Some things are bigger on the inside than they are on the outside. Like a person’s heart. I thought of this at the grocery store today. You see I’m blessed to live in a small town with a great old-fashioned grocery store that still has “bag boys” who will take your groceries out to your car for you. Many of these guys might be well-past the “boy” stage but all of them are consistently courteous and helpful. Two of the baggers are among my favorites. I try to always get in one of their checkout lines if I can. Both these guys have Down Syndrome. And they both do an outstanding job. One is a little older and a lot quieter and more shy. The younger one has a quick smile and likes to inspect each item before bagging it. Without trying to, their presence in my life has a powerful testimony.
I imagine their mothers and fathers. Did they know the genetics of their sons before the babies were born? Or did they discover the uniqueness of their children only at birth? In either case, these parents said “yes” to God’s gift of life. Their love for their boys is a testimony of our Lord’s love for each one of us. Christ accepts and embraces each of us just as we are, with all our gifts and weaknesses. He loves us completely, embracing our incompleteness with His gifts of love and mercy. I imagine their teachers who saw the struggles and the triumphs as each one made their way through school. Did they make friends easily? Did other kids accept their weaknesses as well as their strengths? Growing up different is something we all do, each in our own way. Yet these men wear their differences more publicly than most of us do. Their families and friends and teachers were the first to see them learn and grow, to stumble and fall, and get up again. That circle of support reveals how God created us for relationships. He never meant for us to make the journey of life alone. He chose 12 men to change the world. He gave us His Church so that we could lean on and learn from one another and grow in holiness together. We are at our best when we’re surrounded by the love of other people.
Helping these men continue to grow and learn is their employer and their coworkers, too. The opportunity to work, to contribute to society and to earn an income recognizes the value and dignity of each human life. Through work, we earn our way economically and we use our time in honest labor to provide for ourselves and our families. Our work can be a pleasing offering to the Lord if we dedicate our labor to Him. Many of the saints saw work as a kind of prayer. “Work is prayer expressed in action,” wrote St. Josemaria Escriva. Supporting these men in their work gives them a chance to continue to grow and learn. Their employer confirms their work to our community and society.
Lastly, these two men themselves reveal the love and mercy of God. In them, I see myself and my own failings and triumphs. I know they struggle with things, like I do. In ways that are different and yet much the same, all three of us are broken and wounded children of God. We all need the love and acceptance of our family and friends. We need the support of other people to make our way in the world. We need to be contributing citizens in society. We need work that we can transform into prayer and be transformed by it into the best version of ourselves. God blesses each one of us differently. Some are obvious, like Down Syndrome. Others are hidden, except to the Lord. When we give our hearts to Him, He enters into them and draws us to Himself. Christ seeks our hearts to be His dwelling place. That’s how a human heart is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. Just as the small communion host becomes Jesus, the Christ. And a tiny stable in Bethlehem contained God Himself. Appearances don’t reveal the whole story. When I see my two friends at the grocery store, I know I’m only seeing a bit of their larger and more beautiful stories. Things are bigger on the inside.
“A soul enkindled with love is a gentle, meek, humble, and patient soul.”
–St. John of the Cross (1542-1591)