Saturday, October 03, 2009

Poor, Sick, Happy

When I was a kid being brought up in the Roman Catholic faith, there was a lot of focus in my RC school on the saints. Invariably they were portrayed as, well, saints: people who strived to be faithful even in the midst of awful circumstances: St Lawrence being grilled (literally) on the gridiron, St Teresa of Avila suffering from what was probably epilepsy and being tormented by her superiors for her writing, St Francis giving up everything he had to follow Christ, saints who were martyrs, saints who suffered persecution, saints who gave all they had to the poor, saints who fought, saints who prayed without ceasing.

All of these stories were very dramatic, sometimes melodramatic, and they served the purpose of making me think that I could never be a Saint, because I didn't have it in me to do what they did.

One of the conclusions that I've come to, though, is that although I don't have the intestinal fortitude to be a capital-S Saint, maybe I can be a small-s saint.

So today I'm thinking about the fact that I dropped a huge sum on repairing my car, because I need it in my work, which involves a long commute a few times a week and trips to other parts of the diocese on a regular basis. And I signed on to an even larger loan for StrongOpinions' schooling, because she's brilliant and it's the right thing to do. The net result of this is that I'm feeling rather poor. Not genuinely Poor, without a roof over my head or food on my table, but nervous about money in that ongoing background murmuring way, since I'm on part-time salary right now. A little stress-inducing, but we will thank God that we can handle this, somehow.

I'm also thinking that I've had a cold for the past few days, hacking and coughing and sniffling and snoring, and today I woke up with a monster, nausea-inducing headache. Just miserable. I've dosed myself with Advil and coffee and a little breakfast, and feel much better, although not completely well. I was suffering, not like St Lawrence being grilled, or St Stephen being stoned to death, but was still feeling bad. I was grateful for the medicine and the ability to just rest today, and thankful that it is manageable and that my other chronic conditions are well-controlled. Suffering with a small s rather than a capital S.

I'd like to believe that these little problems, these little pains in a world of much larger pain, help me to be aware that my problems are very small ones indeed. My suffering is miniscule. But if I see it as a window into recognizing the things that are wrong with the world, the hunger, the homelessness, the illness, the economic disparities to exist, if I use my own problems to connect with the much more intractable larger problems in the world, then I make a small start toward being a small-s saint. That's something I can aspire to, every day.

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