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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A practice in positivity

During a class Mass back in elementary school, I remember my parish pastor explaining that prayer, much like sport or any daily routine, must be practiced in order to become habit.  Out of this practice comes a way of life and then, ultimately, part of our nature.  I don't know why it's stuck with me for so many years, for I've forgotten far more sermons than I'll ever remember.

As I think back on this particular sermon, it seems to be the first acknowledgment from a priest or spiritual adviser that prayer sometimes has to be approached as a chore.  I mean, before this, when people spoke of prayer,  it was our natural desires that guided us; certainly nothing contrived or forced.  How welcomed this statement was.

The point can be applied more broadly for most daily actions that go a long way in forming our character.  It's the old glass half-full or half-empty outlook, where we choose to look at things with optimism or pessimism.  I wonder if my former pastor would agree that a positive attitude, like prayer, needs practice in order to become a natural part of life?

Jude was discharged from the hospital on a Monday, and with family support gathered, I felt it appropriate to get back to work to show my colleagues how joyful I was to have a new son that Tuesday.  I was aware of the email sent out among my colleagues informing them of Jude's early struggles, and I imagined many, through their concern, wondered how I'd react.

Although my world was still turned upside down, I felt that my continued absence from work would present a man in mourning and elicit more pity than support.  Somehow through all of the early worries, Joanna and I understood life would move with us or without us.  It was better that we moved with it, no matter how much it hurt or however justified it might have felt to withdraw.

Jude loves his monkey.
 A gift from dear friends.
At the time of my return, I would run into colleagues or friends asking me about Jude, which was always a personal test to see what I'd say.  On one hand I wanted to lay it all out there and say I'm scared and sad and worried and angry.  But, more often than not, I used it as an opportunity to explain the positives of our home life and the things we'd been learning.  I wanted to underscore the dignity in his and our lives.

These early encounters were very much forced to an extent, as my heart felt one thing and my head knew another.  We'd all look pretty looney if we walked around saying all our thoughts rooted in emotion.  But, every day early on was a fight to stay positive for Jude's sake and for our sanity.  It was also a practice in forming who we are.  Questions out of concern still come, but my responses, while similar in nature, are rooted in head and heart - Jude's great!

Post script, related thought

Joanna and I love Jude and want so deeply for Jude to be loved in the world he lives.  Part of this love comes from the acceptance of his dignity and worth as a man.  Although he has unique characteristics he adds great value to the world.  Were we to mope and cry publicly to inquirers, his gifts may have been overshadowed by his limitations.  And, we'd rather that not happen.

St. Jude: Pray for us.

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