This book shows what’s the matter

Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. He has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.

by Father Mark Goldasich

Thank God for Charles M. Schulz, creator of the Peanuts comic strip. Not only did he give us memorable characters, but often Peanuts imparted great life lessons.

In one strip, Charlie Brown is at bat and gets called out on strikes . . . again. He slumps over to the bench and says, “Rats! I’ll never be a big-league player. I just don’t have it! All my life I’ve dreamed of playing in the big leagues, but I know I’ll never make it!”

Lucy tries to console him, “Charlie Brown, you’re thinking too far ahead. What you need to do is set yourself more immediate goals.”

He asks, “Immediate goals?”

“Yes,” Lucy replies. “Start with this next inning when you go out to pitch. See if you can walk out to the mound without falling down!” (Found in “Illustrations Unlimited,” by James S. Hewett, editor.)

Now, that’s truly an immediate goal.

It’s hard to believe that kids have been in school nearly a month. I feel that a new school year is a chance for adults to learn something as well. Too often, we older folks let life just carry us along, rather than charting our unique course.

If you’re up for some reading and reflection, let me introduce you to Chris Lowney, author of the delightful book “Make Today Matter.” Lowney is a former Jesuit seminarian and managing director at J.P. Morgan & Co. on three continents. He’s a motivational speaker on topics of leadership, corporate ethics and decision-making.

In other words, he’s been around the block and knows what he’s talking about.

His little book of 109 pages (Chicago: Loyola Press, 2018; $17.95) proposes “10 Habits for a Better Life (and World).” It’s about no longer straying in “the hinterlands of regrets (the past) or dreams (the future).” The book helps each of us to simply live in the present by pursuing immediate goals that help “build a better life one day — one moment — at a time.”

I love to read with a highlighter in hand and this book provided plenty of food for thought. I especially liked that each “habit chapter” ended with a section called “Make It Personal.”

There, the author invites readers through a couple of questions to discover ways to apply each of the 10 habits in their lives.

Lowney notes that crises, like the recent Hurricane Dorian, tend to bring out the best in people wanting to assist those in need. He wonders why, then, we humans can’t rise to the occasion every single day. His 10 incredibly simple habits want to help do that.

Here are a few of those habits:

• Point Out the Way

• Bring Big Heart Every Day

• Don’t Win the Race: Contribute to the (Human) Race

• Keep Walking up the Hill and down the Hill: Persevere

• Answer This Hurting World’s Call for Happy Warriors

The habits can be summarized in a sort of “holy trinity”: “showing gratitude, being altruistic and exhibiting a strong sense of life purpose.”

Lowney doesn’t present some lofty, complicated, philosophical theories, but instead peppers each habit with the story of someone who lives it out.

You’ll meet high school teacher Father Steve Duffy, emergency room physician Dr. Hughes, tireless worker with the Venezuelan poor Sister Saturnina, Soviet gulag survivor Jesuit Father Walter Ciszek and Charles, a hospital custodian.

And you’ll come across great lines like: “Gratitude is like cholera. Both are highly contagious, potent and spread person to person. But where cholera induces death, gratitude induces happiness.”

The author highlights an overarching theme of the book by quoting poet Nikki Giovanni: “We’re better than we think we are, but not as good as we can be.”

Reading, or better yet, living these habits will send you far along that path of being a better person and definitely a more authentic Christian.

Lowney advises: “Don’t wait for the golden, world-changing opportunity; extract gold from the opportunity at hand.”

Finally, the author pulls all of the habits together by encouraging a daily, simplified practice of the Jesuit “examen,” starting first with reminding yourself of what you’re grateful for.

Lowney certainly practices what he preaches. You see, he’s donating all of the proceeds from this book to support schools in impoverished communities.

And that, Charlie Brown, is how you make today matter.

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