by Father Mark Goldasich
Can you describe your life in six words? This was the challenge issued in 2006 by the editors of Smith magazine, a story-telling publication.
The question hit such a chord with readers that the unexpected avalanche of responses the magazine received was eventually compiled into a book fittingly entitled, “Not Quite What I Was Planning,” edited by Rachel Fershleiser and Larry Smith.
A few weeks ago, I put the same question to the people in my parish. I expanded the idea a little, asking parishioners to construct a six-word life motto or a six-word autobiography or life description.
One of my own hit me out of the blue. It’s written on a 4×6 file card, so that I can’t easily avoid seeing the words. Much to my surprise, when I counted up the words, there were six of them, perfect for my life’s description.
Those six words are: “Meant to” don’t pick no cotton.
I realize that the sentence is grammatically incorrect, but the words didn’t originate with me. I read them a long time ago, somewhere, and they made such an impression on me that I wrote them down and have been challenged by them ever since.
It should be no secret to long-time readers of this column that its writer is a world-class procrastinator. (That probably explains why I’m typing out these words very late on Tuesday night, the absolute latest time that I can turn this in and still have it printed in this week’s issue.)
In other words, I’m the “meant to” kid. I meant to write this column over the past weekend, but other things intervened (like my parish’s bazaar and turkey dinner) and I just didn’t get it done. While it’s nice to have a good intention, that does not automatically translate into action. I can “mean to” head out into the fields all I want, but if I never go, the cotton remains untouched.
After my homily, a number of parishioners shared their six-word motto or life description with me. One, in fact, wrote hers down immediately on a scrap of paper and handed it to me after Mass: Do everything for love of God.
Another hedged a bit on the six-word limit, but it’s a good start:
Multiple screw-ups, small successes . . . God, have mercy!
There’s something really addictive (and fun) about creating six-word life descriptions. Not only do I keep scribbling down possibilities for my own, I’ve also found myself coming up with some for a few Old Testament characters:
• Eve: Don’t ever listen to a snake.
• Noah: Too many twos to tend to.
• Workers on the last day at the Tower of Babel: Bye! Ciao! Zbogom! Adios! Kwaheri! Shalom!
• The Israelites during the Exodus: Forty years wandering? Ask directions, please!
• Samson: Keep those scissors away from me.
So, what about you?
If you were given just six words to describe your life, what would they be? I’d be interested in hearing your creations. This would be a great reason, in fact, to check out our new Web site at: www.theleaven.com. Go to the “Contact Us” tab, hit “Story Ideas” and fill out the information there. Put your six-word masterpiece in the “brief synopsis” box. Or feel free to drop me an e-mail directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, let me leave you with my real six-word life description. Since the number six in the Scriptures signifies incompleteness, what better way to describe me — procrastination, humor, sinfulness, and all — than: God isn’t done with me yet!