I never graduated from college.
In fact, I never really graduated from high school, either. I got my GED when I was 18. I dropped out of high school at the beginning of my junior year. My principal literally begged me to, saying “Please don’t come back.”
I wasn’t cool, but I wished I was. I was mostly just a goof, a class clown. I was a complete distraction for teachers and students alike. I interrupted classes with my obnoxious behavior. One time my morbidly obese french class teacher chased me around the classroom with my backpack while yelling at me to leave. I had started an ant infestation in the back of his room by daily (and purposely) baiting them with food. I was always yelling out pretend french words in the middle of his classes, and finally one day the guy just snapped. Who could blame him, ya know? He came running at me, all 300 plus pounds of him, and it was freaking terrifying. So, bonjour, dude! Or au revoir, however they say.
I could tell you story after story of my bad behavior. Some of them are funny. Some are not. Lots are super embarrassing. Mortifying, even.
My life was kind of crazy. I left home at 16, and wound up living with an extended family member who became a mother figure to me. She was a restaurant owner who had a conversion experience and became very serious about her Catholic faith. Shortly after, she opened her home up to all kinds of people who were homeless – drug addicts, prostitutes, people with mental illness, you name it. Little brats like me. ha. Then she sold her bussiness and bought an old church that had been closed and she started a Catholic Mission there which is based upon the message of the Divine Mercy of Jesus. I moved with her and ended up living and working there and becoming a missionary for almost ten years.
I also became pregnant at the ripe old age of 17, but that’s another story for another day.
After my reversion to the Catholic church, my dream was to go to Franciscan University at Steubenville, but it was not to be.
Instead I enrolled at Buffalo State College, but I never finished. I dropped out.
So here’s the thing: sometimes I feel dumb. Like really dumb. I’m certainly no theologian.
Sure, I know my faith, I do. I mean, I’ve learned it hands on. I’ve attended a billion talks and retreats, have had many opportunities to learn. And I’ve done alot of reading, though not enough. So if you’re looking for someone who can argue the faith and get their Apologetics on….well, that ain’t my gift. Not yet, anyway. Maybe eventually. I can do it well enough, can argue the basics, but I probably won’t be quoting the Desert Fathers or bringin out any Big Daddy Aquinas for you.
Don’t get me wrong – I admire people who can do that! What an amazing gift. We need people who can do that, and effectively so.
I am not an expert on grammar or writing (as you may have already noticed).
One time, when my blog was still new-ish, I did a humorous post on a contestant from The Voice and her big crazy glasses. I won’t even mention her name because her fans freaked out about it and I started getting nasty comments. Anyway, this troll started berating me and my writing. She asked me if I’d ever considered going to college, and told me she was “appalled by” my “shocking lack of commas”.
And it kind of stung. I didn’t respond on my blog, because usually that sort of thing is pointless. But inside I was like, ‘For real? You’re SHOCKED by my lack of commas?? Wow, honey. You better hold on tight because I’m sure that life has plenty more shocks in store for you. If you’re shocked over a comma shortage, I hope you never, like.. I don’t know, run out of milk or anything, because you gonna have a straight up nervous breakdown then.’
I mean, really.
I write the same way that I talk. If you ever meet me in real life, or if you know me already, you know this is how I talk. When my friend Sarah emailed me after I started doing the stick figure thing, she said “I think you finally figured out what you’re suppossed to do with your blog. I can totally hear your voice when I read it.”
That was so great to hear, because I just want to be me in this space.
So this is me. Dumb little me. But ya know what? I kinda like me.
Am I veering too far off the path here? Well, I do have a point.
It’s really easy for us to think we can sum people up by their knowledge or lack thereof, you know? But we forget that each person has their own unique gifts and they’re own part in evangelizing, despite their level of education or even how well they can articulate the faith.
Here’s an example.
When I was enrolled in college, I didn’t have a car. Hell, I didn’t even know how to drive yet! I just never had many opportunities to learn how. Not to sound like your grandparents or anything, but every day, I had to take two busses there and two busses back to where I lived. In the ghetto. Sometimes not getting back home until nighttime. Honestly, it was pretty scary out there during the night. But that’s what I had to do to go to school.
It was frustrating sometimes because I was going back and forth between two very different worlds. In one world, I was a student in the same age group as many of my peers, but in the other world, I was a young single mom living with my little boy in a lively Catholic community in the ghetto, in the same house with all these folks with addictions and pretty deep problems. Yet we were a family, somehow.
But when I was in the college world, I sort of felt like a real misfit. And it was easy to just shrink into that college world and be a nobody there- a random student without a niche- while at home, I was outgoing and friendly and involved with all kinds of ministry at different parishes as well as right there in the hood.
One night, both of those worlds collided a little bit, right before my eyes.
I used to take a bus that left me off in the middle of downtown, and then I’d have to wait in the freaky deek bus station, which was a pretty shady place. A crazy lady sat near the glass doors every night, doing weird things. I’ll never forget the time she had straws sticking out of her ears. It was scary! I’d wait there in that station for about a half hour to get on the next bus to take me home.
One night I got off that downtown bus, and it was pretty late and dark out. I started walking toward the station, and there were a few people walking near me, going in the same direction. One of them was a young hispanic guy who looked like he was a college student, around my age. He was wearing a rosary around his neck. I sort of rolled my eyes. Where I lived, guys usually wore rosaries around their necks as a gang sign. But this guy didn’t seem like a thug. Plus, he was kinda cute. He seemed focused on wherever he was going, not looking in my direction at all.
Before we get any further, this is not a story of how I met my husband or anything. I don’t want anybody out there getting all excited.
We got to the bus station door, and there was an older black man sitting in a wheelchair. He looked at the both of us as if we were together, and he said “Y’all got any food? I’m hungry.I need help.” He couldn’t feed himself.
See, he had two hands…but no fingers.
So this guy with the rosary around his neck, goes, “Yeah, sure. I’ll buy you some food.” And I said “Yeah, me too”, in kind of a clumsy way. I went with rosary guy, and bought some food. Fries and a Big Mac and a drink. I looked at Rosary Guy, and….I was trying to be cute, I think, when I said this…but I go “So, do you actually pray that rosary?”
It was a pretty A.Hole thing to say.
The guy was totally offended. He remained aloof towards me, and I just dumbly followed him as he sat down near the man in the wheelchair.
Then the teacher began to teach.
He took the meal that he’d bought the man out of the bag and began to feed him.
It makes me cry just thinking about it.
He sat there and fed that man, fry after fry. He fed him his hamburger, held his drink while the man’s thirst was quenched, wiped his face with a napkin.
Then I took my turn. It was the most humbling, moving thing, just feeding this guy his french fries and listening to him say thank you over and over. This was Jesus!! This was Christ crucified, thanking ME. How ironic. How weird and odd and crazy and bizarre.
How completely undeserving was I?? Completely undeserving.
I learned a lesson that night, I sure did. I got a lesson straight from the Scriptures, straight outta the catechism. “Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty.”
It’s not that it was something unfamiliar to me. I mean, I lived in a community with the poorest of the poor and broken.. and geez, I was broken too. The whole point of the place was to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty. The stories I could tell you! Sad ones, funny ones, amazing ones.Oh boy.
It’s just that I thought I had this young guy pegged. You know what I mean? I thought he was someone with less understanding than I.
And boy, was I wrong.
Never write someone off because you think they can’t preach the faith as well as you, because they can’t defend it and articulate it like a pro,because they don’t know all their prayers or because they’re not part of your secret little club. We need to try not to be so scandalized by every little thing people say or do, or to run around with our red pens, correcting the little mistakes they make in their efforts to evangelize. I mean, I know there’s people who purposely spread error, and that’s not cool. But there are alot of folks who are just a little clumsy, too. So…patience.
It’s a big world out there, and God uses all different kinds of people to be His hands and feet.
Even dummies like me.
I never graduated from college.