October 6, 2017

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Respect Life Month calls us to recognize the presence of Christ in others

Patti LambMy 9-year-old started school on the first day of August with a bevy of new school supplies. It’s October now, and she’s not even three full months into the school year, yet she came to me last night petitioning for new provisions.

Margaret brought evidence to prove her case. She held up her beloved Indianapolis Colts folder, which was already significantly tattered. She demonstrated how a third of her markers were dried out. Then she showed me her favorite spiral notebook, which was unraveling and repeatedly catching items in her backpack.

This continued until I reminded Margaret that she’s only been in school for nine weeks.   

“ ‘But this stuff is old, and kind of broken,’ ” she said, pointing to her supply of pencils with worn erasers.

The school supply incident illustrated very clearly that we live in a disposable society. 

I offered a heavy sigh as I glanced at the calendar and remembered that October is Respect Life Month.

It’s a time when we reflect on the dignity of all human beings—at each and every stage of life.

This was simply and beautifully explained by my friend and lead teacher Mandy in a recent religious education Sunday school lesson.

“You are made in the image of God,” she told the room full of 9-year-olds.

“And that means that you are good,” she added.  

She explained to the children that we are all planted in God’s heart—because he made us—and we are destined for eternal joy.

That’s a nugget of wisdom to carry with us, especially when we live in a society that values perfection and beautiful bodies and straight A’s and three-pointers. Our lives are sacred, even when we feel very far from perfect.

God loves and values each one of us, and we cannot find our way out of his heart.

In one of the Psalms, we read, “Even if my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me in” (Ps 27:10).

Our gracious God, the author of life, dwells in our very being wherever we are. We are no less sacred when our skin begins to sag and our minds fail us and we aren’t at the top of our games.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

We are souls walking around in bodies, and that’s what’s difficult to remember.

When we encounter those marginalized by society, we must remember that Christ is just as much alive in them as he is in us. Respect Life Month calls us to seek Christ in others.

I found myself reading the obituaries last week when looking for funeral arrangements for a friend’s father. As I read, I noticed that multiple entries mentioned gratitude to hospice workers, hospital staff, and others who provided care and dignity to loved ones when they were sick, weak and unable to care for themselves.

As I folded up the newspaper, my mind turned to all those uncelebrated people who nurture, care for and protect the sick, the elderly, those with special needs and those that society doesn’t hold up on a pedestal.

I believe God celebrates them because they see dignity where many see only a burden.

My friend Mandy inspired me with her Sunday School lesson. She gently reminded me that we are all good because God called us into being, so our very being is holy.

How different our world would be if we recognized the “sacred”—the presence of God—in each other.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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