“Letters from Canada 26 – Best Friend” March 2017
Susan patiently waited for my response, while I wrestled for the right words that would not add to her concern about me. It came to me to start at the beginning and be as straightforward as possible.
Susan, I am going to start by focusing on how I survive a rough start. You can surmise from my childhood story a frighten person living with low self-esteem thinking he was not liked by anyone with the exception of his Mother and big Sister.
My earliest childhood recollections are my elementary school years. Things were not going well. I constantly struggled to understand what I was being thought. Turning to prayer, each day before a small statue of Mary on my dresser, I prayed to Mary, the Mother of Jesus not to fail in elementary school and protection from bullies. My prayers were answered by neglectful teachers who passed me from grade to grade with below average grades just short of failure and at the same time, I acquired skillfulness in dodging bullies. Later as an adult, I realized that praying to Mary, Jesus, or the Saints was the same as praying to God, who encompass everyone and everything.
Another answer to my prayers was television. Watching family sitcoms where the adults and children were always nice to each other and problems were always easily and happily resolved, made me want to live in that world. Through my imagination, I entered that world and became both popular and the center of attention. When things went awry in the real world, thanks to my imaginary super skills they were heroically resolved in the imaginary world.
Are you telling me, as a child you lived in an imaginary world quizzed Susan? I lived in both worlds, the imaginary one and the real one was my quick response. The imaginary world was my escapism from the harshness of reality and help me survive my childhood and young adulthood.
Back in real world, my drifting elementary school days came to a halt at the six-grade level, when a mean tough school teacher Dimitra asked me to stand up in class and read out loud from a geography book. Slowly as I stumbled from word to word, she yelled at me to stop. What followed were a little ridicule by the teacher and laughter by some classmates. She called my parents to the school office and told them “that my chances for earning a living were very slim”. To this day, I avoid geography books.
To Dimitra’s credit she discovered my poor reading was due to poor vision and I needed glasses. Once a new pair of glasses corrected my vision, she assigned a smart classmate Steve as my tutor for reading during lunch recesses. Over time, Steve also known by his nickname Gorilla because of his size and strength became my best friend. If you guessed my days of being bullied were over thanks to “the Gorilla”, you would be correct.
In my imaginary world, I picked up some survival skills for the real world. The most important was seeking and establishing friendships with people that sometimes helped me overcome my academic and social deficiencies. With help from friendships of peers and teachers, a lot of hard work and persistence, I was able to work my way up to average. But even then, I would still depend on the imaginary world to escape from making tough decisions or dealing with the burdens of life.
Susan interrupted with a query: “How does God enter the story”? I am just getting to that was my reply.
In my childhood and young adulthood, God was very much like Santa Claus to me. During prayer, I listed all the things I immediately wanted or needed with the expectations that they would soon happen or be delivered. Except for a few exceptions, seldom did things go my way. Over time some doubts about God existence crept in. It was reinforced by overhearing two adults talking about how God was not real but a human invention to keep people civilized.
At first this made sense. Fear of punishment or hell from an all-powerful being would keep people in line and the prospect of a heavenly reward would be a motivation for some to be good. The problem with this argument was that many of the people that were nice and helpful to me, did not seem to be motivated by fear or greed. Some of them were not even church goer or expressed a faith in God. In personal reflections, I was not doing really bad. Some things did work out OK, like a few teachers pushing me to focus on math and science with encouraging words that I had an ability in those fields.
The imaginary world started to sync with the real world. In the imaginary world, people were perfect, everything always worked out, and I was a super great celebrity. In the real world, along with selfish mean people, were kind, generous, compassionate, comforting, and dedicated souls. Even to my surprise, some things did work out. As to my own wellbeing, I was alright with being average.
It was in this time frame while in the Seminary that I experienced an epiphanic moment. In this imperfect world of good and bad events, plus wonderful and horrible people, I was immersed in an emotion that I was not alone for nearby was my Best Friend God. From that moment on, I knew my Best Friend God was always there guiding me through the thick and thin of every moment. Via my conscience, my intellect, through the good and bad people that cross my path, and all of nature, I gained the ability to see and hear God.
Susan interrupted with a “are you kidding”? Since we have known each other, Father Mark you have more than once made a poor decision or screwed up. Obviously, God is not doing a very good job in the guidance department.
The screwing up comment is true and that is why God has given me a second chance, actually hundreds maybe even thousands of second chances to get things right. Since we met, both of us know each other’s shortcomings and you must admit, thanks to God’s second chances, today we are much better individuals.
Again, Susan stared into my eyes and point blank asked me: Do you love me? Do you love me enough to get married? Do you love me enough to have a sexual relationship or in your case at least attempt one? My (Susan) answer to all three is a resounding Yes. Add to this, I want a child with you. Now Father Mark, give me straight Yes or No answer to these questions!
To be continued: “Letters From Canada 27 – Love & Heaven”