by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM January 29, 2023
Recently, I read a quote that transported me back to a delegation to Haiti in 1993. Our group had a free day with no travel planned and one of our group, a nurse, asked me if I’d be interested in spending that day at a home for children run by the Missionaries of Charity. I told her I had no medical background but she assured me, “There will be plenty for you to do.” That was an understatement.
At the home, we discovered over one hundred infants and toddlers, many with HIV, tuberculosis, and other illnesses so advanced their families could no longer care for them. There were only four adult caregivers to bathe, dress, and feed those hundred plus, so my only role the entire day was to assist the caregivers by changing diaper after diaper. I quickly got into something of a rhythm, tending as I could to each child’s need for changing, offering a warm smile and hug, and moving on to the next.
This worked smoothly until I got to two-year-old Andre. He attached himself to my leg like a Velcro fastener. So profound was his need for physical affection that he cried, pleaded, and refused to let go. I felt so ashamed to have to loosen his grip and pry him off me that I wept in frustration. “What kind of world is this that I can’t hug a child for as long as he needs?” I wailed to God and to the world.
Today, some thirty years later, Andre still has a grip on my heart and my memory. In a mysterious way, he was still clinging to my leg when I read Ajahn Sumano Bhikkhu’s quote, “Goodness radiates and sticks to people.” Andre was still holding on when I read a few more words, the admonition to “become sticky with radiant goodness.”
Oh, how I savor that kind of stickiness! It’s rather deliciously rich and extravagant, isn’t it? I think of our saints imaged with golden halos surrounding their heads. Isn’t that, after all, why we venerate them? Because they gave their lives over to listening to the Holy One and to practicing deep, inner soul work, leaving a trail of goodness and compassion in their wake. I think of the legion of uncanonized saints living among us whose very being draws us in, deepens our desire to snuggle up as close as we can to the spaciousness of heart we sense at the center of their being.
And I can’t limit radiant, sticky goodness to the human family. Of course not! I must include the fuzzy bumblebees coated with golden pollen dust, delivering that radiant goodness to every blossom they pause to kiss. I must include just about any dog I have ever met, those creatures whose singular and unambiguous desire is to bask in our presence, to radiate love without limits or conditions. I must include the moon in the night sky, shining her love down on us stargazers, and the sun in the day, warming our bodies and brightening our hearts.
Who or what else must we include? Whose presence has stuck with you and inspired you to become even stickier with radiant goodness yourself?
Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
Call to mind the image of any creatures who have witnessed to sticking power in your life.
What drew you closer to their witness? What qualities do you continue to admire in them?
Ask the Holy One to help you deepen those same attributes in yourself.
Bow and give thanks for your own radiant goodness.
Featured Image: Christoph Polatsky, Unsplash
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One thought on “The Sticking Factor”
Chris, I always receive some refreshment from your writing. Thank you for taking time and prayer to share. I am one of the directors this week-end at Mariandale in Ossining. It is an extended week-end retreat that ends today at noon. There is a certain joy that I experience in journeying with people who desire a deeper relationship with God. Hopefully, you and I can meet up again and share our experiences.–Judy