy, a throwback to the 1970s. There is nothing cold or imperious about it. It’s the kind of place you’d imagine a pair of guitar-playing folk singers might lead the congregation in singing “The Prayer of St. Francis” — which is exactly what they did when I was a child in those peace-seeking 1970s.
So, while it’s different today in some ways, it’s still part of homecoming, my return to the church where I was married and in which all of my children were baptized, all events long after I’d moved away from the town.
This year’s Christmas mass had an interesting twist. Father David, the pastor, who is pretty forward-thinking in a lot of ways, decided to not give a homily. Instead, he shared, on a big screen, this video:
The 10-minute movie is compelling and beautiful, following a homeless man as he begs for change, which he then gives to others in need. I watched it with Joanna on my lap, whispering in her ear when she didn’t understand what was going on. At points I got teary and hugged Joanna tighter. Though unorthodox in nature (showing a video at church!!), the message was clear: this was the meaning of Christmas.
The other day I found the video on YouTube and watched it again. I was still moved by it. However, I read through the comments and was amazed by how many people just didn’t get it. They found it unrealistic (a homeless man would never give away money — he’d buy himself food! Or alcohol! That’s why he’s homeless in the first place!) and unbelievable (no one just gets hired for a job off the street like that!).
I guess those were the people who missed the point. The video is not supposed to be a documentary, a true-to-life rendition of actual events. It’s a narrative presenting a greater message, hopefully inspiring the viewers to do what the homeless man did — give to others in need. Spark a small change in the world.
It’s the butterfly effect. What you do every day has consequences, big and small, positive or negative. You can yell at your child, or speak with kindness, even when you’re angry or frustrated. You can tailgate the slower driver in front of you when you’re in a hurry to make the train to work or you can back off. You can avert your eyes and walk past the bedraggled woman sitting on the street corner or you can drop a penny in her cup. Who knows what your act of kindness will inspire the receiver to do?
Even when you have nothing, you still have something to offer. What you choose to offer (something or nothing, good or bad) is entirely up to you. But I guarantee that whatever you give — or don’t — has meaning, and effect.
The video starts and ends with a penny dropped into a cup — the bit of change symbolizes the small things we can do that can add up to create a big difference.
So, buddy, can you spare a dime?