Looking up to the altar, my head began to spin--the vision of the monks gathering, the smell of incense, the blue and violet of the windows all began to swim together, and I found myself sitting down to make it stop. I was overheating, but did not know what to do.
It’s not overstatement to say that the woman standing next to me suddenly seemed to know what I was thinking and what was happening to me. She leaned in and whispered “I can go out the door with you if you would like. You look like you need to rest--are you ok?” I looked up at her blurry face, thankful she understood my embarrassment at interrupting the service, and could only choke-- “But I want to take communion.”
She knew better.
“Ok--I will take you to the front--on the side there’s a chair you can sit on and wait, and it might be cooler there. I’ll get you some orange juice. Don’t worry.” I nodded, and took her hand, like a child, and let her lead me. She disappeared, and suddenly I found myself involuntarily crying--I realized I needed more coolness, more rest, and my belly became taught as my breathing became shallow, quick--I could feel a panic of movement from the baby. The woman sitting next to me looked worried. Quickly the woman helping me came back with a small cup of orange juice and a simple poultice of cool water to place on my neck. She whispered again. “Look--I will bring you downstairs to a cooler space, and I will come back and take communion for myself and get you yours, and we’ll pause and pray together. It will be ok.” I nodded, and let her lead me again. As soon as were out in the hall I thanked her tearfully, and she explained-- “I knew what you were going through--you see, I am a pediatric nurse!” The providence of this was too much--I could not help but cry more and say thank you over and over. I felt foolish for crying, but she said--it’s ok--I can’t believe you’re holding together so well. Your body was trying to make up for what it wasn’t getting and working hard to stay cool--you should not feel bad at all.
To say she was a guardian angel may sound melodramatic, but considering I was 32 weeks pregnant, I think you understand how I suddenly felt as though God had directly sent me a message of comfort and protection. My thank yous were both for God’s touch and for my new angel, Rocky. A great name to boot!
The way Rocky handled herself--professionally, calmly, unselfishly--is the epitome of generosity of spirit. She gave of herself without reservation, stayed attuned to my needs, and used her knowledge and understanding and mindfulness of others in need. I only got to speak and pray with her briefly, and then she was off to attend to her duties at the monastery with a special group retreat she was on with the Lay Cistercians.
I think now of the many different ways I have experienced generosity of spirit, and I hope they are as manifold for you as they have been for me. My prayer of gratitude is that this multitude of experiences has really helped shape my faith. I have had many experiences in which monetary or material generosity have made such a huge impact, and have always felt sustained by this. Unique moments which tie us together as community, in relationship with each other--these can be priceless in a world filled with selfishness.
This little guide I have been following suggests some other ways: “Admit your mistakes, compete with one another in showing respect, support one another's weaknesses of body and behavior, be forgiving, serve one another, and refrain from grumbling.” These are all solid ways to show this generosity any of us can take on. Notice how humility is a necessary ingredient? In any relationship humility can indeed make all the difference in the way we reach out, connect, help. Consider how practicing even just one might make an impact on your life. I hope to be a Rocky to someone else all my life, and give back what has been abundantly given me.