I traveled to Indianapolis this weekend, flying up on Friday evening and back on Sunday with lots of meeting in between. Weekends like these always wear me out, and worrying about the enormous weather front I was trying to escape made it a little more stressful than usual. I decided on Monday morning after I dropped Nathan off at preschool that I’d return home for a little nap instead of attending to my backlog of chores.
But (of course!) the school nurse called shortly after I returned – before I’d made it to the bedroom – to let me know that Sarah Kate was ill, so back to the school I went, then to Walgreen’s, and so on. I canceled Sarah Kate’s PT appointment and resolved to nap in the afternoon instead, while Nathan slept.
But (of course!) a little birdie altered by my plans. And by “little birdie” I mean an actual, living avian who for some reason decided that every 20-30 minutes he need to tap-tap-tap-tap on the glass of the bathroom window, which made both dogs go bonkers Every. Single. Time. So after a longer-than-usual wrestling session to get Nathan to sleep, the bird reappeared, the dogs barked, the boy awoke, and I’m pretty sure I called the dogs a nasty name.
Eventually, he went back down but at that point I gave up on a nap for myself and checked my blog reader instead. Thanks to the generous linking of Simcha and Elizabeth – and probably a little divine intervention – three posts converged (none of which were posted on blogs I normally follow) to speak to me, and I hope they speak to you, as well.
First, from Max Lindenman, a post that’s a couple of weeks old regarding his unease with the narrative that was (at that time) surrounding the man with neurofibromatosis who was photographed being embraced by Pope Francis:
Am I the only one feeling uneasy about the coverage of Pope Francis and the man with neurofibromatosis?
It’s not that I mind seeing the man, whose neck and head are covered with benign tumors resembling boils or giant scales. But I do wish I knew more about him — his name, his nationality, his employment history, how faith and doubt play out in his life, any detail that tends to mark him as an individual. Through no fault of his own, he comes off in its absence like a prop, a flat character in a story called How Francis Transformed the Papacy.
In the story, his purpose, his job, is to be merely pitiable — or worse. The Kindness Blog’s headline refers to him as “Horribly Disfigured Man”; to UCatholic, he’s “Severely Disfigured Man.” Vatican Insider’s copy is a little more delicate, bumping up his status to “man plagued with neurofibromatosis.” But the line following the photo — “Pope Francis’ humanity shone [sic] through once again as he kissed a man’s disfigured face” — gives the game away. And it’s the same old game. We’re meant to understand that nobody but a saint would touch the guy with a ten-foot pole.
Sigh. It’s a different side to the same coin that I comment on at regular intervals – that people with “conditions” (especially those of the immediately visible variety) are portrayed in the media as one-dimensional characters to be pitied or that they are “less than” the rest of us. But Vinicio Riva is a real man with a real story and yes, real suffering – most of which has been caused not by his disease, but by other people.
Second, from Calah Alexander, an evisceration of the old standby cliché “God Will Never Give You More Than You Can Handle” – the less specific first cousin to that other standby, “God Only Gives Special Children to Special People”.
God gives us more than we can handle on purpose — so that we are forced to turn to him for grace. Well, that, or be crushed. Sometimes the crushing thing happens. You’ve seen it. You know someone who was crushed by the weight they couldn’t bear alone. We all do. That’s one of the reasons this phrase makes me want to scream…it’s so patently, visibly, demonstrably false.
Worse, it is a direct accusation of weakness. Obviously, you’d only say this to someone if they are suffering, right? Well, let’s do a little logic work on this, shall we? For the sake of clarity, let’s take out the negatives and say:
You can handle what God gives you. <—-this is a conclusion. Should we deduce the premises?
Major Premise: Everything in your life is what God gives you.
Minor Premise: You can handle everything in your life.
Leaving aside the fact that this syllogism is a logical fallacy, since it completely negates the existence of evil, what you are saying to someone who has reached a point when they cannot bear to go forward is basically, “Cowboy up, wimp.”
She even threw in as an example St. Joan of Arc, whom I’d never given much thought to until a few weeks ago when we decided that’s who Sarah Kate would be for Halloween. Since that day, it seems she’s been around every corner – even nestled in a pack of prayer cards for kids that I bought for Nathan a couple of weeks ago so he’d have something to occupy him during the homilies at Mass.
Finally, a heartbreaking story of a family whose experience with adoption defies the above clichés and perfectly illustrates what Calah’s talking about. The first three sentences hooked me, but they provided only a tiny glimpse into the story.
Several years ago we adopted three children. We are no longer their parents. This is the story of what happened.
Go read it – preferably when you can be alone to think your thoughts – and click through to read the other two in their entirety, as well. As you do, consider all of the lessons, implicit and explicit, contained within.