Give Yourself a Ticket…and an Ice Cream Cone

Sgt. Steven Rogers of New Jersey is an honest cop. One day he spotted a woman struggling with some packages. He pulled over to the side of the street, parked his car, and went to help her. Then forgetting about his car, he went to a nearby diner for lunch.

trooper-312039__180While there he was notified by a dispatcher that someone had reported his car was illegally parked. Rogers promptly went outside, moved his car, and wrote himself a parking ticket. Later he said jokingly, “I was thinking about pleading not guilty, but I would have had to cross-examine myself in court.” Then he added more seriously, “I gave myself the ticket because my integrity means a lot to me.”

It is sometimes easy for us to “give tickets” to other people, that is, to criticize and judge them for what they do. We think or say things like: “She’s so bossy… he’s a real pain… they’re both so selfish.” But what about ourselves? Are we completely free of the failings we note in others? Do we ever stop and write ourselves a ticket? Every time we say “I’m sorry” or apologize to someone, we’re giving ourselves a ticket. Going to Confession is another way of giving ourselves a ticket too. What kind of ticket? Maybe a ticket for being crabby, for assuming the worst in people, for belittling someone, for being selfish, for being ungrateful, for being judgmental.

But there are also times that we should give ourselves an ice cream cone…

A number of years ago, I was driving alone on my way home from a meeting in Cleveland. It was a sweltering day and I had no air conditioning in the car. I was wearing the full black habit, so I was very hot and sweaty. I found myself thinking, “Now, if I had someone in the car, I’d stop and treat her to an ice cream cone.” It was a passing thought, nothing more. I kept on driving—and sweating.

Later, as I reflected on my day, that thought came back to me: “If I had someone in the car…someone in the car…” I conesuddenly realized, I did have someone in the car: myself! Why, in heaven’s name, didn’t I stop and treat myself to an ice cream cone? After all, I’m someone! But, at that time, the thought never occurred to me. The incident spoke volumes to me about my lack of self-care and even self-esteem during that particular time in my life. I was busy doing all kinds of favors for others, but none whatsoever for myself.

The spiritual life is all about balance, isn’t it? We balance these two aspects of ourselves: we are sinners and we are saints. We are capable of doing evil and doing good. During Lent we tend to focus on our sinfulness. And that’s important. But at the same time we must never lose sight of our goodness. We are sons and daughters of a God who made us and loves us more than we can imagine. And, what’s more, we can partner with this God and with others to bring about a better world.

This week, if the opportunity presents itself, write yourself a ticket. At the same time, don’t forget to give yourself an ice cream cone!

(This reflection was adapted from my book, Rummaging for God.)

Sometimes we work so hard in our prayer and in our everyday life, we become exhausted. This song by “Casting Crowns” reminds us that sometimes God calls us to “let go…and just be held.” May we hear God saying these words to us today:


Do you ever give yourself a ticket? Do you ever give yourself an ice cream cone?

What are some ways you keep mindful of your sinfulness and your goodness?

Do any words in this reflection or this song speak to you today?

PS: This Saturday, March 5, I’m leading a retreat day for the Associates of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Erie, PA. I ask your prayers for this prayerful event. Thank you!





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  1. Kathleen on February 29, 2016 at 5:19 am

    What a wonderful idea to have balance in life and Lent. I am fasting from noise this Lent and noticing my sinfulness as well as my saintliness more. Thanks for the r mi dear.


  2. Tom on February 29, 2016 at 10:42 am

    Thanks for reminding me that my most cherished pastoral moments were the times I needed to apologize to members of the flock.

  3. Barbara on February 29, 2016 at 11:36 am

    Sr. Melanie:
    Your words always have such a positive effect on our daily lives. I once did a project my first year of college on society “labeling” things and people. I learned from that project that we do not have the right to judge anything; we are not the judge and jury — God is, always has been and always will be. The next time we start to criticize someone or something, take a good long hard look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Who among us is perfect?” We need to accept people and situations as they are and deal with them.

  4. Shirley Sahlfeld on February 29, 2016 at 11:41 am

    Thanks Sister; this was beautiful and the song is amazing. I will lift you up in prayer for your retreat weekend.

  5. Barbie on February 29, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    Sr. Melannie,

    Writing ourselves a ticket is a great way to acknowledge our faults! Thank you for the visual.

  6. Patty on February 29, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    Thank you, Sister. Here’s to tickets and ice cream cones.

  7. michelle c. on February 29, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    I love the song. Thank you for posting. I hope you have a wonderful retreat. God Bless You !

  8. Sr. Julie on March 1, 2016 at 9:26 am

    Sr. Melanie, Your stories are precious and so meaningful. Thanks a million. With special prayers, Sr. Julie

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