Yesterday was full of noteworthy moments. My brother celebrated his birthday. My daughter celebrated her First birthday. And the Catholic Church welcomed its new pope, Francis. When Pope Benedict XVI announced he would be stepping down, it was my brother (a non-Catholic) who texted me the news.
"What do you get a Pope as a retirement gift?" he texted.
"Excellent question," I texted back. "A new hat?"
Pope Francis brings with him a life of humility and engagement. The bits and pieces I've been learning about him are inspiring. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he chose to live in a small, modest apartment rather than the ornate home provided to him in Argentina. He took public transportation, both an economical choice as well as an opportunity to get to know the people within his jurisdiction, the people for whom he was responsible. From his first remarks to the crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square yesterday, it is clear that he intends to take that same humility and engagement into this new responsibility.
Which got me to thinking about our responsibility to our fellow man, whether family, friend, neighbor or stranger. I started thinking about our personal jurisdiction and what that can mean.
Which got me to thinking that as Pope Francis begins his first days as the head of the Roman Catholic Church, I'd like to purposefully journey those first nine days with an intention of meditating on what my role is in the world and how I might make this world the littlest bit better. I invite you to join me, regardless of your religious or spiritual bent. Let's see what comes out of it.
But first, a cup of tea to get the thoughts in order.
Maharajah. One of the first teas introduced to me by American Tea Room. Dark, rich, smooth, malty with subtle undertones of spice, I instantly fell in love. And (quite honestly) I was just as in love with the name as with the tea. I remember the first time I had ever even heard or read the word, "Maharajah." It was my discovery of my now-favorite children's book, The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodges Burnett. Frances. Hmm.
Anyway, discovering England through Mary's India-colored lenses was magical for me, especially the anecdotes she shared with her new English friends about the Indian royalty she had observed. India, in my imagination, has always been a rich, mysterious place full of color, heady scents, celebration and tradition. It is the country of Mahatma Ghandi, who said, "Be the change that you wish to see in the world."
Which brings me back to the idea of jurisdiction. I was first introduced to the concept of "my jurisdiction," by Sherry Weddell and Father Michael Sweeney, co-founders of the Catherine of Siena Institute. We, as people in the world, have a jurisdiction that "follows us around." Whomever we encounter is our opportunity to either make the world a little better (or a little worse.)
I've been trying to find the exact quote and who it should be attributed to, but I've been unsuccessful. It is something along the lines of: we don't have to change the world, but we might be able to change the world for one person. (If you know who said this, or what the actual quote is, please let me know!)
That's been the biggest struggle in my life. I've always had delusions of grandeur - that I would somehow do something big and powerful and meaningful - that it was my destiny! And year after year, I was disappointed, that somehow I had failed my destiny. And as trite as it may sound, those delusions have slowly crumbled largely because of my two girls. As a parent, I AM their world. I shape it, I give them the tools to deal with it. I have the power to make their world a good one or a horrendous one. And I desperately want it to be a good one. I make a lot of mistakes. I lose my patience WAY more easily than I should. But each day I have the opportunity to try again. And not only with my children. With each encounter with anyone, I have the opportunity to make their world - or a minute of their world - a little better, a little more pleasant. What I do with that opportunity is a choice I must make each and every time.
Mother Teresa, who adopted India, and in particular its poorest of the poor, as her personal jurisdiction said, "God has created us so we do small things with great love. I believe in that great love, that comes, or should come from our heart, should start at home: with my family, my neighbors across the street, those right next door. And this love should then reach everyone."
Today I intend to use each encounter as an opportunity to make the moment for that person a little better, a little more pleasant. As you take ownership of this intention, I'd love to hear your experience of it.