Faithful readers of my blog (perhaps a group also known as “my parents”) may remember that I am the pastoral resident of the Villa Maria Hall at the University of Portland, and that every year for the past 12 years, Villa sports a 20-ft inflatable, smiling gorilla atop its roof during move-in weekend.
This year, we narrowly avoided a crisis – the no-show of the Villa Gorilla! Through some administrative oversights last spring, Villa did not place its order until a mere three weeks ago, and even this happened only thanks to the incredible attention to detail of Villa’s new hall director, Danny Zimmerman, who, during his first few days on campus, caught and corrected the mistake. (I have a feeling that I may be blogging about Danny’s great work again throughout this year.)
Because of our tardiness, the company that installs the gorilla couldn’t come the night before move-in, as is the custom, but instead had to make the delivery that morning. The entire operation wasn’t completed until about an hour and a half after the beginning of what is an all-weekend event. In the scope of things, this seemed to be the most minor of glitches. Except…
During those precious 90 minutes, Danny was receiving anxious phone calls and texts (some of them from deans at UP!) asking, “Where is the gorilla? I told parents to look for the gorilla.” He had to reassure a lot of folks that everything was normal, even if a little off-schedule.
Later, after operations were running smoothly, Danny remarked to me, “I had no idea this gorilla was so important to everybody. I’m surprised, then, that somebody higher up isn’t in charge of making sure it’s there.” And I replied, “Nobody higher up needed to be in charge. They trusted Villa to do its job, and because of you, we did.”
For many of us, our work can seem small and unimportant. Sure, it’s important to us; we hope it’s something that we can take some pride in and enjoy. But it’s hard to understand, I think, how many people really are counting on each one of us to follow his or her vocation and to live it whole-heartedly.
This mystery appears again and again throughout the Scriptures. In their hospitality, “some have unknowingly entertained angels” (Hebrews 13:2). Christ tells His followers who have practiced ordinary acts of mercy, “‘Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me’ ” (Matthew 25:40). In describing the members of the Church as the Body of Christ, St. Paul writes, “Those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable” (1 Corinthians 12:22).
Sometimes it takes a crisis, or at least a near-crisis, for us to recognize the significance of our unique vocation in others’ lives and in God’s plan.
Fr. Charlie McCoy, C.S.C., is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at the University of Portland. He is a monthly contributor to the Spes Unica blog, reflecting on the work of Holy Cross in education, and particularly in the context of colleges and universities. Learn more about the work of Holy Cross priests and brothers in the field of education to bring hope to the Church and world.