I was blessed with the stomach flu last week.
No, really. There's nothing like a good case of dysentery to help you focus on basics. It's unpleasant, I admit, but life is like that. Sometimes we only learn things the hard way.
My son brought the virus home from school last Friday. You all know how that goes. No sooner had he asked "Dad, what's for dinner?" than he was violently ill, all over the kitchen. All over. Mop-and-bucket ill, not a job for paper towels.
For what little good it might do, I shepherded him into the bathroom. I left him to recover a bit while I completed my transformation from cook to janitor. I cleaned the kitchen, then settled my son on the couch with a TV, a blanket, and a bucket. I was still hoping for the best.
An hour later he was sick again. Almost definitely a bug. Damn. I estimated the chance of catching it myself at well over 90%. He called me. He was miserable and wanted to snuggle up. What else could I do? 95% now. Of course, he wanted me to tuck him in and kiss him goodnight. There was nothing for it but to roll the dice and pray.
By the next morning, my wife and second son were down. 99%. I did what I could for them and made a quick run to the market to provision up for the coming storm: saltines, chicken soup, ice pops, and ginger ale. Please, Lord, let this cup pass? By afternoon, the clouds rolled in.
100%. Thy will be done.
That night, my prayers took on a different quality: a certain urgency. It's not a religious experience, per se; but it is a cleansing process. The lessons are there, if you look for them.
It's nothing special, really: to care for your children when they are sick. When they need your love, you give it to them, regardless of the consequences. You worry about them first and the virus later. It isn't what a good parent does. It is what an ordinary parent does. It isn't above-and-beyond. It's the minimum. It is nothing special.
If you love those who love you, what merit is there in that?
Of course, I love my children. I love them more than I ever thought I could love anyone. If you have been blessed with any, you understand. I give them the best I have. Sometimes, this isn't so good; that is the way of it. Good or not, it's the best I have. Still, it's the minimum. It's nothing special. It's where we start. We are called to more.
Much, much more.
Do you understand what I just did for you? You address me as "Teacher" and "Lord," and fittingly enough, for so I am. But if I washed your feet - I who am Teacher and Lord - then you must wash each other's feet. What I just did was to give you an example: as I have done, so you must do.This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you.
Certainly I love my children. I give them the best I have or, at least, I try. Their needs outweigh mine. Love is as love does. This is nothing special.
But we are called to show exactly this kind of love to everyone.
That would be something special.