To the editor:
As a teacher, I tell kids to look for contrasts when they are reading: Those contrasts often teach us a lesson or help us infer something important to our understanding of a story.
I failed to mention, though, students, that those contrasts happen in our daily lives as well.
It was Christmas Eve Mass at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, 4:30 p.m. Mother Seton Hall was full by the time our family arrived, so my boys sat in front of my husband and me. I looked on with pride, smiling at how handsome they looked and daydreaming about our Christmas Eve meal and present opening that was to come.
Then, "The Look."
It was as if someone had snapped their fingers to wake me out of my blithesome state. The Look. Directed at my youngest, the single woman to his right was giving him the death stare.
I couldn't figure it out. I pulled myself forward a bit to see my son's face. Aha! He was sniffling and humming ever so slightly.
I wanted to tell her, but her face, a stone frown, told me that it wouldn't matter. I tried to focus on Father Dave. What a light-hearted sermon!
Talking about Elf from the movie, people were listening. I guess some liken Elf to Jesus. It's not a far stretch since, like Jesus, Elf believes in goodness.
"There's room for everyone on the nice list," Elf says with a smile.
The contrast. Elf. Jesus. The Look. Despite the words from Father, The Look continued.
When it came time for the sign of peace, the woman turned to shake my hand. I gave her a big smile, hoping she would see what I was trying to tell her through my eyes, "Please be nice to my little guy. He's not sick. Those are tics." With no smile in return, she turned back.
My son's little hand reached up to give her the sign of peace. Pulling her hands in, she quickly faced the altar. No sign of peace.
My son slowly pulled his hand back down and did the same.
I think the lessons inferred from this little story are obvious, but how does it resolve? We went home and had our Christmas dinner and opened presents.
I wish I could have mustered up the strength to say something to that woman. Perhaps, as in the words of Elf, all I would have needed to say was, "Does somebody need a hug?"