My Kingdom for a Doughnut

I walked through the old Woolworth’s “five and dime” in downtown Milwaukee carrying a paper sack containing several of the glazed potato doughnuts which were a specialty of the house. I had stopped in on my way to the Greyhound depot to catch the bus home for our Christmas break from Saint Francis Major Seminary.
As I passed by the lunch counter I caught a glimpse of the kitchen through the swinging metal door. There, oblivious in steam and noise, a fellow younger than I, dressed in white, lifted a rack of heavy stoneware coffee mugs into a big dish washing machine.
For a split second which now seems to go on forever I realized, it seemed, that before long such a commonplace experience would be impossible for me.
At the time I knew that I was in my last year at the seminary in Milwaukee. The previous summer I had taken the long bus ride to Alton, Illinois, to visit the Oblate novitiate at La Vista. I had sampled the life of a novice. The novice master, Leo Figge, OMI, had answered the questions I came with, and I had committed myself to entering the Oblate congregation the following August. The process was under way.
“Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience.” The traditional religious vows, plus the fourth Oblate vow of Perseverance, didn’t seem to require much of me beyond what I understood the life of a diocesan priest would be. The biggest difference, I expected, would be in the area of poverty. I had been a Third Order Franciscan for some time, and had read much about the Little Poor Man. I knew that as an Oblate novice I would have no pocket money. I naively assumed that the rest of my life would find me in a similar condition. No more stopping into Woolworth’s for a doughnut and, if there was time, a cup of coffee. Somehow the totality of the life changes I would experience seemed to hit me all at once. There would be a price to pay.
Obviously, I didn’t let the threatened loss of a doughnut deter me. I would have been truly foolish if I had, like Esau exchanging his rights as elder son for a hot meal.
Looking back, I can seem really silly in my momentary hesitation. Of course I don’t live without a bit of pocket money, and after all, I’ve now spent most of my life in Canada! It didn’t happen until Tim Horton’s came to Port Alberni, but my citizenship has finally been authenticated. Now, if there is time, I can indulge in a doughnut and coffee when I travel to the big city.
There have been costs, as I had sensed there would be, and much bigger ones than coffee and doughnuts, but in the overall scheme of things they have all been fairly minor. I don’t know whether or not accountants would say I have received my promised hundred-fold, but I won’t bicker. Right now, at least, I enjoy the smug satisfaction of someone who has made a very good bargain and doesn’t want to crow too loudly.
I imagine God also smiling at that unsophisticated farm boy deliberating whether a life of mysterious adventure and tedious routine could outweigh a sack of doughnuts. I dare to imagine the smile includes a certain amount of pride .
© 2001, Phil Smith, Box 64, Ucluelet, B.C. Canada, VOR 3A0. Permission for non-profit use is hereby granted, provided no substantive changes are made and this information is included. I’d appreciate knowing how you may have used my musings!  Any typos?
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