Thomas's Blog

Mr. Smith

Posted By Thomas Murphy on February 01, 2015

Doug Smith was a member of the Episcopal Church where I grew up. Mr. Smith, as I called him back then, had many admirable qualities. He was kind, taught Sunday School, and helped chair the outreach committee. He was also the parishioner who every year would don a bathrobe and a ridiculous hat and would play the role of Myrrh, a ‘bitter perfume.’ I remember so distinctly because the way he sang his verse of “Of We Three Kings” the Christmas pageant was not bitter. No, not bitter, but noticeably off key.

I remembered this as we celebrated Epiphany, reenacting this famous scene: three Kings, Joseph and Mary, and a babe in a manger. The All Souls production was equally chaotic, equally adorable, and equally fun. I smiled as I thought about Mr. Smith singing his heart out, badly.

But I wonder, what do you bring as a gift to the Christ Child? What gift would be good enough to place at his feet?

As a parent, I have been subjected to the most pernicious of places for parental confidence in the world: Babies-R-Us. It is impossible to wander through this superstore and not feel like you already are messing up your child’s life by not providing him or her everything that will result enrollment at MIT following a year spent fighting Ebola on the Ivory Coast. All of the products there have this unspoken promise that it will make you more competent in the one job that precludes planned incompetence: parenthood.

Walking around that store, I always have the same feeling that I am not doing enough. Talking to my wife about this, she leveled me in a way that only spouses can. “Thomas,” she said. “It is not about the stuff we give. It is about whether or not we are trying—really trying—to nurture our children.”

So, back to Mr. Smith. Of the gifts that baby Jesus, our children, or any of us can receive during Epiphany, it is important to remember the most important is how hard we try. No matter how flat, out of tune, or ridiculous our actions seem the most important thing is that we strive to honor the tiny light in the darkness of our lives. We follow a God pleased with our intentions above all.

That is a God worth seeking out to pay tribute.