e- mail us

Starting Point

Catch a falling coin -- and pass it on


I like the small sense of things that thrives in the town where my parents live. The barber shop is small, and the conversations that go on there bring global things down to manageable proportions. The old library still stands and is roughly the size of the average drive-in bank. My mother tells me that it was well-used, even more so than the large new building that is some distance from the old.

One of my visits home coincided with Mardi Gras. My parents asked me if I wanted to go with them to a parade, and I declined at first, thinking that they wanted to go to one of the grand-scale parades in New Orleans. My mom said that the parade was right nearby, in Madisonville.

It was indeed a small parade on a small street in a small town. The floats were lined up at the end of the treelined main avenue, waiting for some sort of signal to begin their slow but brief journey.

The signal was given, and the parade began. People watched from the porches of homes, welcoming friends and strangers. There were quite a few people lining the street, sitting in lawn chairs and clapping and cheering as the floats approached. Friendliness filled the late afternoon. It seemed that every organization was represented on one float or another, and I noticed that there was a great degree of reciprocal recognition shared between those on the floats and those on the streets. Everybody knew each other.

The king and queen sat on the most brightly colored float, tossing shiny coins into the air in the direction of people who approached as it glided by. The setting golden sun was a perfect backdrop to the small and colorful drama that slowly moved in its fading and soft light.

My mother raised her hands and caught three coins. Children scrambled around her, laughing and snatching coins from the air and off the street. They quickly put their coins into their pockets.

Some children were too small or too slow and were not able to catch any coins. Mom noticed their plight and, with pleasure, gave her coins to the children nearest her.

I watched the float pass into the late afternoon sun and thought of God, people and love. This great parade of life. In our younger seasons, we raise our hearts and hands, hoping to possess whatever love may come our way. But with age and wiser seasons and more than a few parades, we learn to truly love when indeed we catch it from the King and find delight in giving it away, being all the richer for it.

Trappist Fr. James Stephen Behrens lives at Holy Spirit Monastery in Conyers, Ga.

National Catholic Reporter, September 4, 1998