A Hankie for My Pocket
by Maria Novajosky
*published in the July/August issue of Canticle Magazine, 2009
For one week this past summer our family had a nun from Tanzania stay with us in our home. To prepare for her visit I cleaned, made lists, and lectured my three sons on the importance of table manners (elbows off the table) and good behavior (no arguing, no name calling). I was nothing if not organized. What I wasn’t prepared for was what she would teach me.
Once Sister Gaudiosa arrived, it didn’t take long for everyone to be drawn to her enthusiasm and zest for life. She visited our sons’ school and taught the class the “Our Father” in Swahili. She watched football with my husband, giggling when he got too technical in his explanations. She often sat down on the floor and had lengthy conversations with our toddler (no language barriers between those two).
As the week progressed, I stopped consulting my lists and started enjoying just being with her. We were two women from completely different countries, with different callings in life, and yet we had marvelous heart-to-heart conversations. I loved how she spent an hour ironing her veils, how she danced for us when we found some Tanzanian music on the internet, how she always had one helping at the dinner table and never, ever had seconds, and I loved how she laughed with complete abandonment when I took her to see “Hairspray” at the movie theater.
One day we decided to take her on a day trip to Atlanta. That morning I rushed around gathering maps, coupons, and our itinerary. It was cloudy, so I found some umbrellas. I pulled out my biggest purse and packed it with necessities: wallet, makeup, sunglasses, eyeglasses, camera, snacks for the boys . . . by the time I was done my purse must have weighed twenty-five pounds.
And Sister? As we headed out the door she quietly slipped a hankie into her pocket.
On the way to Atlanta, as I thought about that hankie and compared it to my stuffed handbag, I recognized the freedom that can be found in simplicity. It took almost the entire week, but spending time with Sister helped me see simplicity as a gift, a peace of mind and heart uncluttered by the craziness of our lives. Sometimes all we simply have to do is decide we want it.
Now, I am not naive. I have three sons, one of whom is a toddler, and I do need my purse. But I am learning to make things less complicated and to recognize the beauty of God’s gift of simplicity. A walk in the woods, a child’s laughter, a rainy afternoon, or a meal with a neighbor are simple things that say more about the gift of life than all the running around we do to live it. So now, when I leave home my purse no longer weighs twenty-five pounds . . . it’s down to fifteen.
And I always, always slip a hankie into my pocket.