Recently I have been looking for part time jobs that I could take on while still staying at home with Joseph. It’d be nice to have a little bit more money, and since COVID is still at fairly high levels, I’m not getting many offers to speak at churches or schools. One opportunity that I’ve been pursuing is to be an online tutor. In order to do this, I have to take tests on the subjects I would be tutoring. My fancy degree isn’t enough to prove to them I’m smart, which is fair since it’s been over a decade since I’ve taken most of these classes.
In order to prep for the tests, I’ve been studying a bit to refresh my knowledge. This week I studied the subject of biology, beginning with a little bit of biochemistry. One of the topics they highlighted to study was organic compounds. Alright, organic, this means carbon-based compounds. Seems simple enough. Then I remembered all the little naming devices for compounds. There are so many! Look at them! AHH!
All of this is so complex, and yet, this simple table is the basis for all organic compounds. You and I are built with thousands of different organic compounds, all rearranging these different pieces to make something complex. But all of it comes back to a simple carbon molecule. On its own, it’s not that impressive. It’s just 6 electrons rotating around a group of 6 protons and 6 neutrons. It can’t really do much.
And yet, it is necessary for all of life. But it is more than that. Even without hydrogens or fancy groups added on, carbon atoms by themselves make up some of the most organized and useful structures on the planet. When carbon is arranged in layers of rings, you get graphite.
All of us know graphite as what we use to write when we write with pencils, but graphite is used for much more. Graphite is also used as a lubricant in car brakes and clutches. Because it can withstand high temperatures, it is often used as a refractory material. As I said, graphite is structured in layers, so it can be split into flakes which are often used in electronics like batteries or solar panels.
Another material that is also made from simply carbon that we all know is diamond, the hardest material on earth according to the Mohs hardness scale. Instead of layers, like graphite, diamond has all of its carbons arranged in a tetrahedral pattern that is much stronger.
It is still just carbons, but those carbons all together in a specific pattern make something amazing. Recently I’ve been thinking of the power of numbers, and not just because of diamonds. I’ve been thinking about it because most days I spend it at home with my son, just him and me all day long. I don’t get to interact with other adults except for the couple of hours each evening when my husband gets home from work, but by then, both of us are already pretty tired. It’s in these moments that I feel like a single solitary carbon atom. I know motherhood can be an isolating time at any time, but it is especially so during a pandemic. Most of my friends live on the other side of town from us, and we moved to this side of town right before the pandemic started, so we didn’t really get a chance to make friends nearby.
Back when I was pregnant, I had different women approach me after Mass 3 or 4 times inviting me to join the St. Anne Society (also known as Mothers of Young Children in other churches). But then when the baby came, I was hesitant, pandemic and large groups and whatnot. But this month they started a small faith study with less than 10 women. I thought to myself that I could handle that. So I went, the women were truly lovely, but then even more impressively, afterwards, two separate women reached out to have park playdates.
I went to one event. I put myself out there one time, and now I had multiple different people showing me the love of Christ by reaching out. We are told in Romans 12:4-5 the power of this kind of community. “For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another.” I have been feeling lonely. I’ve been feeling like a single carbon atom, but this whole time I had forgotten that I was part of a diamond with billions of other carbon atoms. Just because I was choosing not to look for them doesn’t mean that they weren’t there, waiting to love me and welcome me. Christ is always there with open arms, just waiting for us to choose Him, and this includes in the form of His body, the people of His Church.
There were two characters in my story, and this week I want you to think about which one you most relate to. Some of you may be hearing my story of loneliness and feel like that is you right now. Even before the pandemic, our world was a very lonely place. The more technology takes care of our every need, the less we need to interact with other people. So if you are feeling that loneliness, that isolation, don’t wait as long as I did. Reach out to your local church. Not every church has as many groups or opportunities as my church does, but there is always something you can be a part of. Talk to the priest about it. Stop by the front office and talk to the sweet ladies about what organizations are at your church. I’m positive that they would love to talk your ear off about all the different things the church is doing. If your work schedule doesn’t allow you to stop by the front office, check the bulletin, check the website. Pick something. Show up. Try it out. If it doesn’t work, try something else. The body of Christ is real and it’s waiting for you to recognize all the many parts that surround you.
Then there is the other character, the lovely women who welcomed me. If you feel like you’ve found a wonderful community at your church, share that with someone else. See someone at Mass that you don’t recognize? Go talk to them. See someone with kids about your kids’ age? Go ask them what school their kids go to. Ask them if they are a part of any groups at the church. See someone sitting by themselves? Go introduce yourself. In order for the body of Christ to feel like home for everyone, we need YOU to be bold and courageous and step out of your comfort zone. As I said, for me, a fairly outgoing person, it took THREE OR FOUR INVITES asking me to join before I did and then a couple nudges more before I participated. We are called to be Christ’s hands and feet, and that means serving our communities in all their needs. The need for community is a big one.
The Church as a whole is so strong because it was started by Christ himself, but so many people in the Church are blind to that community. Many people feel like a lone carbon atom when they’re really a part of a beautiful diamond. It is up to all of us to fix that. Some of us need to open our eyes to the community around us, and others need to be that welcoming hand. Let us all make this diamond even more radiant with our love!