For those who don’t know Detroit, especially the neighborhoods around the seminary, it’s not the safest place to walk around at night. There are abandoned buildings, houses, streets and land in every direction. I’ve even heard random gunshots during my after dinner walks by the street.
So if it’s not even safe during the day, then where do the kids go trick-or-treating on Halloween? Where do their parents take them?
They go to the seminary.
For a month ahead, candy donations are delivered to the seminary, and for the night of the 31st, a small truckload of sweets go out into the neighborhood youngsters.
That’s what I was told when I started my year here at Sacred Heart.
But then I saw it myself. At least 1000 people — children, teens, toddlers, infants, parents, grandparents — lining up to stop by the seminary doors for bagfuls of treats… at least 1000 friends to greet and welcome.
I saw so many of our neighbors in that few hours. I watched them come out of the rain, watched them share their smiles with us, their laughs and their joy even though they had waited in line for two hours! I felt sad for them: the long walk they took, the cold they endured, the damp on their backs. I felt sad…
But I couldn’t stay sad.
I couldn’t help but feel that I was the one who was tired, that I was the one who was cold and damp. The 1000 friends were visiting to help me see what I was missing, what I couldn’t see: that when they all left, I felt lonely. I felt beauty had left… but not without leaving her mark,
All around the seminary floor… the marble and tiled floor was slathered with wet footprints, mud and dirt, leaves, scraps and pebbles. It was a dirty floor. But it was so beautiful. I saw then that beauty lurks in the dirt.
If the floor had been kept untouched with so many guests around, then the floor would be ugly. It would be ugly because it didn’t welcome anyone. It would be ugly because we refused to let any friends visit — to keep the house clean would mean for us to keep our doors shut, to keep us isolated, selfish.
Same with my hands. They were sticky and grimy, sweaty and slimy. They were covered with beauty. All the hands I got to shake, the fingers I got to hold. If I had kept my hands clean when there were that many visitors to welcome, then my hands would have been filthy with selfishness.
True ugliness then, was my selfishness. And true beauty then, was the spent floor, the soiled steps, the dirtied hands.