Assembly of the large three-ring binder of music for my five-cantored-Masses marathon this weekend, complete with new-text cheater pew cards which still do not prevent a retro “and also with you” from leaving my lips on occasion?
Filling of the car’s tank so I can do the ping-pong commute from my urban parish to my suburban parish, and back, and forth, and back, repeatedly over an eighteen-hour period tomorrow night and Sunday morning?
The Leslie larder chock-filled with food other than leftover Christmas cookies from work?
C’mon: you know me better than that!
I needed to take time away from my liturgical preparations this morning to seek some healthier nutrition, and found the gifts of God’s humorous touch and Christmas kindness exist right in my local supermarket.
I must admit: I entered the store not in a Christmas frame of mind. The parking lot was full, carts were difficult to find, and my back still ached from an ungainly step- twist-and-lift maneuver I executed eight days ago. (This may appear to be bad timing, it being Christmas, but the important thing is that my voice is unaffected and I can sing clearly. Also, it may well be a sign from God to pursue a career in cruise ship entertainment between Christmas and Lent. Since I cannot stand erect, but rather lean at a 30-degree angle, this could be advantageous were the ship to cross stormy seas.)
Having immersed myself in spirit-filled hymns and joyous Christmas carols these past few weeks, I welcomed the opportunity to hear some secular holiday music over the supermarket’s public address system. But the wizards in the courtesy booth had other plans. I believe the CD they played was from the “Christmas on Acid” series, for we shoppers were subjected to the worst selection of music ever compiled.
“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” was caterwauled by a mis-matched duo who might well have been Louis Armstrong and Betty Boop; a singer impersonating Elvis impersonating a gospel singer (in his “fat” years voice) was on the next track. Der Bingle, Dean-o and way too many soprano bimbettes and violins ruined yet another Christmas classic (three of us shoppers reflexively grabbed boxes of antacids as we were subjected to the painful vocal rendition.) My little secular music break in the day had not materialized, yet I was uplifted; grinning at the absurd cacophony, I caught the eye of another shopper and we both burst into laughter.
The mood was contagious; other shoppers chuckled as the aural assault continued and began to speak to one another, much like soldiers on the front line of a battle commiserate in pain. A young girl bent over to retrieve a dropped box of cereal for an old man and uttered a hearty “Merry Christmas” as they belittled the CD, while two others stopped their own pursuit of food to find a can of dry soup for a young mother and told her to enjoy the holidays. God’s boundless Christmas kindness circulated the store despite the dreadful music; as a young girl leaned head and shoulders into a stand-up freezer to grab the last two boxes of mixed vegetables with shell macaroni for me, the two of accompanied Alvin the Chipmunk as he begged, “I still want a H-u-u-u-u-la H-o-o-o-o-p!”
As I lift my voice with multiple choirs and congregations in praise to God this weekend, the ethereal hymns and octavos we sing will fill the churches and might inspire others to recognize God’s kindness. I’ll also remember the gift of laughter and spirituality I experienced today in the supermarket and praise Him all the louder…. sans hula hoops.