He was always there . . .
He was always there. Winter, spring, summer, fall. There he was. As a child, I would see him each week, and though we never chatted or discussed it, I suppose he would have seen me each week as well. Always wearing a brown three-piece suit. Always had a hat. Always happy.
He sat on the St. Joseph side while my family and I sat on the Mother Mary side. Both of us walked halfway down the aisle every Sunday and scooted into a pew that was nearly a dozen shy of the front of the church. In essence, we were ‘peripheral parallel pew partners’. Always.
Oddly enough, the week, the month, the year did not matter. From the earliest that I can remember to the time that Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church on Washington in Florissant closed, he was always there. If I was in town for a visit and attended the 10:00am Sunday mass, he was there. It didn’t matter how many people were with me or what the occasion. If it was Sunday at 10:00am, I would lean forward in my pew, peer down the row, and there he was. Always.
His name eludes me, but his personality does not. He seemed to be a man of great faith, a man with a great smile, a man with friendly eyes and a confident step. He also seemed to be a man who valued consistency, at least on Sunday.
Consistency is an interesting concept, and at moments, has some type of attraction for me. Call it a routine. Call it a habit. Call it a custom or a tradition. Regardless of the term, there is something about things that are the same over and over that catches my attention.
However, consistency has its detractors. Just ask Mr. Oscar Wilde, a nineteenth century Irish poet and playwright, who contends that “(c)onsistency is the hallmark of the unimaginative.” There are many different buckets that I placed myself into, but I shudder when I think about being plunked down into the unimaginative one. Not a place I want to exactly go.
Still, I like waking up at the same time everyday, hopping out of bed and knowing that the first fifteen minutes of my morning are going to be spend exactly like the first fifteen minutes of yesterday’s morning. In fact, the first sixty minutes of my day is highly, highly consistent. And that most unimaginative time seems to give me a wondrous opportunity to think and ponder and dream, often times bringing that which isn’t mundane out of the mundane.
Per Ecclesiastes 3:1, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Thus, I claim that consistency has a greater purpose than what Mr. Wilde concludes.
Take parenting. I often link good parenting with consistency. It seems like a natural partnership. I can readily recall my children having been justifiably angry with me for being wrong as a parent and making related missteps because I was wrong as a parent, but they were never mad or disappointed with me for being consistent as a parent. Case in point: they may not have liked the food I prepared for dinner week in and week out (I have never claimed to be a great cook – sorry gang), but they seemed rather appreciative that some sort of meal would show up on the same table at the same time with the same characters in the same seats each night.
On the flip side, I relish the moments that are truly inconsistent, the times that I have no idea exactly what is going to happen next, and am aware of that feeling in my stomach that tells me that something very unknown is happening. Mary Poppins, in Mary Poppins Returns, says is best when she leads the Banks children into a mystical and magical moment, and states, rather firmly, “We’re on the brink of an adventure, children. Don’t spoil it with too many questions.” Consistency is being damned at this juncture, sent away, chided, and left behind. All jets are set to go, and imagination takes over.
And again, to every thing, there is a season.
I honestly hope, in the deep recesses of my heart, that I understand the difference between the beneficial consistency and the non-beneficial consistency, and know when to use the appropriate bucket. Certainly the turn of a new year gives me plenty of opportunity to work on it.
And if there is ever a moment, when my childhood church reverts from its current status as an offsite location for a regional university back to Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, and I show up at 10:00am on a Sunday, I know exactly who I will see on the St. Joseph side of the aisle!