Love At Work

This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
John 15:17

During a recent FaceTime call with our granddaughter, I asked when the last day of stay-in-place school will be. This soon-to-be sixth grader lamented the closing of her school, but not the last day of her at-home studies. Lauren said, “I really hoped that we’d get to go back to school this year. I miss my teacher and my friends.” After acknowledging Lauren’s loss, I reminded her that summertime would challenge her creativity. She, her parents and her sisters would have to find new ways to be productive and to enjoy their leisure time safely. Lauren agreed that this will be a unique adventure.

After we said our good-byes, I recalled the last days of school in my own classroom. Every year, a few of my students looked toward the summer months with dismay. Their parents struggled to make ends meet and often held second jobs. While other children looked forward to vacations with their families, these children dreaded long hours alone. During the summer months, they stayed home by themselves and hopefully stayed out of trouble.

Today, many of the children among us look to Summer 2020 with similar dismay. Many of their parents do, too. None of us know how our new normal will unfold. Some don’t know when they’ll be allowed to return to work and resume providing for their families. All of this adds to our communal concern regarding keeping those we’ve been given to love cared for and healthy.

A few days ago, when worry threatened, I responded by doing something positive. I contacted a nearby neighborhood program which supports families in need. They quickly told me how I could help. Rather than lamenting today’s uncertainties, let’s all do something to help. Praying for the suffering is a great place to start!

Loving God, help us to love as you do.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Always At Home

May you be glad on the
same score and rejoice with me.

Philippians 2:18

The first leg of trip to Israel (pardon the pun) “flew” by without incident. Our layover provided another opportunity to get to know our fellow travelers. The security staff who oversaw our international boarding were kind and reassuring, perhaps in response to our cooperative adherence to the necessary protocol. In the midst of locating our seats and stowing our carry-on bag, I whispered a prayer of gratitude for the good people around me. After a quick meal, I nuzzled into my seat with another prayer, this time for a nap.

Sleep never came. Some excited passengers chatted the entire time. I wrote “excited” because their pitch and their comments indicated that they were especially happy about their impending return to their home in Tel Aviv. Because I knew what awaited our group there, I began to feel excited, too. Tired as I was, I pulled out our itinerary to scan the list of the special places we’d visit. Each one was now familiar to me. This trip would truly be a homecoming for me as well.

You and I experience homecomings more often that we are aware. We belong to families and neighborhoods, faith communities, social clubs, service organizations and sports teams. We have workplaces and favorite gathering places where we feel very much at home. As I consider them all, I see their common thread. Each one reminds me that I don’t live alone on this earth. Every place where I encounter my fellow humans gives me reason to feel at home. Over the coming days, the Holy Land would be home to me once again.

As I continue my journey through Lent, perhaps I can find ways to make those around me to feel at home as well, especially those who are lonely.

Loving God, thank you for our capacities to be at home with one another and with you.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Small Bits of Love Add Up!

Every day we are called to do small things with great love.
Mother Teresa

While my granddaughters chatted about their first week of school, I hoped that all of the kids who’ve begun this new academic year are equally pleased. Throughout August, I’d encountered numerous parents and children in a last-minute search for school supplies. I was amused by the interplay between parents and their children as they negotiated which items were and were not essential to the coming school year. My granddaughters and their parents had certainly done the same!

The parents I saw amazed me with their patience as they gently urged their children back to their supply lists. The children responded in kind as they agreed that their family budgets would go only so far. In the end, parents and children shared the load as they carried their treasures off to their cars. All the while, they chatted about new teachers and reunions with friends. This scene repeated itself over and over again over the past several weeks. Those parents who kept their cool and those children who took their parents’ cues certainly made the most of what can sometimes be a trying time for all concerned.

Over the years, I’ve witnessed countless acts of love -tiny, heroic moments in our every day lives. Our attitudes and our choices in the moments make all of the difference in the world to those around us. Whenever we choose love over anger, love over impatience, love in spite of our weariness and love in the midst of heartbreak, we do our greatest work. Those parents and their children did just that!

Loving God, Mother Teresa certainly got it right. Help us to love as she showed us to love.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Morsels of Love

Every day we are called to do small things with great love.
Mother Teresa

Even the smallest kindnesses lift our spirits.

Our neighborhood school opened for the new school year a week ago. I laughed as I watched the children boarding their buses to go home yesterday. I likely saw many of them during the pre-school shopping days of early August. Parents and children searched for school supplies, negotiating all the while regarding which items were and were not essential to the coming school year. At the time, I breathed a sigh of relief because I wouldn’t be returning to a classroom this year. After whispering a prayer for the many teachers would go to work, I enjoyed observing more of the interplay between parents and their children.

Those adults amazed me with their patience as they gently urged their children back to their supply lists. Children responded in kind as they agreed that their family budgets would go only so far. In the end, parents and children shared the load as they carried their treasures off to their cars. All the while, they chatted about new teachers and reunions with friends. This scene repeated itself over and over again throughout August. Those parents who kept their cool and those children who took their parents’ cues certainly made the most of what could have been a trying time.

Over the years, I have witnessed countless acts of love -tiny, heroic moments in our every day lives through which we make or break one another’s spirits. Whenever we choose love over anger, love over impatience, love in spite of our weariness and love in the midst of heartbreak, we do our greatest work.

Loving God, thank you for the good adults and kids who teach us to love as you do in small, seemingly unimportant ways. These seemingly small efforts bring us closer to you.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Kids and Ours

This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you.
John 15:17

My granddaughter and I recently counted the days until her last day of school. This sweet fourth grader will be promoted to fifth grade in just ten school days. Before she and her parents know it, summer will be here. Additional family time will be much appreciated by all concerned. Of course, with that will come the challenge of balancing leisure time and productive activities. This will be an adventure for sure.

As I considered the good times ahead for my granddaughters and their parents, I recalled the last days of school in my classroom. Every year, a student or two looked toward the summer months with dismay. Their parents struggled to make ends meet which often required a second job. While other children looked forward to special outings and vacations with their families, these children dreaded long hours alone. During the summer months, they would stay home alone and, hopefully, out of trouble.

I worried about these kids. After-school activities were sparse even back then and summer opportunities filled up quickly. I’d send them home with leisure reading materials and encouragement to visit the library often. I also prayed for them.

We adults are responsible for the children in our lives. Whether toddlers, teens or everyone in between, they need our support and our love. Obviously, our own children come first, as we are the only parents they have. Still, nieces and nephews, neighbors, acquaintances and students need encouragement. Perhaps our efforts will counteract the things which might lead these young souls astray. It’s all about helping them to feel loved and appreciated, you know?

Patient God, you gift us with the capacity to love one another. Give us the generosity and the courage to share this gift with the children you have placed in our care.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

All God’s Children

Never act our of rivalry or conceit;
rather let all parties think humbly of others
as superior to themselves, each of you looking to
others’ interests rather than to your own.

Philippians 2:3-4

The first leg of trip to Israel (pardon the pun) “flew” by without incident. Our layover provided another opportunity to get to know our fellow travelers a little better. The TSA staff who oversaw our international boarding were kind and reassuring perhaps in response to our cooperative adherence to the necessary protocol. In the midst of locating our seats and stowing our carry-on bag, I whispered a prayer of gratitude to the Almighty for the good people around me. After a quick meal, I nuzzled into my seat with another prayer, this time for sleep.

A few hours later, hushed movements roused me from my sleep. Several Hasidic Jewish families had joined us on this flight. It was around 4:00 AM when the men among them moved toward the back of the plane to gather. I learned later that they pray together at given intervals every day. I admit that my first reaction to this disruption was annoyance. The gentleman behind me woke me when he grabbed my seat-back to help himself up. The gentleman across from me unwittingly hit me several times with his prayer shawl while trying to position it over his shoulders. It was only when I realized that they were heading off to pray that my attitude softened. With that, I whispered another prayer, this time to ask forgiveness for my impatience with these fellows who were likely as sleepy as I was.

You and I are surrounded by God’s other children much of the time. We belong to families and neighborhoods, faith communities, social clubs, service organizations and sports teams. As I consider them all, I see their common thread. Each one reminds me that I live not only for myself, but also for many others. My middle-of-the-night prayerful friends do the same.

Loving God, help me to appreciate your other children as you do.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved