"Eventually, with the advent of God back in my life, I began to feel quite differently about my writing. No longer did it dominate my every waking moment; no longer did I yearn, as I once had, to write the Great American Novel. As my attitude about creative work began to change, so did my posture toward what I had once thought of as 'interruptions.' I began to feel compunction for rejecting the many overtures of my in-laws and looked for ways to heal the wounded relationship. By the time they were old and frail enough to be in need of serious help, I was grateful for the chance to be there for them.

"Sadly, however, I could see that this old attitude of mine had caused some serious damage. At the very time my mother-in-law, who had five sons and no daughters, needed desperately to lean on me, the shadows of the past got subtly in the way. She was always kind and gentle, but I knew that she could not quite trust my love for her — not after so many years of those stiff and phony hugs at the front door.

"The Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper defines love as the ability to turn to another individual and say, 'It's good that you exist!' People are sensitive; they know when their welcome is genuine and when it is not. They sense the warmth, and they know when it is lacking. True hospitality — opening one's arms to an interruption — cannot be faked.

"I spent two hours alone with my mother-in-law the day she died. She was light as air by then, and consciousness had long since flown, but something in her still clung to life. As I watched her struggles to breathe, I felt guilt for the times I'd rejected her well-meant advances. I prayed that she'd been able to forgive me for those hard years between us and that she'd come to believe I loved her after all.


"Today, prepare yourself for an interruption, and if it comes, see if you can welcome it for the sake of love. If nobody comes to the door, then meditate instead on your attitude toward unexpected visitors. Look in particular at the way you offer hospitality, especially when it is inconvenient. Think about what takes priority in your heart. Then ask to be given the gift of welcoming whomever God sends your way.

" 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' (Mt 19:19)"