“It wasn’t at all my scene.”
I stopped for a second to listen to what I was saying.
I was asked to speak about my recent experience at the Washington Women in Journalism awards, where I was quite unexpectedly called to receive a “periodical press” award this month. I had gotten a call a few weeks earlier from Melinda Henneberger, editor of Roll Call, one of the partners in the affair.
This scene was secular, for Beltway insiders — and, in fact, took place at the beginning of the annual weekend where Hollywood descends upon the city for the White House Correspondents Dinner.
I took it as an encouragement that people really do thirst for enduring things and for God (I tend to try to write from the lens of faith, even when not writing for OSV) even in the halls of worldly power. I share this to give thanks and make a confession (or two).
First, the gratitude: From the stage that night, Henneberger spoke about Christian genocide, which, as you might have guessed, does not usually headline such cocktail parties. It’s an underreported story, and I was grateful for the focus for a moment — with media, Capitol Hill staffers and politicians in the room.
One is humbled by such things, seeing God at work in every room when we let him. There with glasses in hand and hors d’oeuvres circulating, there was a moment of focus on the existential threat Christians are facing today on account of Islamic terrorism.
In truth (confession time), I could and should do so much more — writing, speaking, praying about the most forgotten and most vulnerable, on many fronts. File what I’ve managed to write and do under “the least one can do” rather than anything deserving of honors.
The truth of the matter is: the witness of the Christians in Iraq and Syria today — exiled to Kurdistan and Jordan, many of them, is mercy for us. They show us how to live. They’ve fled their homes — stripped of so many material memories and security; they have everything they need in Christ.
And yet, there I was, days later, having not learned my lesson, as I spoke to conservative journalists (confession No. 2). Who, after all, was I to be presuming to know what “my scene” is? Wherever the Holy Spirit leads, thank you very much.
A Beltway cocktail awards party may just be the peripheries Pope Francis keeps talking about. That doesn’t get me out of the full slate of works of mercy — comforting the sick and visiting the imprisoned and clothing the naked and all the rest.
But it is a wake-up call, a reminder. Wherever you are, wherever you are called — even when gobsmacked by an unexpected award — follow the path he set out for you, and not your plans and expectations.
I thought of this, too, as World Communications Day came and went, right before Pentecost.
Pope Francis wrote in his message this year that, “As sons and daughters of God, we are called to communicate with everyone, without exception.” And it must be infused with love. “What we say and how we say it, our every word and gesture, ought to express God’s compassion, tenderness and forgiveness for all. … If our hearts and actions are inspired by charity, by divine love, then our communication will be touched by God’s own power.”
Wherever and whomever he wills. Prison or cocktail party and everywhere else. Always with love and gratitude, or we are not who we say we are.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online and co-author of “How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice” (OSV, $17.95).