I am a believer in natural consequences.
I’m not one to rush off with a forgotten item. I’m not one to do a procrastinator’s project for him or her. I do not flinch if someone must wear a less desirable garment because he or she failed to take care of the preferred one.
I am the mom who, when one of my children forgot– for the second night in a row– to bring home a spelling list, sent in a note stating bluntly that I offered no excuses for the behavior and to please feel free to have the child complete the work during any free time, such as recess or the Valentine’s exchange.
The teacher caught up with me in the hallway and expressed gratitude for my note. That forgetful child of mine? Hustled to work hard and get that assignment done when fun stuff was on the line. And I’m okay with that.
* * * * * * * * * *
And so on Sunday, I found myself standing there with my girls, A. up at the altar, remembering that it was “Prayer Friend Sunday.” This is the Sunday when our First Communicants bring a special card they’ve filled out to Mass and get to choose a person (from those willing) to pray for them as they prepare for their First Communion day in May.
This year, like last, I am the parent of a First Communicant.
This year, list last, I gave my child the card and offered reminders to fill it out and put it somewhere it wouldn’t be forgotten.
Last year, this was no problem.
This year, I knew she had forgotten.
At first, I got a nervous and upset feeling in my stomach– I really, really don’t like forgetting things. It’s kind of like being late, for me. It’s not common and I feel queasy and icky when it happens.
Then, I felt kind of annoyed. I mean– I had done my part, hadn’t I? It’s not like I expect these little people to do and remember everything on their own! Surely, she could have just listened when I told her to put it with her coat so she wouldn’t forget!
I leaned over and murmured, “Did you remember your Prayer Friend card?”
And I saw the panic in her eyes.
* * * * * * * *
Now, some might say that the panic was merited, that it’s an example of those “natural consequences” about which I spoke earlier.
But, as I walked up the aisle with my little First Communicant– the only one at the entire 7:30AM Mass– I felt her bird-slim shoulder tremble a bit under my hand. Father Larry smiled warmly at her and asked the congregation who would be willing to pray for my C.
About one hundred and seventy-five hands shot in the air.
The trembling grew. The panic increased. And I realized something–
C. is so small. She is a little fish in a big pond when she’s there. Added to that, her vision challenges make that sea of raised hands difficult to even process.
She didn’t need to feel added pressure over a piece of paper she forgot simply because she was too busy making a homemade card that read, “I love Jesus because He loved me first” (and featured an illustration of her high-fiving Jesus) to give the older man who sits in front of her.
And, so, I quietly told Father that we had mistakenly left the card at home. It was an error very easily remedied when he simply handed her the sample one he was holding.
I felt her narrow hands grow slippery in mind and watched her narrow eyes dart around the room as she attempted to chooose someone, anyone, and be done with this whole charade.
* * * * * * * *
In the end, she chose the older man who sits in front of her. The one for whom she’d made the hand-drawn card.
In the end, they ate donuts together after Mass and had a good chat.
I’d say that’s better than any Prayer Friend card.