Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Why I Believe

By any of the usual measures, Mrs. Anderson was not an attractive woman. She was quite overweight, right down to her ankles. She walked with difficulty, breathing heavily. Her complexion was blotchy. Her hair usually unkempt and a bit greasy. She was sweet and kind-hearted, but beautiful? No.

I suppose it didn't help that I judged her with the perfectionist eyes of a seven year-old. Adults are often frightening creatures to children. Children do not understand aging. Children see their own smooth skin and recoil a bit from us. Children look right up our noses in dismay, and wonder why even the best-groomed adults radiate the unfamiliar scents of perfume, tobacco, or garlic.

In those days, my mother reminded me of no one more than Laura Petrie. Mrs. Anderson was something else altogether. I liked her well enough. She was a gentle soul, and patiently instructed us for our First Communion. She tolerated our rambunctious moods with good humor. I recognized her essential goodness. I just did not find her beautiful.


One morning, she arrived at class carrying a grocery bag. She set out pita bread, a bottle of Welch's Grape Juice, and tiny Dixie cups. She read to us the story of the Last Supper. She wanted to act it out with us. She took out a basket filled with 12 slips of paper so we could each choose an Apostle to be. We passed the basket around. I chose and opened my slip nervously.


Several of my classmates snickered. Even with our limited understanding, we all knew I had made an unlucky draw. Still, it was just play-acting, after all. We pulled our desks into a circle and Mrs. Anderson handed out the tiny cups of grape juice. Perhaps she said a prayer as she broke the bread and began to hand pieces of it to us one by one. My turn came. She held out a piece of bread to me and said: "I love you, Judas."

That's when it happened. I saw her with new eyes, and saw that she was beautiful. I could see the light radiating from her heart. It was no hallucination. I was too young for that. Besides, she appeared no different. Same body, same complexion, same hair: she was the same. I was different. For just a minute, I saw her with the eyes of my Lord and saw that she was beautiful.


I walked home a different person that day. Something in my heart had changed forever. If it sounds unreal, perhaps it is. It is more real than reality - it is truth. I saw it and it was true. She was beautiful. Perhaps not by any worldly measure, but by the only measure that has any meaning.

If I expected some grand welcome from the Heavens on the day of my First Communion, I did not get one. The day passed in the usual way. That is all right. The Lord gave me what I needed and more in His own way. Why, I do not know. I suppose He wanted to give me something to cling to during my wanderings, a lamp to light the way. Just a glimpse, perhaps, but more than enough.

You believe, Thomas, because you have seen. Blessed are they who have not seen yet still believe. I cannot read this line without a sense of great humility. She was beautiful. I saw it and it was true. I believe because I have seen. Blessed are they who have not seen yet still believe.

Respectfully Yours,



Ananda girl said...

What an amazing person and writer you are. This one really touched me.

Hilary said...

Beautiful, Cricket. Mrs. Anderson and you.

Land of shimp said...

I enjoyed that also. It is a funny thing, the least valuable part of our contribution to the world is our appearance, but it is the part that is judged by many as having great import.

You are truly fortunate that you learned to look beyond that, when you were small. We can miss the best people in the world when we look at them only to judge whether or not they are pleasing only to the eye.

Thumbelina said...

Brilliant lesson.
Your faith commends you sir.

Suldog said...

Heck of a good story. I would normally say "Hell of a good story", but that would obviously have been incorrect under the circumstances.

I constantly struggle with this sort of thing. I do believe I always come to the correct way of seeing folks, but it is almost never without first making some sort of snap judgment based on appearance. Considering my general lack of stunning handsomeness, I can only hope those who come into contact with ME also take the time to go beyond first impressions.

San said...

What a lovely post, Cricket. Mrs. Anderson inspired not only your faith but a piece of good writing.

lime said...

and through your story i see her beauty very clearly in my mind's eye. thank you for letting it shine before us.

ellen abbott said...

You know, I have always wondered at the ill will expressed toward Judas. If you think about it, Judas was the greatest of the apostles. He made the greatest sacrifice. He accepted his role knowing he would be reviled for it. If the point of Jesus' birth was his death to save mankind, then that death was inevitable and the manner of it necessary. Jesus accepted it and loved Judas the best. And I see your Mrs. Anderson knew it well.

I wanted to thank you for visiting my blog via POTW. I only have that one little damselfly framed on cotton. All the rest sit out like I find them. My grandson bought that for me when he was very small at the little craft sale his elementary school help one year because he knew I would like it.

Cricket said...

Shimp - If being confronted with an undeniable truth in such a dramatic way counts as learning, then yes, I learned something. It was far more gift than lesson. My description does the experience little justice but it's the best I can do.

Ellen - I have always found Judas a fascinating character. He deserves far more meditation that he receives.