By Katie Prejean McGrady
Catholic News Service
My daughter has this T-shirt. I found it on the clearance rack at Target marked down 75%. Without hesitation, I tossed it in the cart, and ironically, that steal of a deal has become her favorite shirt, worn at least once a week.
Across the shirt is a line from Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, The Places You’ll Go,” the popular book handed out as graduation gifts and read in commencement addresses.
“You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut!” the shirt reads.
Rose wears it with pride. I think she loves the shirt because it’s soft. Simple pleasures keep her pretty content. But I love it because it reminds me to keep my eyes open rather than turned down at a screen.
It tells me to pay attention and to look for the wonder, especially in the quiet, mundane, ordinary moments that could pass by entirely unnoticed. It reminds me to take notice of what’s around, and what could be, rather than wallow in what I perceive to be frustrating or annoying.
In some way, that gray T-shirt and its colorful wording has become a mission statement for my motherhood, my marriage, my job: to keep my eyes open, take it all in and never forget the goodness of the very best things happening right in front of me, big or small.
She only wears the shirt once a week, but every day, my 2-year-old greets the morning with an excited “Mama!” and proceeds to babble away, describing her dreams in toddler gibberish that I so wish I could understand.
She runs through the house and yard with endless energy. She bounds into her classroom each morning with a joy that if bottled and sold would make us millions. She watches TV, reads books, eats meals, dances and plays games with a committed joy, the likes of which I’ve never seen.
Her eyes are wide open, and her desire to soak in life is unmatched. She has, in a very tangible way, an unalterable, unassailable, visible, obvious and even enviable spirit of hope because her eyes are open. She isn’t missing the best things, but soaking them all in.
And that — eyes open to goodness all around us — is a reason for hope.
I’ve always struggled with the idea of hope. What is it, exactly? And why does it matter so much? I know about faith: It’s the belief in things unseen. And I’m fairly confident I can pinpoint love: It’s the gift of self for the other because of their value and worth.
But hope: It’s the desiring of heaven and eternal life, and that just seems so far off, something I have to worry about tomorrow. I have to believe today. I have to love people and God right now. But I don’t need to hope for heaven yet … that’ll come in the future.
But that’s where I’m wrong. It’s where a lot of us go wrong as we ponder the idea of hope.
Because hope isn’t just longing for heaven someday, it’s the belief that we’re made for heaven, meant for heaven, designed for heaven and life with God now, and that we are promised something by God (eternity with him) and he will deliver.
That’s something we have to keep our eyes open to … or we’ll miss that very best thing.
It’s so easy to close our eyes to it these days. The church hasn’t been a source of much hope lately, at least not on the surface. Disaffiliation numbers are up — people are leaving and not coming back. The misunderstanding about the Eucharist is prevalent — people are either ignorant or disagree. The scandals seem to increase by the day, and it hurts every single time, a gut punch as we see corruption and dishonesty.
When Pope Francis released the apostolic exhortation “Christus Vivit” last spring, he set aside a chapter to focus on three essential truths that young people (and all of us, really) need to know, articulating that our source of hope is not in men, is not in fellow believers and is not even in ourselves.
Our source of hope, and what our eyes should remain open to is that God loves us, that Christ saves us and that Christ is very much alive.
If our eyes are open to that and are searching for that reality in our daily lives, then our hope becomes rooted not in just visible trials and scary tribulations but is rooted in the understanding that we are priceless and God cares deeply for us.
If we know that, if we believe that and if we articulate that, then there’s no reason to not have hope. If I know that God loves me, desires me, longs for me and has plans for me, then I can have hope for tomorrow, even hope in today.
If I know that Christ died on the cross for me and believe that he was thinking of me as he shed his blood, then I can rest assured my own sufferings and cross carrying has meaning.
If I know that Christ is alive and believe he is acting even right now, then I can order my steps and live my life for him. We can keep our eyes open to the very best thing: that our hope is in Christ, who is alive.
We don’t necessarily need a cheap T-shirt from Target to remind us of that reality, but it sure does help.
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Katie Prejean McGrady is an international Catholic speaker and author. She is project manager of Ave Explores from Ave Maria Press and logs over 100,000 travel miles a year speaking to audiences of all ages and sizes. She has her degree in theology from the University of Dallas and lives with her husband and daughter in Lake Charles, Louisana.