by Father Mark Goldasich
The world is full of contradictions. And we, as residents of this planet, naturally find ourselves pulled in opposite directions. Here’s my latest dilemma.
A few weeks ago, after mailing some letters at the post office in Tonganoxie, I was driving my usual route back home, which takes me past the elementary school. As I tooled down the street, I noticed some new concrete over a section of road that workers had had torn up for several days.
When I reached that new concrete, my car suddenly turned into a bucking bronco! Even though I was doing the posted speed limit, the front end of the car rose several inches in the air and then banged down, soon to be followed by the back end of the car doing the same thing.
Gripping the steering wheel for dear life, my mind scrambled to figure out what had happened. Suddenly, I found myself facing another new section of road and then another. Slowing down to about 10 miles an hour, I was better able to control the bucking bronco effect two more times.
What I later learned is that the city had just installed new “speed humps” around the schools, courtesy of a child safety program. I had had the privilege of driving over these “optical illusions” before warning signs were installed and before markers were painted on the humps to alert drivers. One bucking bronco experience was all it took to make me slow down and stop rushing.
Now, contrast those speed humps with something new that I’m trying out on my computer. Called MacSpeech Dictate, its box says it all: Think it. Speak it. Create it. So, what does this program do? It allows me to sit in front of my computer with a microphone headset and simply talk. This voice recognition program recognizes the words that I speak and turns them into words on the computer screen, all without my touching the keyboard.
Since I can talk a lot faster than I can type, this new program helps me get more accomplished that much quicker. Although I’m still learning the program, and it still has some quirks that need to be worked out, overall it’s quite amazing — and a little spooky — how accurately it works.
Do you see my dilemma? On the one hand, speed humps are seeking to slow me down, and I like that; on the other hand, this dictation program wants to speed me up, and I like that, too.
Isn’t that what most of us experience as we prepare for the upcoming holiday season? Deep down, we long for a time of quiet expectation, special moments with family and friends, a recommitment to what is most important in life. On the other hand, we willingly throw ourselves into the hustle and bustle of the season: baking, shopping, decorating, partying, and on and on. It’s truly a season of contradictions.
How should we go? Fast or slow? I fear that the many things that scream for our attention, pushing us to go faster and faster, cause us to miss out on the deeper meaning of life and the true spirit of the holidays. Maybe instead of avoiding speed humps, we should instead seek them out. Besides getting enough rest, eating sensibly, and finding time to exercise, we might take time out now to list other speed humps to get us through these next few weeks. These might include:
• Make time for quiet. When things seem overwhelming, find a comfortable chair, close your eyes, and take deep breaths. Slowly praying an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be will prolong this peaceful respite.
• Send Christmas cards, but only to people you will likely not see in person. Spend time writing a note inside, maybe highlighting a memory you treasure about this person or simply thanking them for their friendship.
• Give experiences rather than material gifts. Set aside time for a leisurely lunch with a friend or pile the family in the car to check out Christmas decorations some evening.
• Be charitable. Pick up some extra food to donate to a shelter, adopt a needy family, drop off unused items at Catholic Charities, or leave a generous tip for those whose service we take for granted. All of these can bring us perspective on the blessings we have in our own lives and let the Spirit of the season enter more deeply into our hearts.
How should I go? Fast or slow? The results are in. The speed humps win.