On kindness, Intrigue, and nuns who polka
Updated: Jun 4
Many years years ago I attended a polka mass and dinner dance at a friend's church. (I think you haven't really lived until you've been to a polka mass, but that's by the by.) At the dinner, I was sitting across from a rather attractive woman who at the time I would have said was older but who was probably around the age that I am now, so I can report she was really was just a spring chicken. She was dressed more elegantly than most of the other women there and had obviously taken great care with her hair and make-up. I introduced myself to her over a plate of fried chicken and she told me her name was Sister Mary.
"Sister?" I responded, not really able to conceal my surprise. "As in nun?"
"Yes," she answered with a smile. "As in nun."
I'd never seen a nun quite like her, and my desire for a good story seemed to override my sense of politeness; I grilled the poor lady like a steak on the Fourth of July. I was a little disappointed by her answers, though. Even if she didn't look like most of the nuns I knew she still spoke in that kind of nun-speak that they must all learn in the convent.
I was beginning to think that there would be nothing about this woman which I could put in my bank of anecdotes, when she began talking about her ministry. I had just assumed she taught in the school or was a pastoral associate of something like that, but she said, no, she was involved in the "ministry of skin care."
I about spat lemonade out of my nose. There clearly was a story here after all. "Skin care?" I asked, unable to conceal my excitement at the turn in the conversation.
"Yes," she replied. "I sell Mary Kay Cosmetics."
"Like Avon?" I asked.
"No," she replied, perhaps a bit cooly. "Like Mary Kay." She obviously sensed my surprise, because she went on to say, "So many women suffer because they don't feel like they are beautiful enough. I help them feel more beautiful, and I believe that feeling beautiful is what God wants us to feel about ourselves, since he created us. It might seem like a small thing, but I have women who are my clients who have never heard anyone in their entire lives tell them they are beautiful. I tell them and they believe me because I believe they are. It might seem silly to others, but I can tell you it's not silly to them."
It's a quirky ministry, I suppose, but there was something really valid about what Sister Mary was saying. The world offers us more than enough catalysts for feeling bad. Why not have a beautiful nun selling cosmetics if it's going to help someone feel good about themselves? There could be worse ways to spend one's time, I suppose.
The band struck up a song and I asked Sister Mary if she knew how to polka. "Is the Pope Catholic?" she asked and we were on the floor before I could respond. She knew her way around the dance floor, that Sister Mary. Afterwards, she thanked me for the dance and told me that she had people to see. I wondered if she was selling her products there, maybe out of the back of a pink Cadillac parked outside, but I didn't ask. I just said it was nice to have met her, and that I enjoyed hearing about her ministry. She gave me a hug. I told her she smelled nice.
"Thank you," she said. "It's Intrigue - one of our best sellers." And with that she wandered off into the crowd of polkaing people, some of whom had maybe never been told they were beautiful before.
"Be kind to one another," Saint Paul exhorts the brothers and sisters in Ephesus in this evening's second lesson. And it really is that simple, isn't it? Although our ability to do many things is limited by the restrictions of this period, our ability to be kind is not. Our acts of kindness might seem like small things, but we have no idea how they can touch others, bring gusts of beauty into a world that can at times be stagnate in its ugliness.
There could be worse ways to spend our time than in trying to find new and creative ways to be kind to one another. I know that because Jesus told us to love one another. And I know it because Saint Paul told us to be kind to one another.
And I know it because Sister Mary told me all about it. I try not to give in to generalities, but every time God sends me a beautiful, polka-dancing, perfume wearing, cosmetic-selling nun who wants people to know they're beautiful, and who may or may not drive a pink Cadillac, well, I should probably listen.