One of the things my mother told me repeatedly when I was growing up was, “just because I compliment your sister, does not mean I am criticizing you!” It is not surprising that a seven-year-old with a really cute younger sister might need to be told this, but as a parent of three adult children, I should no longer need to hear these words. Yet, not long ago I caught myself feeling slighted when I was told that a colleague had done a great job on something that I have done many times in the past. Even as I felt the emotions welling up in me, I chastised myself for being unreasonable; my colleague did do a wonderful job and the appreciation expressed had nothing to do with me one way or the other!
But that is where I was wrong. What she accomplished did have something to do with me, it made the world I live in better; and the appreciation expressed has something to do with all of us because it opens our eyes to the wonder of the world and of the One who has gifted us with that world. This is the profound reality expressed in the second reading. “There are a variety of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
Life is not meant to be a competition! It is not individual accomplishments that matter but rather the sum of all of our accomplishments. We live in a society that has taught us to value ourselves and each other based on what we do, what we produce or what we own. Many people fear that if we were to say that what we make or do doesn’t matter, some people would choose not to do anything, while others did far more than their share in order to keep society from falling apart. We think in terms of scarcity. If there is not enough to go around, then everyone must compete for what there is.
But our God is a God of generosity and extravagance and every ability, every talent, every skill, and every activity is an expression of that generosity and extravagance. God has created us to be one with each other, not to compete, but to share who we are with each other. Life has more beauty each time someone expresses their unique self. We miss the beauty if we focus on the comparison of the gift, rather than on the gift. The more I celebrate what others accomplish, the more I will be able to see and enjoy what I have done and am doing. I can choose each day to express the life and the love that are in me without worrying about how what I am doing compares to what others are doing. I can choose to see the life and the love that are being expressed in the words, the actions, the silences, and the stillness of the people around me without worrying about how they compare to what I have done. And if I make these choices, I will move from a world of scarcity and fear to a world of abundance and hope without having to go anywhere.
I wish I could finish this with a word of appreciation for each of you. I can’t do that, but I can begin and perhaps you can add what is missing. Your smile brightened my day. Your question allowed me to see something in a new way. Your passion motivates people. Your stillness created a space of calm. Thank you for your faith … for your challenge … for standing with me in my fear … Thank you for the big and small things that you did this week that brought beauty and connection to the world.