Monday, August 14, 2006

Take the blessings and run with them

Give yourself three hours, they said. All carry-on must be in see-through plastic. Expect delays, long lines. This was my first flight since the new stepped-up security measures. I deliberated over whether to wear my habit... there's been so much discussion over the pros and cons. Theological, philosophical, practical... the dress definitely marks you, no way you're not going to stand out.

On the plus side, it sends a message: God is with us. We believe it, and we stand for it. People who need prayer won't hesitate to stop you and ask. People who need money don't hesitate either.

On the other side of the argument, you're often treated with more deference than the rank and file. Preferential treatment is not what we seek or are about, and it seems wrong to accept it. The debate goes on.

I've passed through several stages since being clothed. At first, being out in public in habit gave me a confidence, an openness I had earlier learned to shut down. Suddenly I could speak to people, be friendly, without someone thinking "pervert." It also reminded me to be more polite, to watch my language, to meet the masses with humility. It was a costume that created a role and it helped me stay in character.

Once we decided as a community that sisters could choose whether to wear the habit, I learned that remembering who I was, even incognito, was an even deeper lesson. More discipline was required until one day I noticed I was who I am, with or without the outfit.

I did not wear my habit to Las Vegas. There seemed no particular reason to. But this trip to Florida includes my youngest grandson's baptism. It was easier to wear it than pack it.

Give yourself three hours. I left the convent at 5:15 for a 9:15 flight. Subway to train to airport only took forty-five minutes. Then the fun began.

Finding the correct line to check baggage was confusing enough, but once found, I resigned myself to the inevitable snail's pace. I'd been inching along with the rest of my line for about fifteen minutes when a porter appeared out of nowhere and said, "Sister, I'm going to help you out. Follow me." He pulled me out of the line and took me outside to curbside check-in. The lines there were enormous as well, but he was the man behind the counter and he was in command. Within seconds he had my suitcase tagged and on the belt, and was handing me my ticket. Awesome. We blessed each other respectively, I deposited a meager tip into his hand, and set off in search of the next line.

I waited my turn through the next phase, and by 8:00 I was taking off my shoes, belt, and cross to go through security. I had nothing to confiscate and my little carry-on was, in fact, a see-through plastic bag. Apparently that wasn't really necessary, but it made it easy for the guard to search.

I had entered into the inner sanctum of gates with time on my hands because I had been treated with preference. I went in search of food. A little deli advertised the day's special of eggs, bacon, hash browns and coffee. I didn't have that much time on my hands. I asked the server if I could purchase just the hash browns, and she gave me one in a paper bag. When I got to the register to pay, the young woman said "Thank you." I beg your pardon? "Thank you. Take it." Oh.

Was it wrong? Should I have protested? I don't think so. Both of those people had a need to be kind to a nun. Or to say it differently, their hearts were moved to be kind for their own reasons. Who was I to deprive them of that kindness? I took the second blessing of the morning and ran with it.


HeyJules said...

Was it wrong to take a hash brown? I don't think so. Now, had it been a sports car or a bag full of money....

Anonymous said...

I told you you shoulda worn your getup to Las Vegas... :)

Anonymous said...

And you are actuall proud of this?

kpjara said...

I think it's awesome that some people still know and SHOW respect to people who have given their life to service. I also pray that people would show the same respect to each and every person, but then, I'm a dreamer

Anonymous said...

Bravo for you. WEAR the habit. Give glorious witness that our God is a living God.
If others want to show acknowlegement of that.......MAY THEY BE BLESSED.


Becky said...

I might have taken the sports car - but then, I'm not a nun. . .

Seriously, it's good for there to be a reminder that there is a power that is beyond all of this world that we take so seriously - - an assurance of things unseen. That's I bet what people were reacting to when they were kind to you. . .

Natty said...

I found myself wondering, along kpjara's lines: what if EVERYONE went around wearing a habit. Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking you, Sr. CJ, just thinking of our capacity to choose kindness and what a wonderful world it could be if everyone were to be shown such deference and respect all the time.

I, too, have struggled with "the habit question," though it's not as much of a true option in my community-to-be. For the most part I have come back 'round to being ok with dressing in the ordinary clothes of the people. And I've definitely never hankered after a veil.

Curious: do you wear the veil all the time, or only with the habit proper? Several of the older Sisters in my community do choose to continue wearing a short veil.

(I trust that your trip was otherwise uneventful in a good way?)