I love actor and comedic genius Chris Farley. Some of his scenes make me laugh hysterically, and I’ve already seen them hundreds of times. “A man down by the river,” probably his most famous character, has not only the audience laughing, but it has the other cast members struggling to keep a straight face as they try not to break character on stage.
Another of his characters was as the host of the "Chris Farley Show" where he, very poorly, interviews celebrities. In one episode he is interviewing Paul McCartney. As Farley is introducing his guest, he stops mid sentence, hits himself in the head, calls himself stupid and says “I’m such an idiot; I never know how to start these things.” Paul McCartney encourages him and tells him he’s doing a fine job, but Farley continues to beat himself up over the lack of skill and finesse that he most definitely displays throughout the interview.
I feel like I should be doing the same thing today. Forty days ago, I added meditation to my daily routine for Lent. I wanted to slow down and focus on calmly looking at life and clearing my mind. The benefits - emotional, intellectual, spiritual - were going to be amazing.
This past Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, and approaching the culmination of the season of Lent, I heard someone talk about the progress they had made with what they had given up for the season.
Dang! That’s it!! I had been feeling like I was forgetting something for quite a while, but couldn’t figure out what it was. And there it was.
I spent a couple of days beating myself up, because not only did I fail to actually meditate, but I failed to even remember that I was failing to do it.
Regardless of whether you observe Lent or even know what it is for that matter, Easter and Spring are times of renewal, new beginnings, of hope, and yet, here I was feeling like a loser.
I was trying to figure out how many days I missed versus how many days I actually meditated, when I realized something. Instead of all the very real benefits of meditation, maybe what I learned was about grace. Not only for others, but for myself as well. Cutting ourselves and others a little slack.
Then on Wednesday, I saw and heard the sermon in the grocery store no less. A very frazzled mother was pushing the grocery cart and carrying a little girl probably around two years old. The little girl’s emotional stability was basically nonexistent. She was an active volcano - ready to blow at any minute.
For some unknown reason, probably exhaustion, the mom put the little girl in the child seat of the cart, and that’s when the tantrum, complete with World War III sound effects, began in earnest. Mom was clearly embarrassed and at the end of her rope, and she was pushing the cart through the produce section as fast as she could. I will leave out what was going through my mind, although I’m sure you can imagine.
Suddenly a man stepped up to her and said, “Hang in there, Mom. We’ve all been there more than once." That was all he said. He didn’t try to engage with her. He just let her know it was ok. There was the grace, the lack of judgment, the kindness we preach but rarely extend. It was the simplest of gestures, but it was the equivalent of an entire sermon wedged in between the strawberries and the lettuce.