Peggy Bowes: The heavenly handbag
I recently entered a local store and was enthusiastically greeted by a teenaged employee who admired the bag I was carrying. We chatted for a few minutes, our 25-year age difference overcome by our common interest in a woman's most important accessory – not surprising, really, as the search for the perfect bag begins early in life.
Even a toddler realizes that a purse reflects who she is as she debates which Disney princess should be featured on her starter bag. After all, the right bag says "I've arrived! I'm stylish! I'm somebody!" No wonder so many women splurge on designer handbags that cost more than their mortgage payment.
If a handbag reflects who a woman is, then its contents are tools for her success: matching wallet, lipstick in the latest color, smartphone, business cards, designer sunglasses, and keys to a luxury car. Handbags are even the subject of celebrity interviews. My favorite fashion magazine asks the cover model, "What's in your bag?" as if its contents will somehow reveal the secret to her fame and fortune. Gullible readers rush out to purchase the same products, hoping for similar results.
One event in a woman's life that will forever alter her choice of handbags is motherhood. Suddenly, the designer label is not as important as the bag's function. It must be easy to clean, have lots of pockets and compartments, and not fall apart when chewed by teething babies. The contents also reveal a shift away from self. I've seen women pull Band-Aids, bibs, juice boxes, miniature cars, sunscreen and even portable DVD players out of their suitably enormous purses.
Like all earthly treasures, the allure of the perfect handbag fades over time. It gets soiled, the stitches come undone, or it is simply no longer in vogue. It must be cast aside and replaced. Likewise, as a woman matures, she realizes that her words, actions and accomplishments better reflect who she is than her handbag. Its contents, or tools for her success, change as well. They are more practical: a coupon organizer, a pack of tissues, hand sanitizer and keys to a minivan.
My handbag is merely an earthly treasure, but it can carry tools to help me store up treasures in heaven. In the pocket next to my lipstick is a small container of holy water. A zippered compartment holds a prayer book, an assortment of holy cards and a booklet to examine my conscience before going to confession. My rose-scented rosary is neatly contained in a case with a picture of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. A Sunday bulletin is stuffed in a side compartment. Even my keychain proclaims my faith with the Sacred Heart Auto League logo and a request to call a priest in the event of an accident.
With these tools at my disposal, I can use those idle moments during my day to direct my focus toward heaven, where I hope someday to shout with joy, "I've arrived!"
Peggy Bowes is a member of Holy Angels Church in Mount Airy and the author of "The Rosary Workout" (www.rosaryworkout.com).
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