by Father Mark Goldasich
Do you know what a buckslip is?
I suspect you do, although you’re probably not familiar with its official name. A buckslip is one of those inserts that come in the bills that you get from your credit cards or from the telephone company. It usually calls attention to some particular issue or special deal. Apparently, it gets its name from the fact that it’s roughly the size of a dollar bill, or buck. Surprisingly, I believe that a buckslip can be an effective tool in your spiritual life. But more on that later. First, check out this story:
One day three men were hiking and unexpectedly came upon a large raging river. They needed to get to the other side, but had no idea of how to do so.
The first man prayed, “Please, God, give me the strength to cross this river.” In an instant, God gave him big muscular arms and strong legs. He dove in and was able to swim across the river in about two hours . . . after almost drowning a couple of times.
Seeing this, the second man prayed, “Please, God, give me the strength and the resources to cross this river.” In an instant, God gave him a rowboat. He was able to cross the river in about an hour . . . after almost capsizing the boat a couple of times.
The third man had seen how things worked out for the other two, so he prayed, “God, give me the strength and the resources — and the intelligence — to cross this river.” In an instant, God turned him into a woman. She looked at the map, hiked upstream a couple hundred yards, then walked across the bridge to the other side in just a few minutes. (Adapted from “Preaching to the Converted,” by Richard Leonard, SJ.)
Oh, if all the necessary changes in our lives came “in an instant,” as in the story above. For most of us, though, change is a slow, gradual process. Hearing Jesus’ call to repent in last Sunday’s Gospel made me squirm. To repent means to change our lives for the better, to turn from something destructive (sin) and toward something constructive (virtue or holiness).
Deep down, all of us know that we can be better people. This desire is expressed in the making of those New Year’s or Lenten resolutions. So, how are your resolutions going? (Or have they already gone by the wayside?)
My situation can best be described by a large circular magnet that now sits prominently on the front of my refrigerator. Given to me by a parishioner who knows me all too well, it reads: I will conquer procrastination . . . Just wait!
So many of my resolutions — OK, let’s be honest, almost all of my resolutions — remain just good intentions. I have a heck of a time actually turning them into reality. It’s a case of the spirit being willing, but that flesh sure is weak.
Well, that was the case until I stumbled on a simple idea in the course of reading a magazine article recently. I don’t remember any of the details except for the part about the buckslip. The author said that using a buckslip could produce small but steady changes in life.
Her idea is simple: Cut a piece of paper to the size of a buckslip. Then write some tasks on it that you’d like to accomplish. That’s it. That’s the whole idea. But I think it’s one worth pursuing.
My suggestion is that you make a buckslip today. On it, write down seven tiny actions that you can do to change your life for the better. I’m talking very simple stuff. Say, for example, you’d like to pray more. One “action” on your buckslip might read: Make the sign of the cross when waking up today and before collapsing into bed tonight. Or you might think of someone during the day that you “sure would like to get in touch with.” A buckslip item would be: Send a note or email to _____. Maybe you’d like to be more generous to the poor. A buckslip task would read: Spend five minutes gathering clothes from one drawer in the bedroom to donate. Another item, related to the previous, one might be: Deliver donations to TurnStyles. A buckslip is something that can be easily carried with you in a wallet to act as a visual reminder — and challenge — to turn your good intentions into good deeds.
Try using a buckslip during this week and see what happens. Do one a week for the rest of this year and you’ll accomplish almost 340 good things. Taken together, that would be quite an impressive life change. And the neat thing about the buckslip is that when we do something positive “for ourselves,” it can’t help but positively impact the lives of those around us.
If we’re serious about changing for the better, simply remember what Harry Truman knew so well, and that’s exactly where the buck stops.