- - Sunday, March 24, 2013


Culture challenge of the week: The star of the show

It’s becoming common in Washington these days for celebrities and media personalities to sweep into Congress, give dramatic testimony on some favorite, liberal cause, then leave in a flurry of limousines and flashing bulbs. Oh, they have certainly do have “causes.” Violence toward women (they’re against it). Gun control (they’re for it). Bullying (they’re against it). And abortion (they’re for it.)

With few exceptions, though, as soon as the cameras go dark, the stars’ cause-related advocacy dims as well.

In many respects, on a smaller scale, we tend to do the same for the causes that are good and just.

When our local grocery store runs a food drive or a neighbor collects funds for cancer research, we give, we encourage others to give, and then we stop. The spotlight turns off, and our charitable focus fades quickly.

Our thoughts seem to default to more enjoyable topics — like what to eat, or wear, or watch, or do in order to have fun. We’re the stars of our own reality show — it’s all about us.

Sometimes we need a reminder that we’re called to do better than that: The starring role in our lives should belong to God. And we need to look outward — to serve him by serving others — whether the spotlight’s on us or not.

How to save your family: Service, day in and day out

Last week, the world’s spotlight shone brightly on one man — Pope Francis.

It’s food for thought for both those who are Catholic and for those of us are not. He’s a man whose good works over the years have not been performed before video cameras, under the gaze of trailing reporters.

He labored for years in obscurity, tending to the unglamorous needs of the slum-bound poor in Argentina, teaching school to children who would never grow up to be world leaders, and preaching consistently an unpopular Gospel.

As cardinal in Argentina, he insisted that his brother priests and bishops go out, get their hands dirty, and serve those in need, personally and consistently.

Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio arrived in Rome for the papal conclave alone, without a secretary or staff, and sat in the back row during meetings. He flew, invisible, under the media’s radar for weeks, overlooked in their frenzied quest for bigger personalities. Elevated to the papacy, he stepped out on the balcony at St. Peter’s Square and humbly asked for the crowd’s blessing and prayers. After the ceremonies, Francis stole back to his hotel, paid his own bill and gathered up his bags, thanking the staff for their hospitality. And now, as pope, he picks up the phone to call the Jesuit superior in one minute and his favorite newsstand proprietor back home in the next.

What’s the message to us?

Be consistent. Be other-centered. Be the hands and voice of God, day in and day out, giving to all who need him.

Some of us fail to see the working poor in our midst: the cleaning lady whose hourly wage is depleted by bus fare, child care and rent even before she steps into the grocery store to buy food. The painter, whose work comes and goes, who drives an aging utility van that consumes more gas in a day than his client’s Prius does in a week.

To others, the desperate and downtrodden are all but invisible. We walk blindly by the beggar on the street corner, the homeless woman hoarding cardboard boxes in a doorway, and the child, so thin, who arrives at school hungry and unwashed.

Today, most likely, you’re out of the spotlight. No one’s calling you for a donation or pleading for a good cause.

So it’s worth asking: What will you do today to turn your attention and personal spotlight on others?

• Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at [email protected]

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