Column: Time to put things into perspective?

by Father Mark Goldasich

How well do you live life? While pondering your answer, here’s a little something to chew on:

If you can start the day without caffeine . . . If you can always be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains . . . If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles . . . If you can eat the same food every day and be grateful for it…If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time . . . If you can take criticism and blame without resentment . . . If you can resist treating a rich friend better than a poor friend . . . If you can face the world without lies and deceit . . . If you can overlook it when those you love take it out on you when, through no fault of yours, something goes wrong . . . If you can conquer tension without medical help . . . If you can honestly say that deep in your heart you have no prejudice against creed, color, religion or politics . . . Then, my friend, you are almost as good as your dog! (Found in “Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations & Quotes” by Robert J. Morgan.)

Sort of puts things into perspective, doesn’t it?

It’s helpful occasionally to examine our perspective and adjust our priorities as needed. Built into the church’s calendar each year is one such time — Lent — but there’s another time when we also step back and do this: during a time of illness, whether our own or another’s.

You might remember about this time last year I had an unexpected hospitalization. I’d gone to my doctor for a routine checkup, and blood work revealed that my hemoglobin was low. A retest a couple of days later yielded even lower results. That prompted a three-day hospital stay that involved numerous tests, a few units of blood…andplenty of time to think about how quickly things can change, almost in the blink of an eye.

I’m not the same person I was when I entered the hospital last year. Thank God, I’m healed physically and in better overall health. But my perspective is forever changed. I don’t take any day’s health for granted, I’m fanatical about taking my medication, and I make sure that I appreciate how much of a gift life is.

Be sure to check out this week’s center spread on pages 8 and 9 if you’ve not already done so. It’s the story of a couple of people — this time a Benedictine nun and an archdiocesan priest — who had their life perspectives changed by unexpected medical emergencies.

The story is too good to ruin by giving away all the details here. It’s enough to say that these people, Sister Rose Marie Stallbaumer and Father Gary Pennings, appreciate more deeply now both the fragility of life and the need to savor every moment of it.

September is fittingly set aside as National Recovery Month. After the casualness that often marks the summer, this season of fall challenges us to return to a more disciplined life. While this recovery moth is primarily intended for people who have struggled with and conquered alcohol or drug addiction issues in the past, or for helping those still struggling, it can also be an invitation to all of us to examine any unhealthy, but less obvious, addictions we might have.

That might be an addiction to busyness, which leaves no time for God, prayer, reflection or simply being. Perhaps our addiction is that of being uncharitable, of feeling perfectly free to condemn, demonize and dismiss anyone who dares to disagree with us. Some might be addicted to money, influence, or power. Others are addicted to a fear that prevents them from ever taking steps to change their situation or the world. Many are addicted to a pessimism that says even God can’t do anything about this or that issue.

All these toxic behaviors rob life of its richness and skew our perspective, poisoning the mind, heart and soul. And they are highly contagious.

Thankfully, there are plenty of simple and free cures.

First, do something that heals your heart: Enjoy a freshly brewed cup of good coffee, spend time in an empty church, immerse yourself in a good book or hobby, write in a journal.

Secondly, practice loving others by recovering a sense of community and service: Contact a neglected friend or neighbor, run an errand for a shut-in, donate food to a shelter, or volunteer time at your parish.

But don’t wait for some medical crisis to put things into perspective for you. Begin today to do those things that help you to savor life and at least be as virtuous as your dog!

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