Melissa and Jenny were secretaries working for the same company, but in different departments. Melissa, a fair and compassionate woman, was the administrative liaison representing the secretarial staff in negotiations with management. Jenny, a friendly young woman with a ready smile and warm brown eyes, worked for one of the district managers and was known to be a whiz with technology.
Because they worked on different floors and in different departments, Jenny and Melissa never had the opportunity to work together, but Melissa had heard enough about Jenny to sense that there was something pretty special about her. In fact, Melissa found herself feeling a little intimidated by Jenny, maybe even a little bit jealous of her. So it was understandable that when Melissa was asked to coordinate an international gathering of the company’s overseas representatives, even though she had heard that Jenny was a technological genius, it took everything Melissa had to accept Jenny’s offer when she called to ask if she could help.
But that all changed the moment Jenny walked into Melissa’s office. There was something so comfortable about her — her smile so genuine, so kind — that any apprehension Melissa might have felt just slipped away. Something inside of Melissa recognized something inside of Jenny, some goodness, and Melissa realized that it would be a real blessing to have Jenny working with her.
“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb … blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Elizabeth was an old woman, well past the time for bearing children. She could have been jealous of Mary. She could have felt intimidated by the younger woman’s pregnancy. But, instead, something inside of Elizabeth recognized something inside of Mary and “… the infant in [her] womb leaped for joy.”
How do we respond to those who have talents that we don’t have? Do we “… leap for joy …?” Do we welcome them and celebrate their giftedness as Elizabeth accepted the giftedness of her cousin, Mary? Or do we hold back — jealous and intimidated — refusing to recognize the blessing of their presence in our lives?
Van Benthem is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a longtime pastoral minister, retreat leader, spiritual director and published writer and poet.