The Corner on the Worry Market

Author: Elizabeth Foss


by Elizabeth Foss

"If you pray, why worry? If you worry, why pray?" My friend Shelley has a magnet with these questions on her refrigerator. She really seems to live this philosophy. Shelley is not yet a mother.

Mothers have the corner on the worry market. One recent weekend drove this point home to me. All three of my children had a nasty virus. The baby, in particular, was especially sick. My husband, Mike, and I left the pediatrician on Friday afternoon armed with plenty of medicine, a machine for administering respiratory therapy, instructions for twenty-four hour nursing care (to be given by us), and the doctor's caution to go by ambulance to the hospital if Patrick's condition worsened. My husband dropped us off at home and left for the airport. He had a business trip.

The weekend assumed a rhythmic pattern of breathing treatments, temperature taking, and medicine administration. I stayed awake all night listening to the baby wheeze. His breathing was so labored that it was easy to hear from my bed. When I couldn't hear him wheeze, instead of assuming that he was better, I jumped up to be sure that he was indeed breathing. Awake, alone, and feverish myself, I tried to pray, but in all honesty, I prayed very little and worried much more.

By Sunday, I was exhausted and losing sense of reality. It seemed that we'd never all be better. My mom stopped by to pick up a load of laundry and drop off dinner. She told me how much she worried when my sister and I were sick. My father-in-law (who never gets sick) came over to entertain the older boys. I had help but nobody took the worry load off my shoulders. I decided to call my husband. After all, these were his children and he should worry too. As I was looking for the number the phone rang.


"Hi honey, how are you?"

"Oh, Mike I was just looking for your number in Greenville, I'm having the worst..."

"Well you wouldn't have found me in Greenville. I'm in Raleigh."

"In Raleigh, why?"

"My flight this morning was diverted to Raleigh where we made an emergency landing. An engine went out in the air...Hello, are you there?"

"Yeah, I'm here. I guess I'm not having the worst day; you are. Are you O.K.?"

"I'm fine. Just a little shaken. I'll call you later. Don't worry."

Right. Sure. Don't worry. I'm a mom. I worry about everything. Especially airplanes. By this time, my worry gears were in overdrive. I wasn't even considering prayer. I called my sister-in-law to tell her about the plane and we decided it probably wouldn't make the news and there was no sense in telling Mike's mom. She'd just worry. Moms do that you know.

Mike came home the next day (he drove), the older boys were feeling better, and Patrick was no worse. By the end of the week, Patrick was fine and it appeared that we had all survived. I reflected on how much energy I had spent "what-iffing." What if he needed to go to the hospital in the middle of the night? What if he stopped breathing and I didn't hear him? What if I were too sick to take care of them all? What if the plane crashed? All that energy and nothing to show for it.

Worry does nothing to bring us closer to God. Fear is the antithesis of faith. The burdens in our life, the things that frighten us the most, are opportunities to be faithful. I need to depend on God and every once in awhile life throws something my way to bring me to my knees. I doubt I'll ever live up to the message on the magnet. Very few mothers do. But I'm sure going to try to pray more and worry a whole lot less.

Foss is a freelance writer living in Springfield.

This article appeared in the March 23, 1995 issue of "The Arlington Catholic Herald."

Courtesy of the "Arlington Catholic Herald" diocesan newspaper of the Arlington (VA) diocese. For subscription information, call 1-800-377-0511 or write 200 North Glebe Road, Suite 607 Arlington, VA 22203.