The Privilege to Serve



They had to make a special exception to allow him to serve at the altar.



We were so happy for him, able to serve though he hadn’t yet received his first communion. It’s something he’d wanted to do for quite some time.


Still, I have to admit that a part of me giggled when, eyes big and blue, he declared, “It’s my dream come true!” after the first day he assisted Father Larry at the altar. I mean, really… what eight-year-old kid considers donning a robe and handing things to the priest to be “a dream come true?”


But his sweet spirit was, indeed, contagious and the compliments and kind remarks poured in from our fellow parishoners.


We accepted them with gratitude and, at least on my part, a bit of awkwardness; it seemed odd to be praised for this character trait which, if I’m honest, sort of eluded me. I’m not sure I deserved any credit for this. If I’m completely honest, I also wasn’t totally sure what made our son stand out to all these people. I mean, sure, he did his job up there. He was responsible and competent, but, still, was that truly remarkable?


I showed up one Tuesday to teach my second grade church school class. Bunch of hellions I’ve got, but I love them. I was headed up to the little kitchen on the third floor to get cheese crackers and apple juice; they always show up starving right after school.


Juggling a pitcher and crackers in one arm, with a bouncy preschooler attached to the other, I nearly ran smack into Father Larry on the stairs. I apologized, we exchanged greetings, and I kept walking.


His voice caused me to turn back around.


“You know… I just wanted to tell you. Your son… well, your son is really something special. Every Sunday, after you help him get dressed back there, but before we go to the aisle, we meet in the sacristy and prepare ourselves in prayer. Sometimes people have something or other they share during that time. And your son… your son brings so much peace and joy to the group. He asks for nothing but, when we offer up thanks, he smiles and says, ‘I’m thankful for all of YOU. And that I get to serve with you.”


I smiled and, again, said thank you, all while feeling a little odd about it. Proud, yes– it seems I’ve raised a pretty good kid– but I really don’t think that means I get credit for every good thing he does.


Later, I mentioned the encounter to A. and told him I was so happy to hear he was doing a good job and having such a positive outlook.


“Thank you!” he responded. “I’m so lucky, Mom. Because I get to serve. If I HAD to serve, maybe I wouldn’t be so happy about it. It’s never as fun when you have to do stuff. But, the thing is, I have everything I need so that I GET to. It’s not like a job. It’s a– what’s that word again?… oh– privilege.”


I hugged that kid and went back to cooking supper, his words beating a tattoo on my brain.


“Being able to serve is a privilege.”


And it is. Being able to lend a hand, reach out, provide some help, offer some hope– these are all privileges we’re given each and every day. From donating a few cans to a food pantry to letting someone pull out of a parking lot onto a gridlocked street, we have so many opportunities to make a difference each and every day.


What a privilege.





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