Saturday, August 5, 2017


Last Sunday evening our freshmen arrived to begin their orientation week, during which they learn about how our school works, and what we’re about. They stayed here from Sunday to Friday (yesterday), and slept on the gym floor at night.

One of the things that the new students will pick up eventually is that we hold doors for one another. There’s a lot to this simple gesture; let me start with a little story that shows that I'm not the only one who thinks so.


The owner of the company that prints most of the abbey and school’s brochures and newsletters was showing me around his new facilities. He was especially proud of the mammoth offset printing press that was loudly clacking out a river of printed pages as we stood watching.

When the foreman of that part of the shop came over to greet us, the owner, who had visited our school a month ago, introduced me as a teacher from St. Benedict’s Prep.  Then he immediately added, enthusiastically, “You know what they do in that school? They hold doors for you. It’s amazing!” he was genuinely enthused as he continued, “I visited there last month and these kids would stop and hold the door open for me. I didn’t think kids did that anymore!” The foreman nodded in agreement.

I was pleased to hear that our kids were actually doing what we had been teaching them to do, and also because they had made such a good impression on this visitor.


Holding doors is not an automatic reflex, especially for teenagers, who are usually oblivious to their surroundings. But I always take the trouble to call a student’s attention to the fact that he has just let the door slam in my face. Many a time I’ve called a student back, saying, “Hey! Excuse me? Would you please come back in the door and try this again. Thanks. Now, this is how you hold the door for someone behind you.” And, since good example is the best way of teaching, I and the rest of our staff usually make a habit of holding doors for students as well.

I don't contend, mind you, that holding a door for someone is fulfilling some biblical command or anything like that. But there certainly seems to be something important and valuable about the gesture. Why else would this president of a company be so impressed by our kids’ habit? Could there be some deeper message behind such a simple gesture?

There’s no gospel passage that records Jesus’ holding a door for someone and saying, “After you!” But I have no trouble imagining such a scene. He always seems extremely aware of the people around him, like the blind Bartimaeus sitting by the side of the road, or Zacchaeus  perched on a tree branch, or the paralytic lying alone at the edge of the pool of Bethesda.

I don’t want to make too much of a simple act of good manners, but, maybe the gentleman from the printing company sensed that holding a door for someone is an outward sign of an inner reality (which is the definition of a “sacrament,” by the way). When someone who gets to the door before me pulls it open and steps aside and says, “After you,” I sense the world is a slightly better place because of that person’s simple, thoughtful deed, and my faith in the basic decency of people is reinforced a little more.

Picture it: a world in which everyone holds the door  for everyone else!

No comments:

Post a Comment