I would take my little ones to my mother’s every few months. We’d drive for a few hours and they’d open their eyes when the car shuddered to a stop, then rub the sleep from their lashes. My son was always the first one out the door, running up the small driveway hugged by a patchy and exhausted-looking lawn, and stomping to the big, white door of my mother’s small, green house. My daughter, always trying to keep up with her counter part, would clumsily follow suit. I’d watch as her dress sighed beneath her and hear their sweet laughs from the car like echoes tumbling down a long corridor.
My mother would always make the two the same beef stew she used to make me when I was their age. She used to tell me that God gave her the gift of stews, but I later realized she just added a lot of sugar to the caramelized fond. We would take our seats where a bowl of beef stew was placed and mother would pray. This most recent time, my son reached across the table for the saltshaker.
“You don’t need that, sweetheart,” my mother said.
“Just a little!” he responded.
He shook the shaker once, then twice, and he shook, and shook, and shook, and shook. I put my hand over his trembling one, took the salt, and placed it on the table.
“There…perfect,” he breathed.
The beef stew had been snowed on with speckles of white salt, which quickly dissolved into a pasty, deep brown. He stirred the stew slowly and let some spill into his spoon. He brought it to his lips and swallowed. And once more. I could see him trying to stop his face from crumpling, from licking his lips to add much needed moisture, from reaching for a glass of water.
His stew was spoiled. No one could ingest it, nor could it be put back with the larger batch. He had bombarded it with so much salt that it was completely ruined. The delicate development of one’s spirituality is similarly precarious. You can find your faith being shelled by surrounding influences, may it be from your environment, a parent, a friend, until it becomes unrecognizable, restricting, and further, rejected.
People become religious for reasons good, bad, or not of their choice at all. But how you internalize your faith, and to what degree you do, is entirely in your control. To passively accept what people force upon you is the greatest disservice to yourself. Put your spirituality in a pot. Ask your neighbors for spices, add some vegetables, add a pinch of something sweet, something sour, of something that may or may not last. Your faithfulness to a religion, an idea, a belief, or a power is an integral part of your identity. It can serve as a basic infrastructure, be the tiny whisper that says, “What you’re doing is right for you, keep going,” or be your most reliable haven.
So use it. Value it. Nourish it.
Sarah Kim is a junior in the College. Infinity Songs appears every other Sunday at thehoya.com