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The recent news about Leona Helmsley leaving a huge amount of her fortune to her dog in place of certain members of her family helped inspire this piece.The following is a writ from a columnist, Erma Bombeck, who was a very popular commentator for many years in most of the syndicated newspapers in the United States. This one is a typical example of her humor and wisdom:
If you can’t smile in church- where else?
In church the other Sunday I was intent on a small child who was turning around smiling at everyone. He wasn’t gurgling, spitting, humming, kicking, tearing the hymnals or rummaging through his mother’s handbag. He was just smiling.
Finally, his mother jerked him about and in a stage whisper that could be heard in a little theatre off Broadway said, "Stop that grinning! You’re in church!" With that, she gave him a belt on his hindside and as the tears rolled down his cheeks, added, "That’s better," and returned to her prayers.
What must they think, these children of the 70s? We sing, "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord" while our faces reflect the sadness of one who has just buried a rich aunt who left everything to her pregnant hamster.
We chant, "If I have not charity, I am become a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal." Translated in the parking lot it comes out, "And the same to you, fella!"
Suddenly I was angry. It occurred to me that the entire world is in tears and if you’re not, then you’d better get with it. I wanted to grab this child with the tear-stained face close to me and tell him about my God. The happy God. The smiling God. The God who had to have a sense of humor to have created the likes of us.
I wanted to tell him he is an understanding God who understands little children who pick their noses in church because they are bored. He understands the man in the parking lot who reads comics while his wife is attending church. He even understands my shallow prayers that implore, "If you can’t make me thin, then make my friends look fat."
I wanted to tell him I’ve taken a few lumps in my time for daring to smile at religion. By tradition, one wears faith with the solemnity of a mourner, the gravity of a mask of tragedy and the dedication of a Rotary badge.
What a fool, I thought, here was a woman sitting next to the only light left in our civilization… the only hope, our holy miracle…our only promise of infinity. If he couldn’t smile in church where was there left to go?
I was reminded of a story of a stranger who went into a church one day that was not his own. He mingled with the parishioners patting them on the back, talking loudly and laughing in a gesture of friendship. The parishioners were shocked with his familiarity and horrified at this "lack of respect" for a place of worship. He was asked to leave.
On the doorstep, he was approached by God who said, "Cheer up, fella, I’ve been trying to get into that church for years."
The fifth paragraph grabs my attention because it’s true that the world is a sad mess. It’s certainly worse now than it was in the 70s or even the 80s leave alone the 90s. However, I can’t help but think that we are contributing no good to the world if we can’t rise above all these problems. If we don’t smile, laugh and try to make the best of the situations then we are only contributing to the problem- not solving it.
The Castle Lady, solving problems one kiss at a time!