by Father Mark Goldasich
Don’t let this be a summer of three blinks. Here’s what I mean: You blink once, and suddenly it’s Memorial Day. There’s a sense of anticipation in the air about the summer and its relaxed schedule. You blink again, and somehow it’s the Fourth of July . . . and you realize that half the summer is gone and you haven’t had much relaxation. Then comes that third blink when the kids are heading back to school and Labor Day is knocking on the door . . . and once again a summer has passed without your feeling renewed and rejuvenated. Sound familiar?
One of my favorite stories was originally penned by the German author Heinrich Böll. It begins with a wealthy businessman who finally squeezes in time for a vacation to a small tropical island. While on the beach the first day, the guy sees a fisherman with his feet up on the side of his boat, relaxing in the sun.
The businessman stops and says, “Hey, you’re not going to catch many fish that way!”
The fisherman smiles, points to a bucket of fish at his side, and says, “Al- ready caught enough for the day.”
Having a Harvard MBA, the businessman decides to help this poor fisher- man. He says, “Look, you should spend more time fishing. Then you’d have more than one bucket of fish. You could sell the extra ones for more money, save the surplus funds, and eventually invest in a bigger boat and more nets. That would allow you to catch even more fish!”
“And then what?” asked the fisher- man.
“Well, then you could reinvest your profits and buy several boats and hire staff. You could become a small business, catch even more fish and eventually open your own factory. You could control the product, processing and distribution.”
“And then what?” asked the fisherman.
Impatiently, the businessman said, “Don’t you understand anything? In 15-20 years, you could make millions. Heck, you could become so rich that you’d never have to work again. You could spend the rest of your days sitting on this beach, just relaxing and enjoying the sun!”
At that, the fisherman said quietly, “And what, my friend, do you think I’m doing right now?” (Adapted from various versions online.)
Now that’s a wise fisherman. Although we obviously need to work,
we also need to learn when enough is enough. Summer is an opportunity to step back from our usual schedules and indulge in something that we’re rapidly losing: a sense of how to unwind and rest. These days before Memorial Day are usually when I sit down and daydream a bit about what a perfect summer would look like. With a pad of paper and a pencil, I usually scribble down what I’d like to see and do.
This year, though, I’m not doing that. Instead, I just took out last year’s list. Sadly, the only thing I can cross off is the date at the top: 2011. Apparently,
I blinked last summer away and never took time for those fun items written down. There always seemed to be more urgent items to deal with.
That’s a heck of a way to go through life.
So, determined to change my mindset and behavior, I’ve just ordered a new book that I hope will help. It’s called “Remember to Live! Embracing the Second Half of Life,” by Father Thomas Ryan. I like the title. We all need to remember to live. We’re quite good at making a living, but not so hot at having a life.
With that in mind, I’m going to take advantage of the every-other-week schedule at The Leaven this summer. On non-deadline Mondays and Tues- days, I’m going to whittle away at my activity list. In fact, I’ve already got my hands on tickets to T-Bones and Sporting KC games. (I’m still checking on the best times to watch the Royals.)
I’ll also be reading some light novels, like Spencer Quinn’s “To Fetch a Thief” — a great mystery series, narrated by a dog. I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve never visited the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial nor the Ewing and Muriel Kauffman Memorial Garden in Kansas City, Mo. That will be remedied.
I’m also going to declare some “no cellphone” times, simply to enjoy some uninterrupted peace and quiet. Oh, and several naps and meals out with friends are sprinkled in as well.
It’s no accident that the word “recreation” looks like “re-creation.” As this Easter season has reminded us, we regularly need to be renewed, get our priorities realigned, have our perspec- tive tweaked, and be remade into truly human beings.
Why not build your own “perfect summer” list of activities this next week? Then, make time for these important, but rarely urgent items. Because, as we all know, the summer — like life itself — can pass in the blink of an eye.