Sunday, November 17, 2013
Walking through the Old Mission gardens after Mass this evening, I stopped to smell a breathtakingly beautiful rose. No smell. I thought "no smell" roses only occurred in hothouses. Obviously, I thought wrong. So, I began to smell some of the other roses, and I noticed a very peculiar thing: the prettier the rose, the less the smell; the uglier the rose (misshapen, poorly fertilized, overrun by bugs), the sweeter the smell. Huh?! Who would have thought? I suppose if I were to ignore the "no huele/no cut" signs around the garden, I would have had a hard time choosing between a bouquet of visual beauty or one of sweet scent. I do believe, however, that I would have chosen the latter.
That brought to mind the scripture reading for today, which ends with the statement by Jesus that in God's kingdom the first will be last and the last first. "Superiors" have no priority over "underlings," nor do bosses pre-empt employees. The rich are not better than the poor. The pretty are not more attractive than the ugly, and the leaders of this world are not greater than the forgotten of this world. All the great achievements of this world make no difference in God's world where love and relationship trump money and possessions. Who we are inside trumps what we are on the outside, just as the inside of the flower (the scent) trumps the outside (the beauty).
That got me to thinking about all the folks I know, have met, or crossed paths with at work; the achievers and the non-achievers. I have always been a member of the achiever set -- until my conversion. I had goals; I knew how to reach them; I did what it took; I reached them. I like to think that I helped whoever was put in my path in the process, but the helping was an automatic but secondary orientation. (It probably would not have been there at all if God had not seen fit to use an atheist to serve people who needed His help.) My conversion to faith also produced a conversion in my orientation. Achievement no longer matters to me. (Oddly enough, my reputation in my field grows without my interest and without my effort in that direction. Go figure!) I do care, however, about creating positive change in my work place, including in those things that lie beyond my division but affect my division. One group that has helped me a lot has been something I call the Support Center, comprised of some of the best and brightest in my organization, high achievers all, much like me when I was their age. On Thursday, I had a meeting with them because they felt that peers from another division were getting credit for their work. The change that I have wanted and needed has been occurring because the SC and I have been facilitating it quietly behind the scenes. Now, the changes are noticed by the top leaders of our organization, and my folks who created it want credit for it. So, I had a long talk with them on Thursday about not needing the recognition of the world, about the evanescence of fame, about contributing as a service to their colleagues, about facilitating the next stage of the organization because the facilitation is needed and a good thing to do not because they would be rewarded for it. Initially, they were actually ridiculed for it, and they will probably be ridiculed for the next cutting-edge steps. That is the way it is with change-masters. I wish I had had someone teach me to be a facilitator, not an achiever, when I was at their stage in my career. The peace that comes from being a facilitator far outweighs any pride of accomplishment. I know that now I have stepped back from being the actor on center age to being the prompter in the wings. That peace is one of the many rewards I have garnered from trying to learn God's lessons about what is important and what is not.
Donnie and I spent this afternoon with Doah, who, in many ways resembles that ugly rose. He is abnormally short (4'7") and stocky with a round face that cries out to be covered by a beard, which his group home will not allow him for reasons of easier hygiene. His mental development stopped somewhere around age 7, or more accurately, he developed very slowly, reaching age 7 in mental age about the time of his 21st birthday. People immediately notice that he is different, and there are those who do not know him who avoid him. Those who know him, however, are very fond of him and his giving nature. Growing up, Doah never liked candy; he did not like the taste of sugar. However, he was the only child I had who begged me to buy him candy, and his candy disappeared quickly. He never ate it. He shared one piece each with all of his friends, and he gathered a great many of them over time. Today his behavior reminded me of those young days. Since he makes very little at the sheltered workshop where he works, I usually give him some money whenever I get together with him. Today Donnie, he, and I had lunch together, and then I gave Doah $20 for the next couple of weeks. Doah begged us to stop off at CVS so that he could spend some of his money. There he purchased 48 cans of coke. I asked him with curiosity why he would spend $15 of his $20 on something that he cannot drink because of a medical problem with carbonated beverages. He explained that the 40-50 people who work with him at the sheltered workshop love pop but none is available on site because it is too expensive; clients were restricted to water unless they brought drinks from home. Doah told us, "I give them; they happy." I could have purchased the drinks for Doah rather than let him spend nearly all his money on his co-workers, but that would have mitigated the lesson he was teaching himself and spoiled his heart. He went home with $4.63 and a big smile that revealed an inner beauty that overpowered any abnormal physical appearance. I could almost catch the whiff of a rose smell.