Let the Wind unwind your work

by Father Mark Goldasich

Happy Catholic Press Month!

Every February, I step back and reflect on why we at The Leaven do what we do. To be honest, it’s a lot of work — physically and mentally. Obviously, stories get assigned and written. Then, the avalanche of decisions begins: which stories to include and their length, on which pages to put them, selecting the best pictures to accompany the words, editing, proofreading, fact checking, making corrections, proofreading again and then “massaging” the pages before electronically sending them to the printer.

After each issue is “put to bed,” the staff gets a few precious moments to catch its collective breath. Yet always in the back of our minds that next issue — with 16 hungry pages — is looming, waiting to be fed. And on a deadline, to boot.

But you know what? Even after some 27 years of being the editor, I wouldn’t trade this job (or my staff!) for all the money in the world.

Most challenging for me personally is writing this column. I have to confess that everything else on this page is finished days before this column. In fact, Mark My Words is, 10 times out of nine, the very last hole in the entire paper to be filled each week.

I blame my habitual procrastination on a Jewish rabbi who confounded his congregation by seeming to always have the right story for the right occasion. His “secret” was simple: He didn’t wait to have some occasion and then search frantically to find a story to fit. Rather, he said, he read many stories and waited for the occasion to present itself.

That’s pretty much how I operate. Like most journalists, I’m an avid reader of newspapers, magazines, websites and books. I’m constantly scribbling down notes on things that catch my attention. Those ideas then clutter up my brain, waiting for some occasion to present itself.

If all that’s as clear as mud, maybe this story from a woman named Alice can explain it better. She writes:

My 10-year-old great-nephew came for a visit one hot July weekend. I enticed him to stay inside by joining him in a Nintendo game. After being mercilessly defeated, I suggested that we relax awhile. I collapsed into my favorite recliner to let my neck muscles relax and my ego recover from such a beating. He slipped out of the room, but dashed in moments later.

“Look, Auntie Alice,” he said as he ran over to the chair where I was catching a few moments of peace and quiet. “I found a kite. Could we go outside and fly it?”

“I’m sorry, Tripper,” I said. “The wind is not blowing today. The kite won’t fly.”

But that kid was determined. “I think it’s windy enough. I can get it to fly,” he said, as he zipped out the back door.

I peeked through the venetian blinds to watch determination in action. Up and down the yard he ran, pulling the kite attached to a small length of string. The plastic kite, proudly displaying a picture of Batman, remained about shoulder level. He ran back and forth as hard as his little legs would carry him, looking back hopefully at the kite trailing behind. After about 10 minutes of unsuccessful determination, he came back in.

I asked, “How did it go?”

“Fine,” he said, not wanting to admit defeat. “I got it to fly some.” As he walked past me to return the kite to the closet shelf, he mumbled, “I guess I’ll have to wait for the wind.”

At that moment, I heard a Voice speak to me: “Alice, sometimes you’re just like that. You want to do it your way instead of waiting for the Wind.”

And the Voice was right. How easy it is to use only our own efforts to accomplish what we want to do. We wait for the Wind only after we’ve done all we can and have exhausted our own strength. We must learn to rely on God in the first place! (Adapted from an anonymous online story by “Alice.”)

Writing over a thousand columns here has taught me to start, not with my own efforts, but to wait for the Wind. That’s why, when it’s time to write, the first thing I do is take a nap! Before nodding off, I ask the Holy Spirit to sift my jumbled thoughts, just as that mighty wind hovered over the waters of chaos in Genesis. More often than not, after that little rest, a “forgotten” story will pop into my mind or some random thought will “connect” in a way that I’d not previously thought of. Then I’m off and writing.

No matter what your work in life, Alice’s advice is spot on: Rely on God first. But always remember: While the Wind will certainly provide the inspiration, it’s up to you to supply the perspiration!

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