Every year, as is our custom as Missionary Servants, I make an annual retreat. A week of silence, prayer, and reflection. I generally take long walks every day, and I see many things. Almost always, one or two images from this week of walking makes such an impression that it continues to bob to the surface of my thoughts the rest of the year.
Here is the moment that won't leave me alone this time around. I am standing on a muddy sidewalk in Pennypack Park, wet from the steady mist, my glasses speckled with water. I am looking down into the palm of my hand at three tiny silver fish. I can feel them wiggling in my hand.
I keep remembering that moment: seeing the fish flipping around on the sidewalk and bending over to pick them up, admiring them, and then tossing them into the creek. There had been flooding rain, and the creek had overflowed, stranding many little fish on the wrong side of the sidewalk as the water subsided. They were just trying to get back where they belonged.
Was this the most important thing God had to show me while I was on retreat? I spent several minutes rescuing fish, then I sat on a nearby park bench to rest. A man walked by and took up the same mission soon after I sat down. There was just something irresistible about the tiny fish struggling to go home.
Meanwhile, back at Trinita, we are in full gear for the Fall, plowing away at a number of labor-intensive projects such as confirmation retreats and other programs. I squirm as I realize how little time I have left to finish my readings for the upcoming Women on Wednesday group, the calls I still need to make, and there is that stack of letters I need to take care of that I almost forgot about. My immediate conclusion, when the image of the little fishes pops unexpectedly to the surface, is that God is reminding me to be attentive to the little unexpected encounters of the day despite my absorption in my latest big projects.
But maybe that is not the reason I keep remembering the moment. Maybe, God wants to remind me of something else. That I am a little fish, struggling in the palm of God's hand. And if my life really does depend on accomplishing the impossible task of swimming across a sidewalk, then don't worry. In some crazy, unexpected way, I am going to get where I need to go.