“Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs
under the table eat the family’s leavings.”
I grew up in an Irish and Italian neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago. Since only the tiniest drop of each bloodline flows through me, I had no preference for either group. The truth is that I envied them both, especially on St. Patrick’s and St. Joseph’s Days when they celebrated their heritage with great flourish. For the most part, I am French Canadian. There is no designated day for me to do the same. Though my family continues to celebrate rich traditions which are the direct result of my nationality, I longed for a more colorful and universal display of our heritage.
This childhood disappointment evolved into a lifetime of effort to overlook ethnicity and the numerous other differences which often separate us. Perhaps it was providential that I spent my career working with children. My classroom provided the perfect forum in which to honor both our personal uniqueness and our common qualities. In the process, I think I succeeded in honoring my students for who they were rather than for the heritage which was an accident of their births.
God of us All, it seems that we manage to separate ourselves into differing factions more than ever these days. Whether it is our faith, our politics or our appearance, our material wealth or lack thereof, we continue to find reason to stand apart. Please inspire us with your loving and welcoming heart before it’s too late.
©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved