I’m not a materialistic person. In the past few years, I’ve been actively trying to reduce my possessions and I genuinely am looking forward to going home for the holidays to clean my childhood bedroom and donate old clothing, toys, etc.
That being said, when my white headphones with the little microphone attached began to fizzle out and die a couple weeks ago, I was in a frenzy. At the risk of sounding dramatic, those headphones are my lifeline. I’m constantly walking around New York City on the phone with a friend in my ears. I run with them. I listen to podcasts on my commute with them. They’re my Facetime assistant, subway security blanket, and all around favorite thing.
Well they broke.
Last night, I had my evening mapped out. I would stop at the Verizon store on my way to an event my church was hosting. I rushed through my afternoon work and called my dad on the walk to the store.
I’m so excited to get these headphones, you have no idea. When I walk back from church tonight, I’ll be able to keep my phone in my pocket and that’s just going to be so nice.
I cannot express how important these are to me.
I confidently walked in, ready to make my purchase and head to my church event.
Thank you! And how much are they?
Now, here’s the thing. I could have bought those headphones. But $33 is two weeks of groceries. $33 is a couple nice meals out. $33 is 33 one-dollar pizza slices! I was dumbfounded. Yes, I could have afforded the headphones. But I am stubborn and I value the money I have worked to save.
To my surprise, I felt my eyes spring up with tears of frustration. I told the woman I would be back maybe later and I left the store ready to cry. I was aware that I was being dramatic, but at that moment all I could think about was how I had a plan. I had this plan of getting the headphones and going to the church and now I couldn’t cross “buy headphones” off my to-do list and I was unsuccessful and unproductive and I was distraught.
I moved to my next stop, deodorant and Chapstick from the drugstore. Then I headed to my church, a few blocks away, as per my original plan. The event was an “Ecumenical Vigil to Pray for Peace.” I’d never been to anything like that before and I told my friend before I walked in that perhaps this would give me the perspective I needed and calm me down. Obviously, if I was ready to cry about overpriced headphones, I had some deeper issues I needed to address.
I looked at the program upon entering. The evening was broken into five segments, recognizing peace, finding peace, practicing peace, extending peace, and living peace. I knew I would be unable to stay for the entire event but promised myself I would stay to hear my favorite hymn performed which, according to the program would be about an hour and a half in.
The first segment began with various church leaders from different parishes across Manhattan talking about how we recognize peace. Then they handed out this - the Benediction of St. Francis.
Now, growing up in CCD, I was a fast reader and a quicker talking, making me continually “popcorn-ed” to so we could finish our reading lesson quickly and then go play. That being said, we could only play if it was CCD related so, being also slightly difficult in hindsight, I made up “Saint Tag.” It was the same as “Television Tag” only when you touched the ground, you had to say the name of a Saint.
Fast forward to today and I do not claim to know much about the saints. However, I have always said that St. Francis of Assisi is my favorite as he was known for caring for the poor and sick and animals. In fact, I thought about this childhood fixation with “the saint who helped animals” earlier this year, marked my planner with his “feast day” (October 4th), and after sharing this all with my history buff best friend, found myself skimming a 100 page translated PDF document of his writings.
So when I was sitting in the pews of my tiny church in Manhattan and received the “Benediction of St. Francis” I knew it was a sign for me to calm down and appreciate the moment instead of stewing over the headphones.
I read the first stanza:
May God Bless you with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,
So that you may live deep within your heart.
That’s nice. I began the second stanza:
May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
So that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.
Love that. I should hang that on my wall somewhere.. I started the third stanza:
May God bless you with tears
I knew it! St. Francis would have totally understood if I left that Verizon store and started crying on Broadway!
To shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, hunger, and war,
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and
To turn their pain into joy.
And then I realized how short-sighted and small-minded I had been. God didn’t bless me with tears for expensive headphones. God blessed me with tears and anger so as to not make me indifferent to suffering, to injustice, to war…
This sinking feeling of “this is the perspective you’ve been looking for, smacking you right in the face” hit me.
I took a deep breath and read the fourth and final stanza:
And may God bless you with enough foolishness
To believe that you can make a difference in the world
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done
To bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.
I read those lines over and over again.
May God bless you with enough foolishness
To believe that you can make a difference in the world.
Recently, I’ve been overwhelmed with the magnitude of hurt in the world and I often wonder if what I’m doing through The Smile Project is enough. Not only that, I’ve been falling behind on so many aspects of The Smile Project, that I’ve wondered if the things I’m working towards are impossible. Sometimes, I almost feel young and stupid just for trying.
But God bless me. Please make me foolishness enough to think that what I do matters… to think that what I can do will make a difference. Please let me be foolish and young and hopeful. Give me that innocence and drive to believe I can change the world. Let me do what people say is impossible. Let me bring kindness to everyone.
God bless my foolishness. Not the foolishness that cries about expensive headphones, but the foolishness that comes from believing I can change the world.
God bless that foolishness and here’s to hoping I never outgrow it.