Wednesday afforded me a rare opportunity: to
go anywhere at all attend Mass without Nathan. Which is to say that I was able to attend Mass without a squirmy, noisy, frustratingly adorable attention hog who cheeses at all parishioners with whom he is able to gain eye contact.
I’ve been hoping for awhile now that the Almighty grades on a curve during the toddler years.
Mr. Andi had an unplanned appendectomy on Tuesday morning and I was pretty sure that we wouldn’t be making it to Ash Wednesday Mass. With an hour to go, though, Mr. Andi offered to ride with us and sit in the car with Nathan while Sarah Kate and I went to Mass (this selfless act brought to you in part by a portable DVD player and a Kindle).
Unencumbered, Sarah Kate and I did something else we never do: sit in the front. As a result, we were among the first people to go forward for the distribution of the ashes, where the priest said to us, “Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.”
When we returned to our pew, watching the steady stream of parishioners parade past, I couldn’t help but think about the mortality of each one of us (which, of course, is the whole point). But what I also considered is how we all begin and end in the same way, with the same basic framework – eyes, nose, mouth, legs, arms, heart, brain, and a million other near-identical things that make people human.
But as I continued to watch people walk by, I was also struck by the variety in the room. There were:
- teenagers in T-shirts and shorts
- men in business attire
- young mothers carrying toddlers
- an elderly gentleman barely mobile with his walker
- a young girl with Down syndrome.
Also among the faithful was a father pushing his adult son, who is profoundly disabled, in his wheelchair, a kid in a little league uniform, a tall redhead, and countless others. Each person that walked by had a different gait, a different build, different facial features, and a (sometimes subtly) different facial expression or countenance.
Sitting in the front of the church, I saw what I was supposed to see – that despite all of the small differences that distinguish each individual from others, we are all fundamentally the same. We are people who were born and who will die. It’s easy to get caught up in daily minutiae and fail to see the beauty in both our differences and our similarities. The front pew gave me the opportunity to sit quietly and see – really see – these similarities and differences.
The next time you find yourself in a place with lots of people, I encourage you to take a few minutes to observe them one by one. We don’t have to attend Mass to appreciate the wondrous tapestry of people.