Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Contrast

Late Thursday evening after having filled our bellies with the great feast that is Thanksgiving, we watched the evening news on television. It seemed most of the anchors were reporting on the subject of shopping - Black Friday shopping, particularly. Scenes of consumers camping in front of stores toting tables, tents, sleeping bags and coffee appeared on every channel. Some shops were scheduled to open as early as four o'clock in the morning, and the long lines wrapping around buildings confirmed business would be good that early.

The scenes seemed terribly sad. Images of people holding all-night vigil for......things. Complaining of the cold and the absence of comfort, but still willing to wait and suffer for a great deal, some wondered whether it was really worth it. Perhaps many of them truly are poor - in need of a good price to provide for a family need. Perhaps many are already in the practice of keeping vigil all night in front of the Blessed Sacrament, making this a small sacrifice. I would like to think so.

The following morning, Black Friday itself, we visited the sick bed of a venerable old woman who has lived her life in great love....not of things....but of her Father in Heaven, Our Lady, her Mother, and virtues that will transcend this life and accompany her into the next when the time comes for her to go. She lay there beautifully, peacefully and alert but without complaint even while suffering tremendous pain - a striking contrast to shoppers begrudging the cold and the lack of sleep on television the night before. I find it compelling that the suffering for the one, though received, is accepted gracefully; while for the others, though self-imposed, is resented.

God always seems to choose the perfect time to teach me something. Often He enlightens by way of reminder - awakening me to a truth He's taught again and again....and again. This Thanksgiving weekend, only ten days before the season of Advent, I felt privileged to behold His tender instruction in the form of such sharp contrast, two opposing images working together to remind me: It's not about this life.

I've been keeping these images firmly in mind since last week. I know they will pass soon - much too soon, settling themselves in the back of my memory. For now I'm grateful to have them at the forefront and hope they persist, at least long enough that at the end of Advent I may be just a little more like the beautiful woman I visited, who still in her final hours keeps vigil......for the Infant to be born on Christmas day.

[Please be assured that I don't mean to be critical of any particular persons who may have taken advantage of the sales last Friday. I am all in favor of buying things on sale and using coupons when available. It was more the news coverage of the evening, which generally portrayed begrudged shoppers in long lines for luxury items.]

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Kristen,
I very much enjoy reading your blog and your view of this world. I have never posted, But this post, hit me in particular. Your "contrast" of these two events was inspiring. It is so crucial to remember the importance of the season. I have been a "lazy" Catholic, after working for the church for 25 years. You have renewed my spirit, and I know I will spend this Advent season in prayer and open my heart once again to our Lord. Thank you, thank you.

Meredith said...

You are SO right on with this one!! We didn't do any shopping over the holiday weekend, except necessity groceries, but not on "Black Friday". I don't even like the term, it just sounds evil. I too would not be-grudge anyone who wanted to take advantage of the sales and discounts, but your contrast is so refreshing and speaks of Our Lord's message to the world. He is not of this world and we should be keeping our eyes on heaven! Thanks so much, good food for thought! Love,

Kristen Laurence said...

Oh thank you, Anon and Meredith! This morning I worried that I might have offended my readers, and your comments have given me peace.

Mimi said...

It is a very telling contrast.

Anonymous said...

Offend your readers? Absolutely NOT! I have also never commented, but one of the main reasons that I read your blog so consistently is that you so often remind us to focus on experiences and people rather than on things. You are truly an inspiration. Please do not second guess your decision to post about topics like this! I love your outlook and philosophy. And, as the first commenter said, I have also been inspired by you to make this Advent season about the important things. Thank you for your blog!!!

Anonymous said...

Kristen,

Well written. This post puts into words the feeling that I've had for the last couple of weeks. I rarely ever watch TV, but had it on when I was ironing, and on the Oprah show she had revealed to the audience that she was giving away her favorite things to each person in attendance. Seeing the chaos of people crying, shaking, screaming, jumping about getting a bunch of stuff set to a Christmas background actually made me cry. The contrast that was displayed reinforced for me how much more I need to teach my three girls (all under 5) what a gift Christ is. Your post further encourages my pursuits. Thank you!
Vicki in MN

Gabrielle said...

A very thoughtful post. I was particularly struck by your observations of the suffering - that the self-imposed suffering is resented, while the received suffering is accepted with grace and dignity. Thank you for sharing these insights, Kristen.

Ouiz said...

I was struck by your constrast of one patiently suffering, while others complaining of self-imposed difficulties... especially since we are studying I BELIEVE IN LOVE and will be discussing accepting the Cross with joy!

Thank you, as always, for your posts!

stephanie said...

Beautiful. Lovely.

I am so thankful for contrasting images like this that refocus our attention on what is really important.

Diane said...

This is a beautiful reflection, Kristen, and so right on. It's a reminder we all need these days...over and over and over. Thank you.

You are much too sweet and thoughtful to offend anyone, but I do admire your sensitivity in considering it. And I don't offer this assessment lightly or without conviction. You are a gifted writer, Kristen, and a gentle soul whose deep faith and joy radiates out to those who come here.

Roxanna said...

I've never commented either, but this is a beautiful post. I totally agree with you.

Your girls are precious!
God Bless =)

diana said...

I *loathe* Christmas shopping on Black Friday--it just isn't worth it!
We did it for the first time this year since we needed a new camcorder, ours is 13 years old. People had carts loaded with junk. We came home empty handed.

Now after I read what you wrote I don't feel so guilty for not buying a lot at Christmas...I know gift giving is part of Christmas, but why does it get so out of hand? I would be happy with anything out of a Figi's catalog--those chocolate covered pretzels look wonderful--but I find it impossible to shop for people who really don't need anything more! Or receiving anything when I have so much. There should be a better way.

Jennifer F. said...

Your blog is such a source of inspiration for me, and undoubtedly many others. Thanks for writing this!