Are you yearnin’ for some learnin’?

Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. He has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.

by Father Mark Goldasich

It wouldn’t be a Sunday afternoon if I didn’t hear my mom say, “You got any moan-y?”

It’s asked as we’re heading to lunch after Mass. My pat response is: “No. Let’s just do what we do every Sunday: Dine and dash!” (That would actually be something to see, considering Mom is in a wheelchair and the wait staff could beat me to the door blindfolded and hopping on one leg.)

This past Sunday, I carried things a little further. After eating — and paying — we drove to Lawrence. I told Mom I wasn’t paying the toll and, when we got to the toll plaza, I drove right through. As we exited in Lawrence, I said, “Watch me plow right through that wooden arm blocking our way!”

Mom’s eyes got big and then, like magic, up went the barrier as we approached. Only then did I point out and explain to Mom what the K-TAG stuck to my front windshield was.

You’re never too old to learn something. The K-TAG is a perfect example. I’d heard about them years ago but didn’t know where to get one, didn’t want to pay for it and wouldn’t use it much anyway.

About a year ago, a friend noticed me stopping for a ticket at the toll booth and wondered why I didn’t have a K-TAG since it was incredibly easy to get, free and even included a slight discount on tolls. Needless to say, this was news to me and I soon became a K-TAG devotee.

I bring this up because a new school year is underway. For us adults, we may be tempted to see learning as something only for kids. This story by Ken Langley of Zion, Illinois, deserves pondering:

My 10-year-old son was “helping” me paint. I brushed; he rolled. When he disappeared to get a Coke, I rerolled where he’d painted.

I didn’t mind this. But I did mind his repeated efforts to reach higher than he should: standing on tiptoe, his arm straight up, wobbly, trying to control the roller heavy with paint.

“Let Daddy get the high stuff, “ I said. “I’m afraid you’ll drop the roller or lose your balance and fall in the paint.”

I had to leave the room briefly and returned to find Justin once again precariously stretched with a shaky roller in his fingertips. “Justin,” I barked, “Stop stretching! I’ll get that.”

“OK, Daddy,” he answered. “I won’t do it again.”

In the silence that followed, I wondered how many times over the years I have given my children the message: “Stop stretching.” How often have I said, “You can’t do this; it’s too hard. Let me do it. Don’t be unrealistic. Don’t reach so high.” Too often, I’m afraid. Now that I think about it, I kind of hope they weren’t listening. (Found in “1001 Illustrations That Connect,” edited by Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof.)

Have you reached a point in your life where you’ve stopped learning new things, where you’ve stopped stretching? This new school year is a reminder, no matter our age, to continue to grow in knowledge and grace. It’s yet another invitation to develop the wonderful mind that God has given us by exploring this vast world we live in.

So, grab a pen and write out some first semester goals, which might include:

  • Join a Bible study group or make plans to attend a class or retreat. The calendar page of The Leaven is filled with announcements of these opportunities.
  • Learn to pray in a different manner. There are plenty of great books on this subject, but one of my favorites is Mary DeTurris Poust’s “Everyday Divine: A Catholic Guide to Active Spirituality.” (You can get it on Kindle or used.)
  • Go out and get a library card. You’ll be surprised at what’s available there in addition to printed books. E-books, movies and music can all expand your horizons. And, best of all, it’s free . . . as long as you return your items on time.

Being a lifelong learner can be a powerful example to those still formally in school. As novelist John Irving once said, “With every book, you go back to school. You become a student. You become an investigative reporter. You spend a little time learning what it’s like to live in someone else’s shoes.”

And you prove to those young’uns that it’s not such a stretch to teach an old dog some new tricks.

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