Since childhood we’re told we’re a snowflake, each one unique. (But doesn’t it melt away when it hits the ground?) America was built on the John Wayne model of individualism but would you trust him if his real name was “Marion” which it was, so who do you trust?)
“Trust no one” is an unspoken mantra of mine until his foot hits the petal. (“Dr. House” taught me that.) Unique or not we are all “copycats” during life’s journey picking up a piece from that person, another piece from another while remembering to never keep a piece from that one. Conscious or not we are always looking for models and mentors to bolster ourselves or at least make our job a little easier to perform.
I think back on my 35 years as a priest and remember the slick and the sly, the serious and the silly and I’ve accumulated a bit of this or that from each of them. Were these bits already living within me? I’m sure they were but their unwitting modeling to me, validated it.
There’s the quick witted guy who could quick wit me better and with a straight face. I loved the dueling. The one who could spontaneously pray through the whole Mass without a book still amazes me. The radio priest who wanted to be in radio and met me who had been in radio and created a wonderful fourteen year radio experience. (“Who’s teaching whom,” I sometimes wondered.) After a brother’s suicide the silence was crisp with this mourning family of surviving seven. He puts on the CD, “Graceland” and the grade school age kids start dancing trying to pass from the senseless death to their own future. (Brilliant.) My grade school pastor would take off his watch and place it on the pulpit and give his sermon which I never understood but then would stop and replace the watch on his wrist. Whether he made his point or not, I and the listening congregation will never know but he was done talking. (He must have believed in, “Time will tell.”) There’s the confident one who never showed his confidence, it just clothed him in his kind or admonishing words, his stories or his own personal problems. (I’m able to hear his voice during all my awkward situations.) No fact goes unquestioned from this one because facts are the source of life which made me wonder why he joined a church of folks who love to wonder.
The list only grows with the more years that I do this priestly thing. I like to think that I’m John Wayne but the Marion in me keeps looking for silly and serious models to make me a non-melting snowflake.