February 24, 2012

Emmaus Walk / Debra Tomaselli

Me, a sinner? Confessions of a self-centered co-worker

Debra Tomaselli“I confess to Almighty God … and to you my brothers and sisters … that I have greatly sinned … through my fault … and I ask you … to pray for me to the Lord our God.”

Tardiness is my middle name. I run late to everything. In fact, I purposely don’t want to be the first arrival at a social gathering, and it doesn’t disturb me if I miss the kickoff to a football game.

However, other commitments, like Mass or work, carry a high priority for timeliness.

I never thought of this leading to sinfulness until one hazy morning when I was running late to work. That’s when tardiness tempted me to sin, and I fell for it.

I parked my car and was rushing through the parking lot when I spotted a co-worker, Jennifer, laboring to exit her vehicle. A blue handicap tag hung from her vehicle’s mirror.

Jennifer suffers from back pain. She is overweight and walked slowly, huffing and puffing. Instead of carrying a purse, she pulled a little cart containing her personal belongings. Normally, if we arrived simultaneously, I would accompany her, opening the heavy glass doors to the foyer of our building and summoning the elevator.

But today, I was running late. Instead, I scurried past her, looking the other way, unwilling to slow down.

In addition, other co-workers, well-liked and more fashionable, were arriving at the same time. I didn’t want to be seen with Jennifer.

The sidewalk seemed endless. I had to pass right by Jennifer. Hoping that she hadn’t noticed me, I slipped inside the building when suddenly I had an ugly realization—I had made a thoughtless, self-centered decision.

Racing up the stairs, I tried to justify my unkindness. “My desk is swamped with deadlines,” I thought, listening to the click of my heels echo in the solitary stairway halls.

A nagging unrest persisted while yet another realization surfaced. It didn’t matter if Jennifer noticed or not. God knew my every intent. And I knew.

Could this be the sin—the one that I ask God to help me overcome?

Moments later, I stepped inside the office, which was buzzing with computers and teeming with conversation.

Before I even made it to my desk, Jessica, a popular co-worker, greeted me. Suddenly, my looming deadlines lost their importance. We were still standing and chatting when I noticed Jennifer plodding by, dragging her cart.

I glanced at the clock. Jennifer arrived only moments after my stairway dash. In fact, she made it to her work station before I even sat down at mine.

I cringed, realizing that I had ignored my neighbor’s need in exchange for selfish reasons. Had I missed the opportunity to be Christ to someone else or to let them be Christ to me? Had I ignored an eternal opportunity for the sake of a momentary gain?

When reciting the familiar lines at the beginning of Mass, I always thought others in the congregation were carrying some deep, dark mortal sin. We were praying for them, not for me. Now I know better.

Please pray for me, brothers and sisters.

(Debra Tomaselli lives in Altamonte Springs, Fla. Her column appears in several diocesan newspapers. Her e-mail address is dtomaselli@cfl.rr.com.)

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