Lent, that time of spiritual house-cleaning and self-denial started last week. For me, I got two firm reminders on Ash Wednesday that I, Katherine Schneider, Ph.D., retired clinical psychologist am not all that important. Lent is supposed to be about prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Apparently my fasting is supposed to be about fasting from self-importance this year, not chocolate!
The first lesson in your education and career are not all that important came as I was waiting for the Ash Wednesday service to begin at a local church, not the one where I usually worship. I was sitting up front with a friend with a mobility impairment. Behind us a few rows an elderly lady, meaning older than me, loudly announced to her friend next to her that she knew me; I was a Walmart greeter. My hackles rose, more because of my feelings about the store than my feelings about the job I was reputed to have. My ego was ready to charge back there and tell this lady that I had worked at the university, but eventually the “still small voice” of my better self reminded me that she was not talking to me and it wasn’t really all that important that I butt in and change her stereotype. Maybe I needed to pray for a more generous attitude toward peoples’ misperceptions instead of launching into public educator mode.
Round two of denial of self-importance came at a meeting that evening about some new legislation affecting people with cognitive disabilities. There was a great speaker followed by punch and cookies. The audience was a good mix of professionals who worked at what we used to call sheltered workshops, family members and some young adults who had significant cognitive impairments. My guide dog gathered a circle of young folks who wanted to pet her. Since several had a cookie in one hand and were petting with the other hand, I was supervising her closely to be sure no unauthorized cookie grabbing was occurring. She was being an angel. Up came a young staff member from one of the sheltered workshops and asked me if I worked at the workshop in Eau Claire. I said “no, I’m retired.” She asked if I was retired from working at that workshop and I said that I was retired from working at the university. “What did you do there?” she queried in total wonderment. “I was a clinical psychologist” I replied and turned back to supervising my guide dog. Apparently in her training they’d not talked about the variety of jobs people with disabilities might hold. Again the Holy Spirit was active, making me smile to myself about this second assumption in one day by a total stranger that they knew what I was about based on my blindness.
Usually important things happen in threes. If I can let the spirit make a few more dents in my self-importance, maybe Lent will help me live this wonderful quote:
“Ring the bells that still l can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.”