Wednesday afternoon I left from Yonkers for our shelter in the Bronx as normal; it was the first time the blue sky had broken the grey sheet of clouds and the temperature was up into the low 60s. Needless to say, my windows were down and I was loving life driving down the road toward the highway. As I approached the on-ramp my blissful thoughts about the beauty of the day were interrupted by a rhythmic sound that was vaguely familiar…a flat tire! I pulled over before I was on the highway and began to change the tire when a car stopped and a middle-aged Hispanic man, named Marcos, got out and approached asking if I needed any help. He was kind enough to assist in the switch that was pulled off with a record time that may qualify us for one of the pit teams of the Daytona 500. ☺ I thanked him and because I was close to home decided to go switch out the car with another one and deal with the bad tire later.
No sooner did I begin to drive than my ear, now a bit attentive to every creak the car was making, heard the same rhythmic sound coming from the same side…the “spare” was almost entirely flat! This drive was going from beautiful to frustrating real quick. Given all the factors, I concluded that driving slowly back to the friary (roughly a half mile or so) was my best option, and I would avoid paying for towing. As I plodded along with hazards blinking at a whopping 5mph, I was deeply conscious of the inconvenience my presence was on the road, but I figure folks would understand given the evident distress of my situation. In the midst of navigating the potholes from recent snow plows, my ears were stuck with the sustained noise of the woman behind me laying on her horn. “Who in the heck is this woman, and doesn’t she see my hazards and flat spare?! Who does that?,” I fumed inside.
It’s oh so easy in life, isn’t it, to see the splinter in another’s eye and pick up stones…at least mentally. The Lord led me, however, to see that my own response to the weakness and brokenness in the lives of others is often to lay on the horn, not to stop ask if they need help. With the brother who drives me crazy at moments in living community life, or the person who is just having a bad day and says or acts in a way that is difficult for me. How many of us, when we see the brokenness of a spouse, child, parent, co-worker, or stranger on the street respond with judgment, impatience, or a sarcastic comment? When the worst comes out of others, do we seek to know what lies underneath their caustic veneer? Do I patiently bear those moments and bring mercy into the world as Marcos, or do I see only an inconvenience and burden in the weakness of the other? Let’s take the gift of this time of Lent to ask for the grace to draw near to others in their suffering and allow the stripes we may feel from their brokenness to be a source of healing for them. What will you “lay on” this Lent, the horn or love?
+ Br. Malachy Joseph Napier, CFR