About a year ago, I visited some close friends of mine. They have been blessed with many children and are wonderful parents. The children, how shall I say it, have lots of energy. They are very happy to be alive. So the parents wisely have some sort of activity planned for them when I come over to serve as a distraction. This particular visit, the father went into the garage and emerged with … a piñata! What fun! The adults quickly retreated to the living room.
And so the routine of blindfolding and turning around and stick swinging began. Although the piñata was well made, it was, alas, no match for 10-year-old boys. As they struck it and the candy poured out, we could hear their delighted cheers from the other room. But very soon they fell silent. Then their youngest daughter came into the living room and showed us something. It was a piece of paper — a child’s spelling assignment written all in Spanish.
Upon further inspection, the entire piñata was made up of loose leaf paper used by children for their homework. This was taken, mixed with glue and formed into an animal shape to make the piñata. We could see the spelling in Spanish, the red marks of correction and the score on top of the page. The parents and I looked at each other and we didn’t quite know what to say.
It was as if another world had crashed into the upper middle class suburb. Somebody had made this. With their hands. Not in some unnamed factory far away. It was quite apparent that a parent with their child had crafted this doomed creature, using whatever paper there was around the house. They were quite skilled, since they had probably made hundreds of them. Perhaps they did so to make money to provide for their family. To send to the United States to be sold in some unnamed store to some unknown family. From their home to ours.
In our fast paced and often anonymous world, we sometimes forget the human factor in modern life. Somebody sweated to harvest your 39 cent bananas. Somebody got up early to feed the cow to produce the milk for your morning coffee. And somebody hand-crafted your piñata, which you bought on sale. From start to finish, life is all about other people. No matter how hard we try to avoid it, we are social creatures. And we need each other.
The Catholic Church is an expert in humanity. For 2,000 years, the church as the Body of Christ has reminded us of our inter-connectedness. Unlike advocacy for a nefarious one world government plot or a universal secular culture imposed by atheistic propaganda, the church simply reminds us that through our baptism we are indeed one — and that all people are created in the image and likeness of God. The innate dignity of the human person comes from this fact — for all life is precious because we are created and loved by God.
The challenge of our modern age is isolation, individualism and selfishness. The healing balm for all of this is simply to notice one another. Notice other people on the way to work. Notice your next-door neighbors. Notice your parents, your child and your friend. And through this noticing, perhaps we might discover that we are neither as independent nor as strong as we once had thought. It is, quite simply, not all about you. Or me. And it never was.
Somebody made that piñata which now lay in pieces on the floor. Not a machine but a real live person. How very human! But, of course, somebody made us too.
Fr. Girotti is vicar for canonical services and associate moderator of the Curia for the Diocese of Green Bay.