by Father Mark Goldasich
I’m afraid to drive east on I-70. Somewhere near the 78th St. exit in Kansas City, Kan., there’s this billboard. And I think its message
is directed at me. I can’t tell you the exact wording on it, because I can only bring myself to glance in its direction as I pass by . . . quickly. If I read it too closely, I suspect it will say: “Yes, Mark, this means you!”
The billboard is from Goodwill. It shows a pile of clothes stacked to the left and reads something like: If you haven’t worn it in a year, it’s time to get rid of it. I’m starting to wonder if my mom, a parishioner, or some Leaven reader paid for that message to get my attention and motivate — or shame — me into finally getting serious about “unstuffing” my life.
Not so coincidentally, three other events have brought that message of “enough is enough” home to me. The first was in late April as I was packing for Ireland. I discovered that I have a closet full of clothes. I only wear about 20 percent of them. I ignore the other 80 percent because most of them last fit me when Paul VI was pope. Apparently, I’m hanging on to these clothes because . . . yeah, there is no good reason.
Event No. 2 was my inability to unearth a note that I’d scribbled down “somewhere” during my Ireland trip to use in this column. It was an interest- ing tidbit about a weatherman (who might have been James Martin Stagg) who persuaded Gen. Eisenhower to postpone D-Day from June 5 to June 6, 1944, due to inclement weather conditions at the landing sites. This
weatherman might be buried in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin or at least has a plaque there in his memory. But I wouldn’t swear to any of it.
The third disconcerting event hap- pened just last Sunday as I was heading out to a Sporting KC match. Because
it was an afternoon game, I was slathering on the Coppertone Sport Breathable Sunscreen, which it turned out I didn’t need after all. That was providential, because I noticed that the expiration date on the sunscreen, so carefully preserved in my medicine cabinet, was June 2011. I suspect that meant its “breathable” days were over, it was no longer ultra sweat or waterproof and that its UVA/UVB protection was no longer.
It’s tiresome to live so crushed by stuff — things you don’t use, things you can’t even find when you need them, or things that you simply need to toss. With the famous D-Day anniversary on the horizon — and prompted by that billboard and the events detailed above — I’m planning my own D-day, which in military terms merely refers to “an unnamed day on which an operation or offensive is to be launched.”
Well, I’m hereby naming the day — June 1, 2012 — and the offensive — Operation DOT (Donate-Organize-Toss). Preliminary weather conditions appear to be favorable. The first part of the operation is codenamed CCC or “clothes closet cleanse.” Charitable organizations should be on the look- out for an influx of clean, absolutely wearable clothing; “husky” consumers, however, need not get their hopes up.
I recently watched a brief YouTube video of a guy donating clothes to Goodwill. (OK, it was a really slow night.) Several times he expressed gratitude to God as he boxed up items. This guy had the right idea and has inspired me. His thankfulness was twofold: first, he was grateful for the use of the items that he was donating; second, he felt blessed to have more than enough to be able to give some- thing away.
As I look around my home, I’m humbled. How often I take for granted the roof over my head, air-conditioning, comfortable furniture, electricity, clean water and plenty to eat. I rarely thank God for the health to be able to see items to donate, have the dexterity to pack them up and the strength to lug the boxes to the car. And I almost never utter a prayer of thanksgiving for reliable and available transportation or for the resources to keep my car running. I’m embarrassed, too, not only at having so much, but because I find it so easy to complain and be so unaware of these tremendous blessings.
Today is D minus 2, just a couple of days before launching Operation DOT. I’ll let you know by summer’s end how things have gone. I’m reasonably certain, though, that my house — and life — will feel a lot less stuffy.