“I am happy to pay the difference, all I really want is a useful pair of glasses.” I uttered these words to the kind optician working diligently on a dreary, cold January afternoon. I had purchased my first pair of new glasses in almost five years and was excited to wear the fun new style picked out by my sweet daughter. But every time I tried to wear the new spectacles, I ended up with a terrible migraine. “I can’t really see well – it’s hard to explain but items weirdly appear far off.” The gal patiently listened to my complaints and concluded that I needed the ultra thin glass lenses since my prescription is so strong. After some measurements and paperwork, she grabbed her busy colleague to confirm the order and then did something quite unexpected. “We apologize for the mix-up and for making you come back, so we are not going to charge you to upgrade the glass material.” As tears welled up in my eyes, I looked down at my wallet to place it back inside my purse. As I did so, a tiny photo of my beautiful mom fell out. The optician noticed and asked me who it was. I responded, “It is so fitting that she would make herself known here today in the midst of your kindness and generosity. It’s my mom, she was a woman of unconditional love. I think she wanted to thank you for your compassion and care, which is how she lived her life.” By this time, both opticians were tearing up and thanking me for the story. I wished them a good day and left the shop silently, with hope in my heart again.
Even before the tragic, horrific events in our nations Capitol on January 6, 2021, I was struggling with feelings of sadness. I suspect that I am not alone – it has been a truly tough 12 months for many folks around the globe. But I think other events surrounding Christmas 2020 caused me to momentarily lose my inner peace and often found sense of hope. When a close family member surprisingly contracted the corona virus in December, it caused me to face this cowardly disease in a personal way. Moreover, my back health has not improved at all despite many intervention attempts like painful injections and ongoing PT. I think the pain became too much for me to bear in the midst of Christmas joy. Looking back, I regret that I allowed the weakness in my body and the anxiety in my mind to lead me down a false path.
Jesus is aware of our human weakness thus he warned his disciples in Matthew 26:41, “Stay awake and pray that you may not come into a time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak.” The path that I had taken was not illuminated by the light of Christ’s word or presence, it was one of darkness – fueled on by empty feelings and false narratives. Sadly, I’ve faced this situation before – it is easy to feel sorry for oneself when times are tough. But, this leads to forgetting the truth, which is realized through faith, wisdom and reason. Thankfully God’s grace is real and his love is eternal so when I fell, he was there to catch me and set me back on the right path again.
The encounter with the optician was the God moment I needed to look honestly at myself and realize that I was not trusting in the God of hope. God saw me in my weakness and reached out to me in a way that would get my attention (mom’s photo.) My incredible mom lived in hope throughout her entire life and most especially in her final years while battling cancer. The hope that she held so deeply in her soul was not something little – it had evolved over a lifetime of loving, caring and praying for everyone in her midst (even when she didn’t feel like it.) Hope is not something we acquire through discipline like a cardinal virtue, it is one of the big three theological virtues. We receive these virtues from God through an infusion of Divine grace. Our lives are much richer, more fulfilled and truly satisfying when we seek to live in faith, hope and love.
I’ll close by sharing a powerful quote from one of Mom’s favorite saints (Mother Teresa) which reminds me that we are called place God at the center of our lives by loving others first. When we do, living in hope is easy.
The ladies at the eyeglass shop proved this quote correct. In caring for me, they helped turn a person’s heart from sadness to hope again. They drew my attention back to my beloved mother of hope who will celebrate her 80th birthday in heaven tomorrow – January 8th, 2021. Happy Birthday sweet Mom! Thank you for all of it. Keep teaching me from heaven. You are desperately missed by all of us.
So please, be people of HOPE, like my mom Joanie. Live in faith and love – give to others – and hope will naturally follow.