Pick up the Orange

By Janice Lane Palko

Some people receive profound promptings from the Holy Spirit. Me? I get messages like “pick up the orange.”

A few weeks ago, I walked into my local grocery store and saw a woman select some oranges and put them in a plastic bag. As she walked away out of the corner of my eye, I saw an orange fall from the display and roll across the floor.

You should pick up the orange, said that still small voice.

Instantly, I began rationalizing. I didn’t dislodge the orange. Why should I pick it up? They have stock boys to do that. I’ll look stupid, like I have OCD or something, if I pick it up and put it back where it belongs. Let somebody else do it.

Then my better nature joined the debate. Will it kill you to pick up an orange? Geez, Mother Teresa picked up dying people from the streets, and you’re freaking out over an orange. How shallow are you? Who cares what people think? Someone may trip over it. You will be doing a good deed, no matter how insignificant.

So, I pushed my grocery cart over, picked up the orange, and put it back in the display. But then something else happened.

As I was about to press on with my grocery shopping, I caught a glimpse of a woman to my side bend and pick up another orange, one that I hadn’t even noticed had escaped with the other orange, and replace it in the display.

I was astounded. This woman was following my example.

That little interlude set me to thinking about life, and for those of us who write, about what our toils to turn a phrase may mean in the big scheme of things.

Several months ago, fellow CWG member Cathy Gilmore posted an article from the Catholic News Agency titled The Catholic Church Desperately Needs Artists by Mary Rezac. It detailed how the world so sorely needs creative people who can bring beauty and truth to the culture.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been writing for more than twenty years, and the monetary return on my artistic endeavors has yet to land me a summer home at the beach, a six-figure deal, or a stint on Oprah.

I attend a weekly Bible study, and shortly after the orange incident, our leader asked us to share our all-time favorite inspirational books. One woman recommended He and I by Gabrielle Bossis, a French, Catholic woman who lived from 1874-1950. He and I chronicles the interior conversation she and God shared. When she was putting these conversations on paper, Bossis didn’t know that after her death, they would be published, translated into many languages, and cherished by so many readers.

At times, it may be frustrating when we think of how much time and effort we put into our literary endeavors compared to the remuneration we receive in turn. However, I don’t, and I’m sure many of you don’t, write solely for financial gain. Then, take heart, fellow creatives. Though we may never know the extent of our influence, like Bossis, our work may do good long after we are gone.

I don’t know if God intends for me to be a best-selling author or not. But what I do know is that I’ll be fine with whatever magnitude of success I achieve. I’ll continue to write and strive to bring beauty and truth to the world through my work with the hope of glorifying God.

I may be only a stepping stone for someone who comes after me, a toehold for another writer on their climb to achieving loftier success in reviving what has been a hallmark of the Catholic Church throughout its existence: excellence in artistic expression for the glory of God.

Therefore, as this new year begins, I’m going to pick up that orange and keep on writing. I urge you to do the same. You never know who is watching us or reading works or being inspired by our example. We don’t know who may decide to follow us, who may bend down to pick up that orange we didn’t even realize had also rolled away.

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8 Responses to Pick up the Orange

  1. My conscience prompts me to pick up stuff too! Litter mainly. Love this column, which came at the right time as I wonder yet again whether all this writing/publishing/marketing stuff is really worth the huge effort and financial strain.

  2. I love that a link I shared had some impact on the creation of this delightful article! Goodness, truth and beauty are always worth the effort, even when it feels we have to stoop down and pick them up off the floor!

  3. Susan Peek says:

    You won’t believe this, but the very day after I read your wonderful post, this truly happened to me in the grocery store. Only it was a stick of butter that fell from someone’s overloaded shopping cart, not an orange. I was several aisles away, and, like in your article, my first thought was, “I’ll look silly if I step out of my place in line and go all the way over there to pick up that butter stick. How embarrassing. Surely someone closer will do it.” Then my guardian angel nudged me (or rather whacked me across the head in rebuke) and made me think of your post! So I rushed over to pick it up. And the frazzled mother with the bursting cart and three toddlers hanging all over her gave me the most beautiful, grateful smile. All because of your article!

  4. Thanks! We’ve started a movement!