Humility is one of the seven virtues and may be the most important for it begins the journey to all other virtues. I am constantly learning humility, and I thought I was on the right track until last Monday and Tuesday a series of events brought me to great shame. Later that week I read the chapter on humility in Lisa Hendey's book The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues for Generous Living which also brought me full circle to realize where I need to grow in humility. During this blog, I shall recount all my experiences in the hopes that they will help you see where you can grow in humility.
Last Monday, I had an appointment with the priest before Divine Liturgy and was running late. I called him on my cell phone and placed it on the trunk of the car when the call was terminated in order to put my toddler in the carseat. Well, in classic Violet fashion I completely forgot about it. About five minutes before Liturgy, I open my purse in order to put my phone on silent, and it is gone. I panic because I remember what happened to my phone, knowing it could potentially be anywhere. I check the car, it is gone. I check the whole area around my apartment complex where I drove, and it was nowhere to be found. If I had lost it on the street, I was sure I would never see it again. I mostly was upset because I have only had my phone for about six months, and I bought it to replace my previous phone which had also disappeared only to be found three months after I bought a new one. Instead of a contract, we agreed to pay for our phones over a period of two years. I hadn't even finished paying for it, and it was gone. My husband had emailed me saying he received a text message from a woman who had found it. When he returned home, I called her and arranged a meeting. What she had done for me was so amazing, there was no way I could rightfully repay her. In a meager attempt to do so, I brought her three of my favorite cookies. The ones I had made for St. Nicholas. When I arrived at our meeting location, I noticed that it was not in as nice an area as where I live. We met in a Starbucks parking lot, but across the street were apartment buildings that I saw her walk towards at the conclusion of our meeting. When I finally saw her, her clothes were not as nice as mine. I could tell that she was probably not as well off as I am, and I'm not doing so well. She was so joyful when she returned my phone. She explained that when she was at the corner waiting to cross the street, she saw something fly off my car. She was curious what it was. A young lady took a look at it and walked away. This woman took a look herself and saw that it was a cell phone. She risked injury to grab it when no cars were coming and promptly texted my mom, my best friend, and my husband with a number to reach her. I was so grateful, and I know that she could have just kept it for herself or sold it, but she didn't. She was worried that I would be frantic wondering where it was. She also was grateful for the cookies.
I was so humbled. In her story, I know which person I probably would be. I probably would have been the young lady who saw the phone and kept walking. Let me tell you, I will never be that person again. I was also humbled by a poor woman servicing me. Growing up and still today, I am taught that it is important to be generous with the poor. I'm not great at this, but I do what I can. Rarely have I ever heard about someone poor doing something for someone of wealth. Christ says. . ."Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." (Mark 12:31) Your neighbor is all of God's children, so the implication is that if there is a need, the poor can serve the wealthy. True generosity and love is unconditional. If a woman with little is willing to do an act of love for me, how much more should I be willing to go out of my way to commit acts of love for those around me?
On Tuesday, I was once again shamed. I had a game on my cell phone that I would let my toddler play. I gave it to him as a distraction while I was in the bathroom brushing my hair. I'm brushing my hair, and I hear the game playing. Suddenly, I hear splashing next to me. My son had opened the toilet seat and was splashing in the toilet. (Don't worry, it was clean.) At the bottom of the toilet, however, was my cell phone. I was in utter horror. I took it out in an attempt to save it, but it was too late. It has since stopped working. This is not the first item my son has broken. He has broken three picture frames, spilled beans all over the floor, broke the food processor, and countless other acts of horror. He has officially cost our family about $500 in damage including my cell phone. Sure, some parents may blame me for giving my kid my phone to play with. You know what though, he really liked that game. It was one of his favorite things to play with. It would often keep him quiet for a few minutes while I brushed my hair. How is this humbling? I shouldn't put too much value on something that met its end by the hands of my toddler in the bottom of the toilet. I also shouldn't put too much value on something that I often times put before my son.
I spent the week reflecting on these two events with an emphasis on Monday's events. Those two events began what I would consider the worst week of my life. And guess what, it's turning into the worst TWO weeks of my life. Hooray. I had been reading Lisa's book as part of a book club on Catholicmom.com just to make sure I read it a prayerful manner, and to read what other people think of the chapter. Last week, the chapter happened to be about humility, the very virtue I was praying about that week. With the help of the book, I realized where I was lacking in humility that is the root of both the events of last week.
Lisa spends much of the chapter talking about forgiving others and ourselves. God taught me that a few years ago, so I have no trouble forgiving others. (Especially since that is how I will be judged by God.) She began the chapter, though, talking about every professional's constant struggle between pride and humility. I could relate to that. As long as God is the root of our professional work, everything is fine. Alright, makes sense. She later quotes C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity to define humility as follows: "True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less." Wow, I felt like God whacked me over the head with that one. I had been focusing most of my "humility" on the first part, thinking less of myself. When it came to thinking of others though, I often times would even put myself even before my family. I realized how selfish I had been. Since I read this, I fortunately have been making an active effort to put others before myself. If I had found someone's cell phone, would I have done the same thing the woman did for me? Probably not. Hopefully with prayer and active selflessness, the answer will one day be "yes."
Everyone is called to humility because Christ was humble. "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45) If God is not exempt from serving others and placing others before himself, neither are we. All the great saints had emphasized the importance of humility, and all searched for it. If we are to join Christ in the beatific vision, we too need to wear the robe of humility.