The sun has already set. We find ourselves in an urban district like any other, in the everyday environment of a family home – a fourth-floor apartment of a tall building.
After hours before his notebook, a thousand incomplete ideas crowd young Andy’s mind, but not a single sentence has been written… What is he doing? Andy’s Literature teacher has given an assignment worth ten points. The students must write an essay entitled: “What Is Your Worth?” And yet after racking his brain for what seemed an eternity, he still has no inspiration for something fit to be called a “literary composition.” Tired and frustrated, he closes his notebook and starts pacing aimlessly about the room. To complete the picture, the dog seems to share the boy’s bewildered state, and starts to race around in rapid circles…
Andy slumps on the sofa and pulls out his cell phone, convinced that this “magic” device will at least provide some idea for his work, and perhaps even a ready-made composition! Faster than his one of his dog’s laps, a search result appears for the word worth: “Car ratings based on true worth.” Anticipating success, he selects the item! But… just then, his mother’s voice tears him abruptly from his research:
“Andy! Your brother had a car accident on his way back from college! He wasn’t hurt, though. And luckily the car he was driving wasn’t worth much…”
“Oh… good thing!” Andy replies, disconcerted.
In a few seconds, all the “true worth” that the internet offered him seemed to become… worthless.
Perhaps some other source can provide inspiration. He picks up the pamphlet he received at the drugstore when he went to buy his grandmother’s medication. He reads the words written in large, flashy print: “Care for your health – nothing is worth so much!” This is it! Andy imagines he has found the idea that will earn him ten points in Literature! He picks up his notebook and, vaguely ashamed of himself, copies the message from the pharmacy literature to form the opening phrase of his painstaking essay.
Another interruption soon breaks his flow of thought: the telephone rings, and Andy jumps up and runs to get it. You would never guess he was the same fellow who appeared so glum a few moments ago. The dog begins to bark and jump, as if wanting to share in its master’s imminent triumph. Andy answers. Surprise! But not every surprise is good… The call is to notify him that his cousin Jacob’s birthday party has been cancelled due to sickness. Jake himself has taken ill. One more thing supposedly “worth so much” goes down the drain without prior notice… Now quite upset, Andy harshly orders his poor dog to stop barking. Unable to fathom the cause for this sudden change, the dog lies down dejectedly. In a gesture of exasperation, Andy tears that sheet out of his notebook and crumples it into a ball.
Anxiety is mounting. And the matter is serious!
Our student now takes a seat at the desk where his father solves his work problems; he finds a newspaper next to the computer – something he doesn’t see very often. The idea of reading a physical, not “virtual”, text attracts the young writer. Feeling mature beyond his years, Andy concentrates his best powers of comprehension on those little black letters. “People today are worth the money they hold in savings,” is the first idea encountered. This must be answer to the whole challenge! Andy does not waste a moment: he barges through the screen saver to begin typing his masterpiece.
Suddenly… a “window” pops up, perhaps related to his father’s work, with a message that reads: “Economic crash threatens to deplete the savings of the population.” This can’t be true! Almost frantic, he clicks on another item with cheerier colours and is greeted by the headline: “The Pandemic and financial crisis.” Worn out by repeated disappointment, Andy has no energy to even log out of the computer… He pushes the swivel chair back and lets his head fall upon the keyboard.
After a few bitter sighs, he manages to get matters in perspective. “Some idea will come to me if I move around a bit,” he thinks. He begins to stroll aimlessly around the apartment again, always accompanied by his faithful pet, who seems to bears no grudge over his recent ill-humoured outburst.
Finally, he wanders over to the bookshelf bequeathed by his grandfather. On it are rows of books, a pile of cooking magazines his mother left there, and even a discreet layer of dust… Where should he turn for inspiration?
With determination Andy selects one of the oldest volumes. Opening it randomly, he sits down and with astonishment, reads the first chapter heading he sees: “Statues of Incalculable Worth”. Worth! “Oh, no… Will this be another dead end?” Risking the possible trauma, he decides to peruse the chapter.
Turning the page, the boy views a photo of an ancient statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Worn by the centuries, it even had to face a raging fire! Andy reads an explanatory note: In the centre of a medieval square stood the devout Virgin of the Afflicted, weathering the elements and ever smiling down on passers-by. One day a fire broke out in the city and spread quickly. Flames engulfed and singed the beloved statue. That fire was extinguished and the statue rescued, but another fire had been set alight: the people’s love for the Virgin of the Afflicted. She became the local Patroness. The final comment reads: “The material of which the statue is sculpted is by no means precious. Our region boasts countless pieces of superior quality. However, after the ordeal our intercessor endured, She is now worth more than gold.”
Enthused, Andy closes the volume as ideas come to mind with ease and clarity! He seizes the notebook rejected hours ago and begins to write with a sure hand: “What is your worth? Your worth can be measured by the struggles, sufferings, and dangers you have faced! The value of a human being does not lie in material goods, health or money… People’s worth is hinged upon whether or not they fulfil the will of God, and remain faithful to Him in every circumstance, even when they are singed by the flames of misfortune.”
Lines after line flow from the happy student’s pen. He had learned much from his many fruitless searches and one worthwhile reading. “That’s a lesson done, and a lesson learned for life!” he exclaimed with relief. Seeming to sense its master’s satisfaction, the friendly dog leaped to join him on the sofa. Andy, now much wiser for his experiences, stroked the little animal’s head and concluded: “Today I understood where my true worth comes from: weathering the storms in union with God!” ◊