It was my day off, so after Mass I stuffed some books in a lawn chair and headed for the beach. Many Americans these days flaunt tattoos, body piercings, and shock-jock hair. I passed many such people on the way to the sands, and it irritated and depressed me. What do they think they are communicating with these “body statements?” Can’t they see they only ape the thoughtless barbarism everyone sees on Television? When is America going to grow up?
Such were my grumblings as I made my way to the ocean. Since it was hot, I stopped in one of those gas station mini-marts for a bottle of cold tea. I got in line with all the other barbarians to pay and saw that the young lady at the counter had two cheek piercings and purple hair. “That will be $1.04,” she said with a radiant smile. “Hmmm, not the usual pasted-on smile at the cash register,” I mused (another thing: salespeople almost never even look at you when they take your money these days). I gave her a dollar and four pennies, trying to limit personal interaction. “Thank you for exact change,” she said, looking at me with joy. “You’re welcome” I mumbled, and headed off. “Have a wonderful day,” she called after me, and I turned to look at her. She was positively beaming. Her purple hair and twittering cheek piercings faded beneath this angelic radiance. “Thank you,” I smiled. She gave a little wave and turned to the next customer.
Yesterday, Mother Teresa’s Day, I saw Jesus again, beneath his distressing disguise. Certainly the barbarism of our time—the spiritual poverty of the West— is senseless, as senseless as the poverty of Calcutta. But beneath even this disguise, Jesus smiles at us. Thank you, Mother Teresa, for showing me Jesus again. Thanks Mom!