My hands grip the steering wheel, and I grimace in frustration. It’s been a long day at the school where I teach. My to-do list was a mile long, and nothing on it was accomplished. Instead, my day was pockmarked with misplaced homework, extra copies to be run, impromptu (yet much-needed!) meetings, and a ton of emails to send out. I felt spent and almost ran to the car after the day was over. I needed to get home to some relative peace and quiet to sort out my day and set a game plan for the rest of the week.
Instead, I am listening to my daughter unload on me about her horrible day—in between telling her younger brother to shut up because he couldn’t possibly understand how awful her day was, and can she just finish her sentence, and why does he still have to talk, and why is he now telling her to shut up?!!?
I want to scream. Luckily, I am too tired. I grip the steering wheel and whisper an inaudible prayer to the Holy Spirit through my gritted teeth. Give me patience. Give me patience . . . givemepatienceplease. The Holy Spirit always comes through.
I take a deep breath. Calmly, I ask my darling son to please wait his turn to speak. I explain to my daughter that yelling at her brother is not helping right now, and she needs to let me handle it. Turning back to the offended little one, I threaten the infamous “no TV” punishment, and miraculously, it works. I am now able to listen to my daughter and sympathize and empathize. Correction and words of wisdom on how to handle herself would have to come later. Right now, she just needs me to listen.
Upon arriving home, I find a kitchen sink and counter filled with dirty dishes and realize I hadn’t taken the meat out of the freezer for dinner. Suddenly, my youngest is in a panic over his homework, asking me for help. This is the last straw, I think. Surely, I will explode any moment now. Another deep breath, another quick prayer to the Holy Spirit. Patience, patience, patience. I set up my little guy at the counter and walk him through his math, while I dump and load the dishwasher, and set the frozen meat to thawing in the microwave. As my other children trickled in . . . from practice, and their various places of work, I am able to be present and to ask about their days. This connection is so important, I remind myself.
Give just a little more, stretch out, hug, laugh, accept, just be. Be for them. I chop onions, set up the rice cooker, sauté the meat. Let the kids smell the goodness, let warmth envelope their hearts. Sometimes it’s so hard not to be bitter with exhaustion. But how does that show love? And I wonder at God and his plan. How am I able to do this? To be all of this? I am such a small, selfish creature. I lean so heavily on him, on the Holy Spirit, that spirit of love and patience. Some days I can barely eke out a Rosary before I am just mumbling gibberish, and my husband smilingly sends me to bed.
But God blesses my meager efforts anyway. He knows my heart. He takes my fumbling mess of love and multiplies it.
Grace upon grace.