Starting Point
This week's stories | Home Page
Issue Date:  May 20, 2005

Starting Point


We took a “girls’ trip” to Kansas City: Aunt Mary, my daughter-in-law Krystle, granddaughter Sakura and me. We sang along with old tapes as we drove and had a grand time.

On the morning of our last day, Sakura came down with a stomach virus. One minute she was her hearty 2-year-old self and the next she was limp, pale and unable to eat or drink. It’s so frightening when a little one is sick. I remember that the most common cause of death of the world’s children is dysentery and the resulting dehydration. Clean water -- if they had it -- would save them.

After we got home, I discovered that I was also sick -- really sick. I’ll spare you the graphic details, but I found myself alone in the bathroom at regular intervals throughout the night.

Exhausted, I tried to think positively. “It could be much worse,” helps for a while. Whenever I’m sick, I wonder at the courage of the chronically ill. However much I am suffering, I know it will be only for a day or two.

Then I tried the “glass half full” approach. Maybe not the best metaphor for someone in my situation, but we should focus on the good, so I tried giving thanks for the electric heater in the otherwise unheated bathroom, the soft bathmat on the otherwise hard tile floor.

There is nothing like a good purge to help one think philosophically. I began to think of the power of the small. A virus is infinitesimal and yet can lay a person low. A terrorist can paralyze a city and terrify a nation. Size is not the determining factor in the power to destroy.

What’s true for the bad is also true for the good. Think of Dorothy Day, whose determination founded a movement to serve the least among us. Think of Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr.

Think of Jesus. God could have come as a warrior king, but instead came as the child from Nazareth. God chooses the lowly to confound the mighty. (I am confounded!)

Paige Byrne Shortal writes from her home in rural Missouri.

National Catholic Reporter, May 20, 2005

This Week's Stories | Home Page | Top of Page
Copyright  © The National Catholic Reporter Publishing  Company, 115 E. Armour Blvd., Kansas City, MO   64111
All rights reserved.
TEL:  816-531-0538     FAX:  1-816-968-2280   Send comments about this Web site to: