My son recently developed a new fascination with the mailbox. “Mom, how do I get a letter from me to someone else?” he asked one day with tremendous curiosity. We went through the steps: write the letter, put it in an envelope, address the envelope, and don’t forget the stamps. Then one morning my son showed me a picture he had made for his best friend that he desperately wanted to mail. It was perfect timing—right at the start of our morning routine to get us all out the door in 20 minutes or less. I paused to consider the request.
Usually any additional morning requests from my boys send me into a bit of an anxiety whirlwind. We only have a certain amount of time to get five people out of the house, after all. Several years ago, a wise Jesuit gave me advice on how to curb such anxiety. Fr. John Edwards, SJ, served our school for decades. During my time, he cared mostly for faculty and others in the community by leading them in spiritual direction. He also was, for me, an example of peace and contemplation. I remember seeing him taking his daily strolls around the school property as I drove in every morning and left every afternoon. “What do you do while you walk?” I asked. “Pray,” he always said without hesitation.
He came by my office frequently to ask about my children and my life as a busy working mom. Many times he told me that if I could do nothing else, I should pray the Examen. It would calm any anxiety and help me navigate this crazy life, he assured me. I cannot count how many times I promised him I would, but I seldom did. And every time I saw Fr. Edwards, I’d remember that promise. I would also remind myself of his peaceful nature and be curious if the Examen could make me as peaceful and joyful and present as he was.
Fr. Edwards died two years ago, and I have never forgotten my promise. At the beginning of this new year, when usually I’d resolve to lose weight or eat better, I found myself instead ready to commit to daily moments of reflection. The morning my son asked to mail his letter, I had been examining my day each morning and evening for a little over a week. And little by little, as promised, I found myself less anxious, even in just a week of practice. I moved and worked and encountered others with more intention—not perfectly, but with more care and more love in my heart.
That morning, somewhat surprising myself, I responded to my son’s request with a confident “Yes!” I helped him fold the paper, place it in the envelope, and address and stamp it. Then we walked in the brisk morning breeze to the mailbox, put in the envelope, and raised the flag. On the way back into the house, my son glowed. “Mom, he’s gonna love getting mail so much!”
At that moment, I felt that perhaps Fr. Edwards was walking alongside us to the mailbox, smiling as much as I was. Sometimes it takes days, weeks, or even years to listen, but when we finally have the courage to say “Yes,” it is amazing what fruits will come.