The Remedy for Complication
Br Joseph A’Hearn, LC
I don’t know if anyone else has ever gone from visiting a nursing home to shopping at a mall a week before Christmas. The lesson I gleaned from the experience can be summed up in the quote from Ecclesiastes: “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!”
Yesterday after lunch, another Legionary brother and I accompanied a group of boys from one of the Conquest clubs that I oversee to a nursing home. A crowd of about twenty ladies in their nineties or so awaited us in the living room. We introduced ourselves and sang a few Christmas carols accompanied by piano and violin (two of the boys are excellent musicians). Then we spent half an hour just speaking with the old ladies.
I approached a lady that looked as if she had been taken out of a Pixar movie. Her feet dangled in the air, and her glasses were thicker than the windows of a submarine. She kept telling me that the church she used to go to in Guatemala was the size of a city block, and that its façade was “beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!” Although she looked ninety-three, at one point when she saw a visitor struggling with the foyer door, she got up out of her seat and rushed over to open it.
That little act of charity bore witness to her living faith and struck me deeply. When we are simple, life can be beautiful. My next experience, however, reminded me of how much we can complicate things and become frustrated.
The other Legionary brother I was with had an urgent need to get new shoes (they would not last another day), so we drove from the nursing home to a local shopping mall. It was crowded, to say the least. Although people were walking into the mall, hardly anybody was coming out. Anyone who did come out would not escape pursuit by someone still looking for a parking spot. We did not employ that method, and it took us half an hour to park—more time than it took us to purchase a pair of shoes and leave.
Inside, the mall was abuzz with consumerism at its acme. On the last weekend before Christmas, people seek out the Christmas gifts they have not been able to find yet. They spend hours comparing the prices from different stores. They pay close attention to what is now in fashion and will keep them looking young. All these attitudes and activities build up so much anxiety and tension that only a small set of inconveniences could make someone explode.
The clock keeps ticking… Soon the time will come when we will no longer worry about fashions or toys or gadgets. We are all getting older. In fewer than 40 million minutes or so, we will all be in a nursing home or beyond the grave. Will it matter then whether we wore fashionable clothes or purchased thousands of trinkets at discount price? Or will we think more about what might come after death? “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!”
If we start worrying too much about the things of this world, then it is probably time for us to visit a nursing home so we can be reminded of the things that really matter. Life can be so simple. Why do we make it so complicated?
Br Joseph A’Hearn works in youth ministry with the Legion in Washington, DC.
Photo credit: by Dawn Ashley on Flickr.