Friday, August 20, 2004

A glimpse into their perceptions
I feel compelled to report a funny little event at the parish this evening. I hope I can describe it well.

Every other Friday evening a group of Hispanic parishioners gathers in our parish hall for singing, praying, and faith sharing. They are Cursillistas, if you know of that spiritual movement. I think it is great they gather so frequently and in such numbers. However, we have had problems in the past because the people usually bring their small children (that's not the problem) and leave them totally unattended and running in packs (we know what happens in a crowd mentality). Well, inevitably, we would find on Saturday terrible scuffing on the wax floors of the hall (from persons dragging furniture around the floor as a footstool to the water fountain) and the frequent toilet jammed full of paper. I have informed the parents in the group that their children are most welcome, however they cannot be allowed to simply roam the property unattended, they must have someone older watching over them. So, I have walked over to the hall the last few Fridays just to check on things, you know. I did the same tonight and here is where the story picks up...

As I was walking on the sidewalk outside of our parish hall, still some distance off, I could see a group of four young boys playing. One of them was moving in my direction and when he looked up and saw me coming, he promptly turned around and rejoined the group. The look in my direction from the rest of the boys told me he had said to them, "Father is coming." And as I continued my march toward them, I heard one of the other boys in the group say, "Don't worry, he's nice." So, as I drew near them, I laughingly said, "So, I'm nice am I?" The boy who had made the observation had this surprised look on his face with a little smile. So, I followed it up by saying, "You didn't think I heard that, did you?" He knew from the smile on my face and the joking tone, that I found the whole thing amusing. So, he smiled and said he didn't realize I could hear him. Added to the humor of his comment, is that he is the same boy I had to very gently reprimand one Sunday for goofing off and being distracting in the area near the sanctuary for the choir (I know, don't get me started on that), where his father plays music and sings.

It just got me laughing and thinking back to when I was a boy and what my perceptions of the priest were. I am sure my boyhood perceptions were much the same as that revealed by the little event this evening. Secondly, I was glad to have some confirmation that even when I have to reprimand someone (that boy in particular), I can manage to pull it off in a way that is not threatening, but even-tempered, serious, and fair.

So, it was with much ease and joy that I returned to that group of kids a few minutes later with a box of leftover donuts from the meeting this morning of my clergy support group!

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