The First and Highest Gift of the Holy Spirit is Wisdom. Wisdom is the perfection of faith. As Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., notes in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, "Where faith is a simple knowledge of the articles of Christian belief, wisdom goes on to a certain divine penetration of the truths themselves." The better we understand those truths, the more we value them properly. Thus wisdom, the Catholic Encyclopedia notes, "by detaching us from the world, makes us relish and love only the things of heaven." Through wisdom, we judge the things of the world in light of the highest end of man—the contemplation of God.
I am nowhere near perfection and actually, the amount of wisdom I possess may be equal to what is needed to know when I've taken a step backwards. Today I realized that I was taking forward steps towards wisdom without even knowing it and that bit of awareness lead me right to what I'm going to call "my error of the day". Yeah. Just one. But wisdom tells me that an "s" can easily be added to "error". So I guess I should count my blessings that today's insight came in one long protracted lesson.
Committing to going on a mission takes a lot of thought and later, preparation. And then practical actions (like applying to be a volunteer). And then there are recommendations, criminal checks, background checks, and online classes to be aware of child abuse and elder abuse. Reality check time. This just going out and doing something good for others is not a simple process in the 21st century.
But with that all behind me, other areas started to open up. I found myself praying more, becoming more conscious of my actions, and following breadcrumbs that pointed out behavior that needs to change. Which brings me to today.
The Walmart Neighborhood Store was not very busy and I got everything I needed that was on my list. Then I wandered around and decided to pick up a few more things that I had reserved for Raleys.
Win/Win. Then I got to the checkout stand.
Stand one - there is a problem so I go to
Stand two - and met a big load of groceries to be checked so back to
Stand one - where I discover the problem will take a while and it's back to
Stand two - where a full basket from another shopper is now in line.
At this point, I start to wonder when they will open checkout stand three because people are gathering; everything else is Self-Checkout. I make a comment about opening Stand 3 but it falls on deaf ears. Then, Stand 2 shuts down too and still no one responsive about getting someone to open Stand 3. I'm not shy about stating my feelings. Then in undisguised exasperation, I go to Self-Checkout.
Self-Checkout at Walmart is easier than it is at Raleys; I'll give it that. There is no machine beeping and speaking at you. Nice. BUT, reaching deep into the basket was hard on my back and by the time I was finished with my very full basket, I was a sore and crabby mess.
To add insult to injury, another couple who had been there with me when this mess started (and had only five items) was just finishing checking out at Stand 2. Yes, they had finally reopened. A few growling words later, aimed at the clerk, and I was gone.
Okay, so you had to be there. Bad customer service at the checkout after a good in-store experience and a nice clerk at the meat counter, just plain soured me. Walmart!
So, I went home, cooled off (literally and figuratively) and then headed out to Raleys. First stop, Starbucks (and the beginning of my breadcrumb trail fed by my moderate supply of accumulated wisdom). There, I ran into John, a young man I had not seen for a while. We chatted and caught up and I admired his Spanish language Catechism of the Catholic Church. I told him about my and Don's upcoming mission and what we would be doing and at the same time consider that I need to start paying attention to my Spanish self-studies again. It occurred to me that reading the Catechism in English and Spanish might be a helpful learning aid. It also got me thinking about Walmart and my actions there. God was sending me a message and His Wisdom was moving in and taking over. I then moved on to Raleys and quickly discovered that God wasn't finished with me.
So, no sooner did I go into Raleys than I saw two nuns. Now, this isn't an everyday occurrence around here and to add to the recognition factor, they were wearing traditional habits. One of the nuns was hurrying down the aisle and rounded the corner. She disappeared but then I turned around and there was another nun, with a laywoman. I had to speak and said "hello". The breadcrumbs turned into an entire loaf of bread.
She was Sr. Maria Santana of the Irmas Missionarios dos Pebres. Their mission is to help and serve the homeless, sick and destitute among the children of Brazil. This naturally lead to me sharing our upcoming mission to serve the poor in SE Missouri and our work with Sr. Darlene. It was an amazing and unifying moment and God's message and His grace was received loud and clear.
Wisdom is teaching me take a deep breath. Look at what is going on around me. Take inventory. Be patient. Recall the wisdom of keeping your mouth shut when the words that want to come out will wound someone or, worse yet, make you look like an idiot. And just to make sure that I knew who was in charge, He gave me one final test and after some thought and deliberation, I said just the right thing. I spoke from my heart. I was direct, honest and didn't compromise my beliefs. End result? A nice conversation with a former student and an opportunity to teach a little bit about taking information about the Church from the source, not from media or other uninformed interpreters. Thank you, God, for the gift of wisdom that gave me just the right words to make everything end A-okay.