I don’t usually write about my day anywhere but in my own journal. But this morning I am making an exception to share the remarkable bookends of a rough 24 hours.
On Monday evening a group of faculty and staff women met for our monthly book group dinner in the Campus Ministry center, Visitation House. It had been a full and hectic day, and if I had not been the host, pausing to reflect over soup and bread would not have come anywhere near the top of my to-do list.
And yet of course we did gather, and had such a rich and meaningful conversation about Eileen Flanagan’s book about the Serenity Prayer, called The Wisdom to Know the Difference: When to Make a Change, and When to Let Go. Our chapter for this month was Letting Go of Outcomes, and we talked about how suffering is compounded by the way we cling to the conviction that things should be different. We ended by acknowledging how hard it is to be on the receiving end of generosity, but sometimes we just need to let go and let others be as good to us as we wish to be to them.
The women left, and I went back to my office to do a couple hours of work organizing the gift cards that had been donated for this Friday night’s BINGO fundraiser.
That’s when I discovered the theft.
Several hundred dollars worth of donations had disappeared from my desk drawer, as well as from what I thought was a carefully concealed (by which I mean piled among many other things) shopping bag on my office floor.
Our Public Safety officers responded to my call at once, took my report, returned the next morning and called the police, who also came at once, took a more complete report, and promised to begin an investigation. Did I mention this was a busy and hectic week getting ready for a major fundraiser? I was losing not only dollars but also hours I could not afford to replace.
And yet something amazing happened yesterday afternoon. As word of the theft began to spread on campus, people rushed in to help us. All day long, people called or showed up to ask, What can I do? What do you need? People dropped off gift cards. They wrote checks. They stopped by just to ask if we were okay. And at a time of the semester when most students are stressed beyond the breaking point, several appeared out of the blue to volunteer to help with other pressing tasks. Marissa and Brianna decorated cupcakes for a Take Back the Night promotional event; Emily and Kate helped organize merchandise we are selling for disaster relief in Peru this morning; Allison inventoried the kitchen for baking supplies so we will have plenty of treats at the BINGO food table. Visitation House was abuzz with life.
I worked until I had to walk out the door for choir practice at church. We worked on several songs for the coming Easter Triduum then ended with . . . wait for it . . . a musical setting of the Serenity Prayer.
The very last thing we did was to sing it acapella in three-part harmony, and I marveled at the peace I felt, not just during the song, but really all throughout the day. Grounding the beginning of those 24 hours in a profound conversation about serenity and letting go really had helped me enter the fray without falling apart. Being a victim of a crime (albeit a non-violent one) was discouraging and embarrassing, but the wave of kindness that came in its wake was so very moving and humbling. There is so much goodness on our Mercy campus. There is so much goodness in our world. Sometimes we have to stand in need of it in order to perceive it.