Thinking long term

I can’t recall any instance in my secular life where someone, faced with dealing with a perpetually annoying person, shrugged and said “Look, in 20 years he’ll be gone, let him do his thing, treat him kindly, and later someone else can do a better job of it. Patience!”

Being accustomed to working in NYC I was accustomed to people being promptly fired if they didn’t please the boss. And if a new boss arrived, one had to adapt or be fired.

But even in daily life I never heard someone say about a noisy or nosy neighbor, “She’ll die one day, and then we’ll have a different neighbor with other quirks. Meanwhile, charity and patience.” Usually one either brainstormed mock revenges or called in complaints or confronted the neighbors directly.

So the first time I encountered the patient approach I was startled. A young priest discovered that every 9am Sunday Mass at his new parish was animated by an adorable elderly couple playing peppy guitar and drums. However, since they had been playing for decades and were elderly, he shrugged and carried on, letting them have the pleasure of their service for a few more years, though it was a far cry from the kind of music appropriate for the Mass. Hearing of this I remember thinking, but why not just fire them?

Once this remarkable idea had entered my head I found it explained many things in parishes, including lengthy periods of patience with insufferable people of all sorts. It probably explains the patience others have had with me, too!! It explains, perhaps, even the striking attitude towards gardening I encountered once, when I came upon some young men with shears cutting down a flowering vine. Why not, I inquired, cut down only the weeds, and leave the pretty flowers to grow? Ah, but it all grows back! one responded. And so it does.

But in any case I’ve lately begun to think of all the interminable ‘crises’ in the Church as much more easily understood if one takes this long view. The radicals of the 60s will soon be gone. The beloved customs that were banned by heavy handed revolutionary enthusiasms will grow back, if they were worthy of being beloved. We can try to extirpate the Word of God through neglect or direct assault, but the gates of hell cannot prevail, and we would do well to trust far more in God’s infinite power and majesty than fret that our feeble vanities do much damage beyond potentially damning our own souls.

Abingdon Apocalypse Manuscript, via Wikimedia Commons

Come spend the day!

Detail of a tapestry showing the visit of the Most Holy Virgin to her cousin Elizabeth. She stayed a while!

One of the many strange things I’ve adapted to in Brazil is really long visits. I was so used to the all-business, in-a-hurry, let’s-not-overstay-our-welcome kind of visits I knew in the US that it’s taken me years to acclimate to the pace of visits here. This week’s spate of post-quarantine visits included:

  • Six hours with a dear friend: 3 hours of cheese, salami, olives and wine; followed by a one hour walk to digest and pray a rosary, then two more hours eating beef stew and talking.
  • Five hours with another dear friend a few days later: lots of conversation; coffee and cake; more chatting, taking photos, and hanging out; turning down the invitation to stay for dinner (tripe stew…I couldn’t do it).
  • Eight hours with another dear friend the day after that: several hours of conversation, several hours of eating, more talking, more eating, and a good long time spent looking at beautiful art books.

I was telling another friend about it later and she said the customs that she’s known are a) the ‘come for lunch, stay til dark’ visit and b) the ‘come spend the day while the husbands are at work’ visit.

I was marveling at the quality of time one gets with a friend when one spends all day, and not all day running around going places and being seen and so on, but just sitting at home talking. With that kind of uninterrupted attention to each other you really can delve into long stories and wandering musings. The friendship gets treasured and pampered and polished and cared for. It seems to me to put priorities straight. God gave me these friends to love and be loved by. Generosity and gratitude seem much better responses than fussing about whether I’ve checked off three more to-dos on my to-do list.

Then again, I’m a gringo, so today there were no more visits and I fretted over my to-do list. But I do think most everything on it, barring a few bills to pay, can be done tomorrow with no harm to anyone.