“When the Spirit of truth comes He will lead you to the complete truth”
Not everyone likes asparagus.
I know this because Glen - an American friend of mine - has recently “come out” as an asparagus hater after many years of silent suffering, false smiles and little white lies. But his thin veneer of civilization finally cracked last Thanksgiving at the family dinner (for Brits, think Christmas dinner, but with more patriotism). And he still believes that it would never have happened if his dad hadn’t insisted on a second round of bourbon before dinner. (Again for the Brits, that’s whiskey, Jim, but not as we know it).
But when the main plate arrived, there it was - ASPARAGUS!!! - in all its horrid dark green mushiness - the colour of aliens and stinging nettles. And somehow, it just caught him at the wrong moment. Emboldened by four units of Jack Daniel’s finest (other brands of life-changing inspiration are available), he turned to his mother and said. “Mom, I’m really sorry, but I just can’t eat this. I’ve always hated asparagus and now I don’t live here any more - I’m effectively a guest - I just can’t bring myself to do it any more. I’m sorry but I just can’t eat it.”
There then followed the longest and worst two-minutes silence of his life.
And then Steff, his sister, held their mother’s hand and spoke quietly: “Mom, I’m sorry, I love you very much, but I’m with Glen on this one. I actually can’t stand asparagus either.”
There was another - shorter - pause and Glen’s father spoke. “Mary, I’ve never talked to you about this before, but actually I hate asparagus too.”
Glen looked back towards his mother and saw the tears form in her eyes. In that instant he wished he had never had a drink in his life. And as the first drop fell on her cheek, he wondered where he could go to sign the Pledge. And when she spoke, it was the first and only time he had ever heard her swear.
“But I only cooked it because I thought you liked it - I hate the f $#*%ing stuff!”
There is a terribly unfair stereotype that all American family stories end up with a tearful and emotional group hug. I apologise that this story fulfils that stereotype.
And so, next Thanksgiving, Glen will go home to celebrate with his family.
A special plate of asparagus will be cooked.
It will be placed with great ceremony in the middle of the table.
And absolutely no-one will eat it!
And Glen will celebrate with his family that they have learned to live in Truth and Love.
I know that human beings cannot bear very much reality, but the next time you feel tempted to tell that little white lie of social complaisance, think of Greg’s family and just ponder whether or not the Truth might actually be the most truly loving thing.
“When the Spirit of truth comes
He will lead you to the complete truth.”
Let us pray that it may be so with us.
Paul O'Reilly SJ