As I was walking along one of the paths on the retreat house grounds yesterday, I glanced down at a pin I am wearing on my shirt. It was a gift I received the other day from my “big brother” (I am the eldest child of my parents, but this very special friend has all the feel of what I imagine a big brother to be like) and when I look at it I am reminded that I walk with his prayers and love during these days of retreat.
As I glanced at it during my walk, a memory came up from my high school days, something I haven’t remembered in a very long time. I was a high school debater and my debate team spent many weekends traveling to tournaments in one state or another. I’m not sure who started this or when, but it developed that whenever we went off on a debate trip, the other students and our teachers would pin something on our vests. (Some of you at least will remember Catholic school uniforms from the 60s and 70s – plaid skirt, white blouse and either a jacket, or, in our case, a vest over the blouse.) Many girls pinned the pin with their name that was part of our uniform attire, others some other pin they usually wore on their own vest. We would carry these vests with us into the tournaments and they would remind us that we had the support and love of our friends while we competed.
Before one particularly important tournament – I think it was the state championship – an old nun came up to me. She had been my freshman Math teacher and had been teaching at the high school for enough years that she had also taught my mother freshman math back when she went to the same high school. This woman had made one great trip in her life – she had seen the Pope. (I don’t remember which pope – she was old enough that it could have been any of three.) And she had one prized, precious possession – a medal that had been blessed by the Pope that she never took off her neck, and frequently showed people.
She walked up to me and told me she wanted to give me something special to wear during the tournament. And she slowly started to unclasp the medal from around her neck. It was clear to me then, though perhaps not as clear as it is to me now looking back, what it cost her to do this – to take the medal off her neck and put it on mine. The thought of the medal being out of sight and the risk that something might happen to it must have been difficult ones for her. Yet, at the same time, she wanted to send me off with something special. And so she parted for that three-day period with the precious pin. And I knew how much love and care went into that act. And it was sweet to remember it during my walk on this retreat.
Maybe reading this will prompt you to recall a time, perhaps something you haven’t thought of in a long time, when someone gave you a precious gift. A time when someone gave without counting the cost. And give you an opportunity to appreciate again, and give thanks again, for the blessing of that gift.