Do you have a story of letting go?
As I write, it’s January!
Time for packing away holiday decorations and tossing out or donating other things we really don’t need. Our interior life needs to be de-cluttered, too, since we all struggle with “inordinate attachment” to things, outcomes, and even our relationships. Too often, these can take up our time and attention and block us from deeper intimacy with God. Sadly, they may even have become false idols.
I tackle this topic in my book, A Catholic Woman’s Guide to Happiness (TAN Books 2018) and use this childhood story to introduce the concept. Enjoy!
Dear God, I really wanted that doll
I was in second grade. For two weeks the most exquisite nun doll I’d ever seen had been on display in a glass case in the school’s principal’s office. The Sisters of Loretto had replicated a full black-and-white habit from top-to-bottom, including perfectly-scaled shoes and delicate white undergarments. She even wore a little gold wedding ring and a miniature rosary hung from her waist. At twelve inches tall, she was perfect.
She was to be the Grand Prize for our upcoming school raffle. Each year in May we had “Field Day,” with no school activities and only food, fun, and games. In the afternoon the doll would be raffled off. My teacher instructed us that everything that day—hot-dogs, drinks, candy, game booth activities, and the raffle—required that we purchase tickets. No problem, I knew Mom would give me money. But how could I make sure I could win that doll?
I asked Our Lady for help
The night before the big event, I attempted something I had never thought possible: I decided to say an entire rosary by myself. Five whole decades! I wanted this prayer to be BIG. After all, my teacher had told us that the Blessed Mother would go to her Son on our behalf and, through his merits and mercies, she could obtain whatever we desired if we prayed the rosary. Whatever we desired.
I desired that doll. I had to have her!
That night I laid in bed, faithfully and fervently struggling to stay awake and complete the prayers. I did it! The next morning I walked to school and headed straight to the table where the eighth-grade students were selling tickets.
Reality starts to sink in
“How much are the tickets, please?” I asked.
“They’re a nickel each.” Mom had given me one dollar, which I showed the girl, and she said, “You can buy twenty tickets. How many would you like to put into the raffle jar?”
“All of them, please.”
The girl looked at me with raised eyebrows. “But you won’t have any tickets to play any games or buy any food. Are you sure?”
I’d just had my Cheerios and wasn’t particularly hungry, so I answered excitedly, “Yes!”
When I walked away, I was happy, utterly thrilled at the possibility of possessing the doll of my dreams. But as the day progressed, I started to become hot, thirsty, and hungry. I couldn’t join my classmates in playing any games. I watched on the sidelines as my friends marched happily to music in a circle at the cake-walk. Others were fishing for prizes at carnival booths the dads had made. Now I wasn’t happy.
Misery makes an entrance
To cheer myself up, I went to visit the doll again. My hopes quickly vanished when I saw the huge raffle jar next to her was filled with what seemed like a million tickets. Mine were probably at the very bottom and my chances were slim-to-none at best. I suddenly felt foolish for having put all my money into the raffle. I knew I would not win. I’d given up food, drink, and fun for nothing, nothing, nothing! Self-pity followed me around the schoolyard the rest of the day as I suffered what I thought was authentic childhood martyrdom.
Finally, three o’clock came with the event’s end and the big drawing. All the teachers and students crowded in front of the doll display and I was in the back trying unsuccessfully to peer over and through hundreds of older kids’ heads. Forget it, I thought. This is a waste. I decided to make my way to the parking lot and look for Mom’s car. With my lower lip quivering and holding back tears, I thought, Who cares, anyway?
Life is full of surprises
But just as I was leaving, I heard our principal’s voice boom over the loud-speaker, “The winner is . . . ROSIE SWEET, Room 2!”
What? I couldn’t believe it!
Dazed (and weak from starvation) I made my way up to the principal who smiled and gently placed the doll into my arms. I hugged her tightly, careful not to wrinkle her perfectly ironed habit. Other little girls rushed up to admire her, and I was proud to share as we ooh-ed and ahh-ed at her exquisite detail. Thank you, God. She was mine. I could not have been happier.
But that’s not the end of the story.
Some people try to steal our happiness!
After school, while waiting for Mom to pick us up, I carefully laid my books and the doll down in the shade on the brick wall of the church and ran off to play with my friends. When I returned, the doll was gone. I panicked! Immediately I was filled with shame at having been careless and a “bad mom” for allowing my doll to be abducted. I burst into tears and Mom assured me we would get through this.
Mom called the school office and learned another little girl had taken the doll. Apparently, when she climbed into her mother’s car and could not explain how she got the doll, it had been promptly returned to the office. Whew! I got her back the next morning and never let her out of my sight all day.
But that’s not the end of the story, either.
For many years I enjoyed my doll but when mothers of nine children decide there is too much stuff in the home (as mine often did), older toys and other items can get thrown away much to the dismay of their young owners. It was sometime in early high school I realized I hadn’t seen my doll in years.
“Mom? Where’s my nun doll?”
“Oh, it was old, and I thought you’d outgrown it,” was all my mother said.
I let out a silent moan. I didn’t dare ask what she had done with it.
I was taken aback, angry, and sad . . . but what could I do? I was learning this thing called “happiness” is not always within our control. It comes and goes, comes and goes, and sometimes might just end up in the give-away pile or the garbage can.
And don’t even ask what happened to my Tiny Tears or Miss Revlon dolls.
Have you ever lost a precious possession?
The things you most desire may be good, but they may also be lost, stolen, fade away, die, or end up on a trash heap. When they become too important, or even the “center of my life,” you can assume they have likely become a “false god.” At some level of constant fear of losing them, you may resort to all manner of selfish, sinful behaviors to protect or keep them. I have had a series of such attachments, as have we all, and came too late to realize there is only One Good which we may possess forever. There is only one God—and he assures you no one can steal him away from you (unless you permit it). “…and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” John 10:28
God has planned a happy ending for you
No one’s story is ever over. There’s actually more to this true tale, with a surprise and happy ending, but you have to buy the book to find out. Get it here.