While pulling into a spot at the grocery store today, i felt a little bump under the front tire. So afraid of a nail or screw – encountered more than once – i quickly jumped out and looked under, only to find a sparkly red pencil, lined with golden hearts. It was obvious that i hadn’t been the first to run it over!
Now, most people would have paid it no further mind. They would’ve said, Thanks, God, for my tire, and gone shopping. But, i am not like most people. Believe me, it was not its fanciness that got to me. i guess it is the fact that it is STILL GOOD!
Moments such as this take me back to my priestly days, to one day in particular, at St. Mary’s Church in Fishkill, N.Y., when i was sent to spend a few hours in the dark of the confessional box listening to sinners and assuring them of Mercy. Something kept sticking me in the butt every time i shifted on that hard seat, but i couldn’t tell until it was all over, and i returned to the light. It was a teeny weeny stub of a pencil. Perhaps, i thought, the last priest had it – and a flashlight – and wrote some really long sermon in between customers. There were only a few words left in it, but, do you know what, i KEPT IT! i still have it today over 30 years later!! Not necessarily to use it for writing, but for what it represents! It is STILL GOOD! It is like the thousands of people who knelt in that box with me. No matter who, no matter what, i was there to simply say – FOR THE BOSS – He Will Never Give Up On You, Never Stop Loving You. You are Still Good!
MERCY was BORN in BETHLEHEM mainly for the purpose of telling us that. MERCY was Born Again at Greccio, the Baby Jesus in the arms of St. Francis who reenacted the First Christmas because the world needed to know He Still Cared, He Still Had Hope in us, We are Still VERY GOOD. And MERCY was born a billion times in confessionals and other places, where men and women bowed humbly and asked for another chance.
i shall never forget an episode of the Waltons, back in the 70s, when the baby sister visited JohnBoy’s sacred room and asked what he was always doing in there. He took a little pencil and tried to explain it as a wand of magic. He told her that with that little stub of lead he could make 10000 cry in China or lift some person who was really really really in the dumps, say in New York or Chicago, make them smile or even laugh – and have HOPE again.
That day at St. Mary’s was the first time i had this thought of how easily, how quickly, we might cast such a stub aside, even drive over it with a ton of metal. Infinitely sadder still we could easily cast aside a fellow human, maybe one who doesn’t look as good, as neat, as together as we. God never does throw them away. He will always see so much good, the way i can get on my knees and rescue the red and gold stick that could still rouse or soothe a soul across the globe.
To me the classic example of all of this will always be the awesome Dobri Dobrev of Bulgaria. Why, just look at him:
We have seen countless Dobris in our days, and they might as well be Debris!! They seem so useless, so lost, so NOTHING. For a long, long time Dobri was wandering around Bulgaria, as he still does at 101, covering ten kilometers + per day with beggar’s cup in hand. Eventually, however, his secret became known. Dobri is quite content to live on $100 pension per month in joyful squalor. The money he has raised, quite a small fortune, he begged for orphanages and poor at churches. He sees himself as quite the rich man. If you stop him to chat, he’ll tell you why, that he had done some bad things in his life, but God forgave him, told him that he is STILL GOOD. This is just a little way to prove it and say thanks. He looks this way, because, well, it doesn’t matter how we look. What matters is the LEAD – the LOVE – inside.