March 14, 2008

Twenty Something / Christina Capecchi

Memo to Marthas: ‘There is need of only one thing’

In preparation for my first TV interview, I hit the Mall of America. I had a mission: to find a top. The Top. A TV top like the anchors wear.

I always experience sensory overload at the Mall of America in Minneapolis. It is a lot to process. Caricatures and characters. Mohawks and midriffs. Runny noses and roller coasters.

So I when I slipped into a fitting room, I was ready to soak up a little silence.

And yet, as soon as I closed my door, I heard a woman talking on her cell phone. Something about her husband’s retirement.

I focused my attention back on the shirts at hand until an “It’s A Small World” ringtone pierced the air, and the woman in the next stall began describing her outfit, evidently intended for Friday.

That’s when it struck me. Our most private places are eroding.

Before cell phones entered our purses and pockets, a fitting room was a personal space. Sure, its halls hosted heated debates between moms and daughters, with friends waiting in the wings.

But what happened inside a stall’s cramped quarters was a private exchange, an unflinching showdown between woman and mirror, birthing hard-to-swallow epiphanies like “I have gained weight” and “This looked better on the hanger.”

Now the fitting room is yet another place where busy women can be accessed. Rather than protest, we answer the call, half-naked, elbow in shirt, hobbling.

Young adults have been raised on the notion that we can do and have it all—walk on the moon, become president, cure cancer and get weekly massages.

The key, we learn, is to multi-task. If you’re doing more than one thing, you’ll advance much more quickly. And if you want to be an All-Star multi-tasker, buy an iPhone.

Lofty as our ambitions are, we often feel crummy about their outcome. My friend reminded me of this in a recent e-mail. “Life has been crazy and stressful,” she wrote. “Just trying to juggle work, family, friends and myself. Dropping a lot of balls.”

Her e-mail arrived on a night when I was keenly aware of my own dropped balls. I felt as if I was attempting a lot, but excelling at little. Worse yet, I was so preoccupied preparing to catch the next ball that I wasn’t really enjoying the one in hand.

Being present to the moment is harder than ever for young Catholics today. It defies our cultural training and dismisses our high-tech aids.

Our faith calls us to slow down and attend to each moment, to “be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:11). The essence of spirituality, quite simply, is being awake.

Jesus was the ultimate single-tasker. Despite the weight of his earthly mission—to save humankind—he focused on the here and now. As a result, he touched countless souls.

When he encountered multi-tasking Martha, peeved by her single-minded sister, Mary, he gently rebuked her.

Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing” (Lk 10:41-42).

Profound wisdom is packed in that short sentence. We may covet or expect or demand many things, but we need only one. It is a pointed statement, a trumping of quality over quantity. Chasing “many things,” Jesus implies, distracts us from the heart of the matter.

There is need of only one thing: to attend to the giver of each grace-filled moment.

(Christina Capecchi is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, Minn. E-mail her at†

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