“…[G]et out of bed, take a shower, get dressed, eat your breakfast, go outside, and talk to people. Even if you feel miserable, smile and pretend you’re happy. Your emotions will conform to your actions, at least somewhat.” Arthur C. Brooks, Love Your Enemies, page 56, Chapter 2, “Can You Afford to be Nice?”
Mother’s Day. It’s important, to a lot of lot of people.
And it made the morning look even more like an imitation life filled with air and made of papier-mâché (no idea how to spell that; had to look it up). A good reason to avoid everybody and spend the morning munching snacks and watching classic Russian movies.
But last week after reading Arthur C. Brooks I signed up for today’s shift as a registration greeter at church for the noon services, and to clean the pews after. A volunteer commitment greatly increases the probability of Mass attendance (superior to the Wake Up and Wonder Am I in the Mood Today? decision tree). It’s a new experiment in giving the weekend some social structure and a positive shared purpose — dress up, show up, work on the team like everybody else.
Greeting table duty looked pretty daunting. In order to check off the parishioners plus their kith & kin, or to write in the folks who didn’t register, one has to hear unfamiliar names pronounced and spelled through masks in a small crowd. Finally it dawned on me: turn the registration clipboard around, and let people point out who they are. Or hand them the pen so they can sign their own names in the Walk In section. That method left breathing room to pay attention to each person at a time. So with the Polish worshipper I got to practice some Polish. With the support pal dachshund (who announced himself by getting under the table and putting his cold wet little nose down my ankle sock) I got to play a little. With a young friend who got married and lost touch years ago, I got to see why — she and her husband showed up with three active hearty little kiddos. Giving everybody a big welcome to our church turned out to be a nice mood lift; one feels less alien when helping everybody else feel more at ease.
The high Mass was beautiful with its Latin chanting. The sermon had a lot of good to say about the very real sacrifices and effort it takes to be a mom of any age in any circumstances.
Cleaning and disinfecting the pews went like clockwork. The volunteers (our church has over a hundred of them) are a squadron of reverent millennials, a very different breed from the Woodstock folk mass slackers of my generation. These young Catholics have kind caring attentive natures and exquisite manners; one of them is preparing to enter a contemplative monastery. Even their attire is attractive and modest. (The girls’ long flowing dresses with vests or shawls or scarves are so lovely and becoming that they might just be handmade.) All of them are a sign of real hope for the future of the Church. Being in their company is good for the spirit.
Then there was a good long walk home, with a stop at the open air fruit stand for root vegetables.
All the while it felt as if small activities like these, no matter how one feels inside, still add at least a positive paving stone to the path of the day. It was a good plan for a Sabbath, worth trying again next week.