Monday, June 20, 2011
I am in fifth grade.
I live in a small rural town,
a tiny midwestern community
in northwestern county
in a northern state.
Our parish priest visits my catechism class.
He is looking for volunteers to be altar boys.
I’m excited. I raise my hand. Silence.
In the silence, I hear a patiently chastising voice forming words – a voice telling me I can’t. I can’t because I am a GIRL.
I lower my hand.
Shame and embarrassment creep in and wash over me. Wow. How could I not know that? It’s right there in the words: altar BOY.
For years I refuse to raise my hand in class. I avoid the shame and embarrassment of making a public mistake, the potential criticism of my teachers, the laughter of my peers. I develop a deep fear of public speaking. The words I can’t come without mercy, echoing endlessly in my mind. I hide in the shadows, avoiding persecution. I immerse myself in a lonely pursuit of perfection, a desperate silence.
That fifth grade girl, the one who wanted to be an alter boy?
She has quit listening to I can’t. She is welcome in places she once believed she couldn’t go. She walks into clubs and reaches out. She lifts up her friends, the women working there – sisters, mothers, girlfriends, wives, daughters – with encouraging words. She stands up and argues that the words I can’t do not apply to any person – woman or man.
She has quit listening to I can't. She works to silence the hurtful words of those who picket strip clubs, the words without mercy, the people choosing to hate while calling themselves Christians.
She believes in I can. She believes WE can.
She prays for changes in her own heart and in the hearts of those who picket – that ALL will open their eyes to see each person as an amazing creation of God.
She believes God can.
She believes God can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.
Day 17 http://ralphwaldoemerson.me/