Thursday, March 24, 2016

We need reminders

Joe Garagiola died yesterday. My wife (the baseball fan) remembers nothing but good about him as a player or as interviewer: professional and humble. His first book said something to the effect that "Not only was I not the best catcher in the Major Leagues, I wasn't even the best catcher on my street!" (A friend named Berra lived on the same street.)

With the news headlines full of criminals and politicians and pundits, I can forget that we have some decent human beings among us.


Decades later, the Orthodox theologian Father Thomas Hopko described the impact of that election this way: "One could have gone to Syosset and become a metropolitan, or go to Dallas and become a saint."

During a 1999 visit to Knoxville, Tenn., the lanky Texan folded down onto a kid-sized chair and faced a circle of pre-school and elementary children. With his long white hair and flowing white beard, he resembled an icon of St. Nicholas -- as in St. Nicholas, the monk and 4th century bishop of Myra.

As snacks were served, a child asked if Dmitri liked his donuts plain or with sprinkles. With a straight face, the scholarly archbishop explained that he had theological reasons -- based on centuries of church tradition -- for preferring donuts with icing and sprinkles.

A parent in the back of the room whispered: "Here we go." Some of the children giggled, amused at the sight of the bemused bishop holding up a colorful pastry as if he was performing a ritual.

"In Orthodoxy, there are seasons in which we fast from many of the foods we love," he said. "When we fast, we should fast. But when we feast, we should truly feast and be thankful." Thus, he reasoned, with a smile, that donuts with sprinkles and icing were "more Orthodox" than plain donuts.

We might do well to spend a little more time figuring out what makes people good.

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