A few years ago, before the day he met a friend, people often heard him complaining: “It’s so boring! I don’t know what to do.” Then they didn’t see him for quite a while. They began to ask one another questions about his absence. But no one knew anything. Two years later, they saw him again in town. People, out of care and also cusiosity, asked him:
“How are you? Where have you been?”
He replied with a smile: “Oh, I’ve been doing lots of things.”
One of his peers teased him: “So, are you still bored like before?”
“Yeah. I met a friend. He said I was stupid. There were so many things that we could do for God, for ourselves and for others. Sitting there letting boredom occupy us is just a waste of the precious time we have in this short life.”
Everyone was looking at him with eyes wide opened. This guy was really different now.
“When we feel we don’t have anything to do, we can always rest, pray, talk to God, or write a letter to someone, get online to accompany other young people, take part in the catechism program of the parish, read a book to broaden our knowledge, or participate in charity works. Ah, who knows one of our friend may be in need of consolation. We can ask him out for a coffee so he can share his stories. Anyway, there are a lot of things we can do. Now I have no time for boredom. It’s time to take advantage of the precious time in this life to do something meaningful.”
Libedepe is sitting in loneliness, feeling empty inside. She wishes to have someone here so she could share her burdens. She feels weak. She needs a shoulder to rely on.
Ring ring ring. The telephone rings.
“Hello. It’s Libedepe speaking.”
“Hello. How are you?” one of her classmates greets her.
“As normal. How about you? Anything new, Fread?
“Ah, if you’re free this evening, go teach the illiterate children with me.”
“Teaching? You know I don’t have pedagogical skills!” Libedepe responded reluctantly.
“Don’t worry. I felt the same a few weeks ago. But now I am used to the work and feel comfortable. When being with them, I realize I have a lot to give. As you know, I used to feel inferior, lonely, sad very often. I wanted to find someone to lean on so much that I forgot that I also had many great strengths.”
“Wow, you’ve changed quite a bit after a short while huh!”
“He he he…. Thanks for the compliment! But I realized that it was time to free myself from the need to lean too much on someone because I actually had enough knowledge and experience to stand on my own feet. I discovered that one way to liberate myself from sadness or loneliness is to become a shoulder for others to rely on, and not to keep looking for one as before. Then it was like a miracle, I felt strong and firm inside.”
“Hi there, why don’t I see your husband conduct the parish choir anymore? Thanks to him, the Mass has been great. We all admire his talents and generous commitments. Did anyone make him upset or something?”
“No, he is not angry with anyone. He is still very cheerful as usual.”
“But the new music minister is quite young. He even makes mistakes with simple songs.”
“I know that being a music director in the church has always been a passion of my husband, way back to the time before our mariage. I am sure that giving up this position is a great difficulty for him. I asked him about it, he answered: “There are different ways to serve others. Giving others to have an opportunity to manifest their talents that God has given them is a meaningful way to serve. It’s time for me to practice this more difficult thing….” Now he is happy to sit and sing with other members of the choir. Sometimes I saw him go with the new music director to the coffee shop. Feeling I was a little curious about this, he told me that they went there to exchange their professional experiences. There are things that it’s better to discuss in private than in front of many people.
“Uncle, I’m so sad!”
“What happened to you, my niece?”
“Uncle, I’ve tried my best to carry out my duty but people still complain. I’ve tried the best I could but they are still not content. I’m so exhausted! Always misunderstood…. [weeping]”
“Calm down and listen to me, my dear. I am busy today so I will briefly tell you some simple things. They may sound shocking to you but let me say it anyway. First, misunderstanding is a popular thing. Why? There are many reasons. For example, the human vision is quite limited; and plus, human beings tend to judge quickly by the appearance, not mention the so-called “defense mechanism” inside each person. Observe what happens around you and you will recognize a ‘phenomenon’ where a person can look rather strong outside but in fact is quite weak inside. People often have fears in them that they don’t have enough courage to face, and so, unconsciously, they project them onto others. In other words, they use external strengths to balance internal weaknesses. This is also a common phenomenon. There is nothing new under the sun. When we think about this carefully, we may realize that they deserve our compassion than our hatred, our sympathy than our accusation.”
“Yes, I am listening, uncle.”
“Second, each person deserves happiness and noone can live the life of someone else. It’s time for you to realize that you cannot please everyone. It isn’t necessary to do so, is it? Ah, our Master Jesus didn’t do so either. Therefore, we may want to imitate Him by living a life of love under the guidance of God’s word and a good conscience. How people will interpret our loving way of life and our good intentions is their business. If necessary, we can calmly give them an explanation. If they understand and accept it, it is great. If not, let’s continue to maintain our inner peace and do good. It’s foolish that we let the frown of someone’s face distort the beauty of our face, right? Besides, let the past pass. We should be very careful not to allow a negative experience of the past take away the grace and joy of the present.
“What happened that you look so upset, dear?”
“She is an ungrateful girl. When she was poor and in difficulty, she was nice and sweet. Now, she acts as if I didn’t even exist. I’m nobody. If I had known this before, I wouldn’t even have cared.”
“Hey, should you be that upset? I understand your feeling now, but my dear, allow me to say it straightforward. I’m sorry if my words make you more upset. OK, from what motive did you help her? To love and serve unconditionally or to gain gratitude from her? It’s time that you needed to get a clear answer for yourself so you won’t be burdened by your unacknowledged service in the future. Didn’t Jesus teach us clearly “when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Mt 6:3)? If you could bear with me, please allow me to share my view as follows: Having an opportunity to serve others is a blessing for ourselves, my dear!
“Mom, don’t leave me now! Mom…” the daughter is weeping heartily, holding her mother’s hand.
“My dear child,” the mother whispers softly, “my journey is about to finish. It’s time for me to need you to help walk the next part of the road. One day, you will also need to hand it on to your children. “Every day is not Saturday”, my dear. Be at peace so I can go in peace. I am returning to God and we will see each other again…. My God, I am ready. Please take care of my child! Amen.”
When the loving God judged it to be the right moment to totally reveal Himself to human beings in this plannet, meaning “when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son,” born of Mary, to save them from sin. “God so loved the world” that God sacrificed even His Only Beloved Son. (see Galatians 4:4; Matthiew 1:21; John 3:16)
… At that time, Jesus looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:1-3) The time of Jesus came, the moment to glorify God in His love for human beings, even for the ignorant and the evil. Jesus lived that moment of love to the full, even in the worst suffering of the cross. That moment, God gave His very best to you and me so that we can flourish.
Now is our time. We have lots of God’s grace in us. God is always there to help. Then do we need to do something to make our life more beautiful, joyful and meaningful?
Joseph Viet, O.Carm.