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The Joy of Being A Non-Medal of Honor Winner

alec vanderboom

Currently, I'm in the incredibly sexy place of Catholic formation called "tumor removal treatment". Actually, the phase is called "the removal of deeply rooted venial sins," however, that is much too gentle and polite a term to describe my daily life.

As a former Protestant deprived of the grace of the Sacrament of Confession from ages 7 to 27, those pesky sins of vanity and pride have calcified into these giant, three foot wide tumors on the side of my neck. That's a spiritual metaphor, of course. In real life, my neck looks fine. But those hardened bad habits are still there interfering with every interaction I have with God and with Man.

My treatment for vanity has been these painful, humiliating interactions with others that leave me feeling like my beloved physician Jesus has scraped off a few layers of living tumor cells with a cheese grater. I've come home from embarrassing encounters with neighbors to tell my beloved husband, Jon, through tears "at least I had an opportunity to chop off a little more of my vanity."

The process of losing my vanity- sucks!

The benefit, however, is that sometimes I get to see how much I have progressed on this journey of faith.

Last week I had a normal Mom moment of refolding clean little boy clothes (Alex has graduated to dressing himself for outside snow adventures but somehow always manages to leave the entire content of his dresser drawer on my bedroom floor) when I realized "I will never get a Smith Medal of Honor for this!"

And for the first time, rather than get depressed, or rail on the current state of my Alma Mater, that thought made me laugh!

My "elite" women's college hands out five Medals of Honor to alumna in February. Smith being Smith, the net is cast pretty wide. We've honored have female economic advisers to Presidents, and brilliant play writes, newspaper reporters, scientists, community organizers. You could win a Medal of Honor by becoming a Justice on the Federal Court of Appeals, or saving historic buildings in NYC or even carving decorative masks from African hardwoods. You can pretty much do anything your heart desired and as long as you made a "substantial difference in the world" there was a chance Smith College would call you back as a "Golden Daughter" and crown you with mass approval and thanksgiving.

(Oh, the hours I wasted in college scheming about how to receive a Smith Medal of Honor.)

With such a diverse and open-hearted view of the contributions of talented females, the ONLY achievement that is certain to NEVER receive notice from Smith College, happens to be my daily goal, being a good wife and mother.

This irony strikes my funny bone, because the one thing in my life that I know makes a cosmic difference in the world for now and eternity, is the my vocation as a wife and mother.

It feels good to be slightly weaned off the "I want my old college to approve of me" trap. I get so many "That a girl!" and "Thank Yous" and "YOU ARE SO IMPORTANT" from the Holy Spirit each and every day, that I'm happy to remain a Non-Medal of Honor Winner my whole life.