Here’s a perfect way to start 2017!

by Father Mark Goldasich

Sheldon Cohen. Wow, what a guy!

I’m sure that you’ve heard plenty about Sheldon, but just in case you’ve been living under a rock, here’s the scoop:

A man once walked to 5th Ave. and 42nd St. in New York City during a downpour. Somehow, he managed to flag down a cab immediately. As he jumped into the taxi, the cabbie said, “Perfect timing. You’re just like Sheldon.”

“Who?” said the passenger.

“Sheldon Cohen. Now, there’s a guy who did everything right,” said the cabbie. “Like my cab being vacant during a rainstorm. It would have happened like that for Sheldon every single time.”

“Well, no one is perfect,” said the passenger. “There are always a few clouds over everybody.”

“Not Sheldon,” replied the cabbie. “He was a terrific athlete. He could have gone on the pro tour in tennis or golf. He sang like an opera baritone and danced like a Broadway star. He was handsome and sophisticated, more than George Clooney. He had a better physique than Schwartzenegger in his prime.”

“And another thing: Sheldon somehow knew exactly how to make women happy,” the cabbie continued. “And he had a memory like a computer — could remember everybody’s birthday! He knew all about wine and which fork to eat with. Heck, he could fix anything, too! Not like me! I change a fuse and the whole neighborhood blacks out!”

“Incredible,” said the passenger. “No wonder you remember him!”

“Well,” admitted the cabbie, “I never actually met Sheldon.”

“Then how do you know so much about him?” asked the passenger.

“After he died,” sighed the cabbie, “I married his wife.”

Uh-oh. Sometimes our memories don’t quite match reality. Before we take Sheldon’s wife to task, however, we’ve got to admit that we often do the same thing when we recall the “good ole days.” Remember? When summertime weather was always pleasant, there were always friends to play with, and we never fought or skinned our knees or did anything that would get us into trouble.

And remember those carefree days of college? There were never tedious required classes, demanding course loads, mind-boggling exams or endless papers. Yeah, right!

The more time that goes by, in fact, the more “selective” it seems our memories become.

There is, however, a great solution to keeping things real. The advice comes from the Gospel of Luke that we heard on New Year’s Day where it said: “And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (2:19).

Taking time to reflect truly does make life richer and more honest. That’s probably what drives so many newspapers and magazines at the end of each year to do a “look back.” It not only puts the past year to rest, but helps keep things real — by recalling both the joys and the sorrows, the successes and the failures.

Several years ago, one of my parishioners gave me a sheet of paper that I’ve used each January since. Entitled “New Year’s Eve Reflection,” it consists of questions to close out an old year and welcome in the new. Even though New Year’s Eve has passed, these questions are valuable to ponder in this still fresh 2017. I’d recommend writing down your answers in order to have a lasting peek at your life in this present time. Here are the questions:

  1. What were the memorable events of this past year that captured your attention? In your home and family? In your work? In your community?
  2. Who were the significant people in your life?
  3. What sources instructed or challenged your heart and mind?
  4. Did you have recurring questions you struggled with during the year? What were they? Any answers? What questions are you still facing in this new year?
  5. In what areas of your life did you grow? Were these areas related to your joy or your pain?
  6. What are your regrets? How would you do things differently? What did you learn?
  7. What service did you give to others that was the most meaningful? Receive from others?
  8. What images come to mind for your relationship with God at this point in your life?
  9. Do you have a verse, image, word or poem to guide you in the new year?
  10. What is it you wish for? How you would answer Jesus’ questions: “What are you looking for?” and “What do you want me to do for you?”

Take some quiet time — it’s there, but you might have to be creative to find it — to consider your life in light of these questions.

Naturally, you won’t be able to answer them perfectly. Just do your best.

After all, you’re no Sheldon Cohen!

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