Last month was my grandfather’s 75th birthday. For his birthday, I was invited to go to Texas with my cousins and uncles, and, of course, my grandfather. The event was going to be watching a grand prix for Formula 1. Normally, I would have immediately decided that I was going to go; however, this time I was slightly more reluctant. This is because I would be missing some crucial days before the end of the quarter at school. A Formula 1 race, as I found out, spans 3 days, and practically another whole day was to be taken up by travel to and from Texas. That meant I would be missing three days of school, with a weekend in between. This was a stressful idea even just to think about; but with support and encouragement from my parents, especially my mom who would not let me miss out on this experience, we decided I was going to Austin, Texas.
I made sure to communicate with my teachers, to make sure I would not fall too far behind. And so, on a Thursday morning, I got on a plane with my uncle and grandfather and flew down to Texas. As the plane was in the air, I kept thinking about the classes I was missing as my friends were in school. One hour went by, I missed Spanish. Two hours, I had missed lunch. Three hours, math, and so on. But by the time we got to our destination in Austin, I had decided that thinking about what I was missing back at school would actually make me miss what I came here for—to spend time with my grandfather. In a sense, I would be missing two things! So I put my thoughts of school away. I had time to be reunited with cousins and uncles I had not seen in a long time, and I had an awesome experience. We played plenty of ping pong and other games, and I realized just how much my grandfather liked to win. Most importantly, though, the race, what we had gathered to see. Through heavy traffic and three-hour drives just to get to and from the racetrack, it was all worth it. It was worth it to see around 400,000 people watch cars whirring around the track, sure, but, most importantly, it was worth it to see it with my grandfather. My grandfather is a Vietnam War veteran who is pretty reserved in his speaking. He is a Buddhist. He is a strict vegetarian. He is a pacifist; he will not even kill a mosquito. He does not make conversation with his grandchildren as easily as most, so this time with him was really special for me, and it was special for him. Mostly, though, it was special for us. Together, we supported the same team, he bought us both the same caps, and that’s what we were wearing as we cheered together as the cars came around the bend. We didn’t have deep conversations out there, but we sure did feel close just being together.
In reading the passage from Luke’s Gospel, we understand the importance of occasionally putting work aside and bringing forward the time with others—guests, friends or family. Jesus says that Mary has picked the better option by deciding to put her work aside for later and instead listening to and spending time with Jesus. Jesus does not say that preparing a meal is wrong. He simply says that Martha is “worried about many things” when she only needs to focus on one thing—being present with others. This passage shows that while both work and spending time together are meaningful, there is not enough time in life to only fully focus on one; we need a balance in our life.
When I got back from Texas, I finished my work without too much trouble, perhaps because I had worked ahead but also maybe because I felt refreshed. During my time off, I had missed some important days before big tests at the end of the quarter. This was pretty anxiety-inducing, but deep down I knew that I made the correct decision in going. Although I may not have done as well as I would have liked to on some of my final assessments, I know very well that later on, I am not going to remember what grade I got on that test, or even my overall grade for the quarter, but I am going to remember the experiences and new things that I saw during my trip. I am going to remember my normally quiet grandfather cheering loudly with me. I am going to remember exchanging looks and smiles with him at the track. Looks that said “Isn’t this fun?!” And “I’m glad to be here with you.”
I believe that this is a very important lesson going into Thanksgiving break. You are going to have plenty of time over the next week or so to do whatever you like. There will be a lot of time you can spend doing homework and playing games online. But I suggest that you spend time with your friends and family. Be present, that is, be there with them with all of yourself. The homework and games will always be there, but your family gathering will not. And you can be a little Mary and Martha at the same time, because you can do chores like setting the table or cleaning up after dinner with the members of your family. There are a lot of possible distractions over break, but I propose that you could maybe put those away for later and focus on what is important now. I know you will have work over this break, we are always going to have work; however, we won’t always have the precious time with our loved ones.
Be present and enjoy the shared time that Thanksgiving brings. And go in peace to love and serve the Lord.