My mind is blank this morning. I wonder what I will write and no words, no thoughts appear. See, my critter mind hisses, I told you this would happen. You’ve run out of original thoughts.
Now, I don’t know why that thought immediately made me think of my Catholic upbringing, but it did. Perhaps it’s the idea of original thoughts which leapt to original sin.
It was the part of Catholicism that bothered me every day when I was a child. The doctrine teaches that I was born with ‘Original Sin’ and unless people prayed for me and I behaved and never did anything bad in my whole life, I was a) lost forever in Purgatory, or b) going to hell.
Neither seemed like such a good option. And, anyway, the God I envisioned was not that small minded that he’d sentence a newborn child to a place called Purgatory. Nothing I heard about the place was very appealing. The sun didn’t shine and there were no birds tweeting in the trees and no brooks burbling with joy as they rushed down tree draped mountainsides to join the mighty rivers flowing to the sea. Nope. Purgatory was not a place where any soul wanted to be trapped. Why would God want anyone to live there throughout eternity? In fact, as a child, I used to ask why would God even invent a place like Purgatory. It wasn’t a particularly good expression of His creativity.
Though my inquiring mind did sometimes earn me a rap on my knuckles, no one seemed to have an answer to my question. Just as they never took me seriously when I asked where God lived from Monday to Saturday. If he was in church on Sunday, what happened to him the rest of the week? ‘Cause in my view, the world seemed to fall apart during the week and sure could have used a lot more God.
I still wonder. About Purgatory and where God is, but, I’ve let go worrying about what he’s up to and learned to express my own God-like qualities that reflect the creativity and divinity I want to see in the world everyday. It is true what Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
I saw that change in action yesterday through the words of a man who has grown far beyond the sinful life of drugs and running wild he once indulged in, to be the kind of man he always wanted to be, kind, funny, generous.
When he was 51 John B. tried crack for the first time. That one puff on a pipe lead him on a 15 year odyssey into the depths of despair and the futility of a drug of which he could never get enough.
Yesterday, in front of 200+ grade 3’s to 6, I listened to him share his story. I come and tell you all of this, he told the wide-eyed children sitting on the gym floor of a local Catholic elementary school, because I want to open your eyes to what can happen. You don’t think it can happen to you, but it can. So if you’re ever presented with the choice, if anyone ever offers you drugs, or suggests you do something you know is wrong, walk away. Just keep walking away.
At the end of his half hour talk, after he’d expressed the sadness he felt in having lost all touch with his only daughter for the 15 years of that journey, a young boy put up his hand and asked, “How did you feel when you saw your daughter again?”
John swallowed hard and took a breath. “It was wonderful,” he said. “We’re not perfect together today, but it sure is better than it was.”
And I wondered about that young boy. What caused him to ask the question. What sorrow was he carrying.
Later, I learned that several of the students from this school are in foster care. The sad fact is that close to 50% of children in foster care will become homeless as adults. Perhaps, like John’s daughter, drugs have stolen this young boys parents from his life. Perhaps he wonders what it will be like when they return. Will he have a home of his own? Will he be safe? Will they want to be with him one day?
I hope that in John’s words he found some comfort, and strength. I hope that in hearing John’s story, and the joy he expressed in seeing his daughter again, he will hold that possibility close to his heart. That he will know, the sins of the parents are not the property of the child.
And I wonder if he is worried that this place called Purgatory is his life on earth.
I pray he knows differently. I pray he finds his truth. God knows, he deserves better.