built for travel

Years ago, Will and I were on an early morning flight headed to parts unremembered. Likely it was to the east coast. To summer. To Massachusetts. But I can't remember exactly. Likely Maggie was also with us, but I only remember Will.

It was an early flight, as I mentioned, and Will really wanted more than anything to fall back to sleep once we settled in our seats, and so did I.

The beginning sounds of the flight rambled on: the pilot, the other passengers, cabinets closing. The music of conversations all faded into the background as I sat in my middle seat, arms lightly resting on the arm rests (I bought the tickets--I get BOTH arm rests:) and drifted off to sleep.

It wasn't a deep sleep, but I was very much at rest when I woke to Will saying to me, "How can you DO that?!"

I peeled open one eye. His face was inches from mine, making a study of me and my sleep.


"Fall asleep?? How can you fall asleep on a plane?!"

I said, "I never convince myself I'm going to be comfortable."

Because Will? He had been wiggling, and moving around, and shaking the seat, as if any part of that collection of metal, plastic, and upholstery was going to provide genuine comfort. It's not. Plane seats are not made for comfort; they are made for travel.

If you convince yourself you are going to be comfortable...well, then all sorts of discontent pop up. You become aware of everything you don't have-personal space, leg room, privacy. But if I release those things to another time, then I find I can make myself peaceful enough to be at rest.

This is a story I will tell my students today. It has a dual purpose.

Lesson number one will be a writing lesson. It's simple: I gave you a beginning, a middle, and an end. Some details. The setting, the characters, the lesson. Bam. DONE. That's how you tell a story, kids.

Lesson number two will be a Religion lesson. This week, we return to in person Mass at school, and many are out of practice with in person Mass. The COVID year(s) found many celebrating Mass at home.

So, the pew, the kneeler--it's all something we are out of sync with. And it's hard for the kids, because the in- person expectations remain the same, whether or not they have had the in- person practice. And they do bear the weight of them, that lack of practice, that huge learning curve, and so do their teachers.

I told them yesterday, "Hey, no worries. We will just do this together. And if we have to hold off on chapters in our book for a while to teach these things, then that's what teachers are for. To meet you where you are and bring you forward. We will take the time that it takes and learn it together."

The first Mass message for today? "You're not going to be comfortable."

Standing for long periods of time? Not comfortable.

All of your weight resting on your knees during the Liturgy of the Eucharistic? Not comfortable.

Not leaning your bottom back against the pew while you are kneeling? Not comfortable. It takes some getting used to.

Nevertheless, the expectation remains the same--that you hold your body at peace. That you train your mind to remember that your genuine physical comfort can be saved for another time.

And that starts with holding your mind at peace. Just like in life, don't convince yourself every aspect of the journey will be comfortable. We are not made for comfort, we are made for travel.

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