“My buddy bailed” she said. I stopped on the side of a road to bandage a hotspot, defined as a pre-eminent strike against oncoming blisters (thank you Missy!). A woman, walking solo, came down the hill, slowly passed me and said “Bonjour.” I responded “Bonjour, Buen Camino”. Mixing French and English was her first clue. She stopped and said, “Where ya from?” “San Antonio, Texas. You?” “Tacoma, Washington.” “Walking alone?” I asked. “Yeah,” her tone and face changed, “My buddy bailed.” Then she began to cry, turned to walk, and managed to wish me well with a heartfelt, albeit fragile, “Buen Camino.” There’s certainly a story there. I felt helpless, since I am on the other end of the sad-happy continuum today…happy to be here, grateful for the opportunity, thankful for my hotspot.
Ask any priest, minister, or pastoral associate and they’ll share the All-In-Friday phenomenon of celebrating 1.) a Resurrection/Funeral Mass on Friday morning with all of its sadness, emptiness, celebration of a life already lived, and the beginning of good old-fashioned grief, and 2.) A Wedding Rehearsal on Friday evening complete with practicing the procession, a gleeful attendant insuring that something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue are part of the Bride’s outfit, and a Rehearsal Dinner including much celebration.
My friends, Sr. Rose and Fr. Tony, and scores more ministers like them, are called to be present to the present moment regardless of the circumstances. In the morning, they may be consoling a grieving family. In the evening they may be raising a toast to a Bride and Groom. Only they know the two ends of the continuum they’ve visited on the same day.
My heart went out to the pilgrim from Tacoma. But I did not want to trade in my happy! What came to mind was to hold both gently. It’s so easy for me to get lost in one of my emotions, one of my states, one of my ways. I can go into a cave and never come out, it seems. But I feel a strong pull, a good and right pull, to connect to the river of life flowing beneath me, and the blue sky above, whether there are clouds obscuring my view or drought conditions skewing my belief in the water table deep below. What I mean is; Here I am. Living life. Experiencing my own happiness, and allowing someone else’s sadness to enter in…as if part of me is partnering with another who is in pain. I don’t have to choose one and deny the other. I don’t have to pick one over the other. They’ve both picked me. And it’s good.
“It’s not the thing that happens that’s the challenge”, I once read. “It’s what we do with the thing that happens that’s the challenge.”
Today, I’m holding both gently. I invite you to do the same.