During my first trip to Uganda in 2011, I went to Mass on Sunday morning with the only other Catholic in our group. We arrived early for the English Mass, and waited outside the church, along with the overflow of people who were there for the earlier Mass in the native language. We were a little confused when a collection basket was passed after Communion. Usually this is done during the Offertory, earlier in the Mass.

“Maybe they’re taking up an extra collection for the missions,” I whispered. We both smiled, knowing that Uganda, one of the poorest countries in the world, is among the places that – back in the States – we take up second collections for in our own churches. Later, after Communion during the English Mass, we learned that it was, indeed, a second collection being taken up to help the poor and needy.

It’s all relative, isn’t it? Words like “poor” don’t necessarily have a specific dollar amount attached to them. And they can depend more on how we see people – including ourselves – in relation to others.

The word “old” is like that, too. My grandmother, who was in her 80s when she died, used to play in a kazoo band with other members of her Seniors’ group. She especially enjoyed performing at the local nursing home because she loved, as she put it, “entertaining the old people.”

Years ago, when I had cancer right after my daughter was born, I spent a bit of time feeling sorry for myself – until my doctor, making his rounds in the hospital after my surgery, told me that I was his “good news patient.” There were two other cancer patients he was visiting in the hospital, and their prognoses weren’t nearly as promising as mine. In an instant, I stopped feeling sorry for myself, and started praying for these other women instead. As for my own situation, I suddenly felt like I was the luckiest person on the face of the earth.

I’m not sure what brought these stories to mind just now, but I think there’s a lot to be learned from them. They can remind us not to judge or stereotype others. They can remind us to look at the bright side of things, even when our situation seems pretty bleak. And they can remind us to treat others with compassion, which we can do in so many ways – donating to the poor and needy, entertaining the elderly, praying for those going through rough times.

I’m going to take these lessons to heart, and try to incorporate them more thoroughly and consistently whenever I see an opportunity. I hope that by doing so I can lighten the burden that other people carry. I also hope I can experience the same care and compassion should I ever find myself in need.

And I hope I can learn to play the kazoo as well as my Grandma.

March 16, 2018
©Betty Liedtke, 2018

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