"Do now, do now, what you will wish to have done when your moment comes to die." [St. Angela Merici]

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

When Solving One Problem Creates a New One

By Micky Wolf
Blank screens. All. Of. Them.

The computer monitor. The television. The tablet. You get the idea.

My beloved and I can function quite well without our array of electronic devices. That is, and unless, I’m in the middle of editing another chapter of my book or he’s balancing on the edge of the sofa watching the waning seconds of the nail biting double-overtime of our favorite college football team. (Yep, the guys with the buckeyes on their helmets.)

It didn’t take long to diagnose the problem—our cable/Internet was down. Forging our way through multiple phone menus and prompts, we scheduled an appointment for the necessary repairs.

The next day a pleasant enough fellow showed up. In a matter of minutes he determined a key piece of equipment needed replaced, however, fixing it was more of an issue. After three hours and numerous trips between the basement, my second floor study (where the base equipment is located), and the box mounted on the outside of the house, everything was up and running.

Until we discovered it wasn’t. The land line was deader than the proverbial door nail.

We looked at one another and groaned. It was too late to wave for help as he was disappearing down the street without leaving any contact information should there be, in his words—“if you have any problems, let us know.”

“Maybe you could figure out what’s going on—or not—by looking in the outside box?”

“Great idea. Got nothing to lose,” my beloved replied, pulling on his jacket. In a couple of minutes he returned, the expression on his face a clear indication the news was not good.

Turns out that in fixing the cable problem, the technician had cut our land lines. Severed two of them clean through. As a consequence of his actions, we had to go through the entire contact process again, which resulted in the second technician showing up the next day to repair the phone line.

We’ll likely never know why the first fellow did what he did. Could be any of several explanations.

He assumed we didn’t have a land line as we’d to used cell phones to communicate with one another prior to his arrival.

He was in a hurry. (It was a Sunday afternoon.)

He was distracted and had other things on his mind beside the task at hand.

He was expecting a repair job, not what turned out to be the equivalent of a “new install.”

And then it occurred to me—how easy it is for any of us to make more problems for ourselves or others by slip-sliding our way into a similar predicament.

Choosing to assume we have all the facts in any given situation.

Hurrying to finish an activity (including prayer or quiet time) in order to move on to the next thing.

Allowing distractions to divert our focus and attention from the task—or person—who needs our full attention.

Harboring expectations that people or things will act or function in the way we think they ought to behave or perform.

Most of the time assuming, hurrying, being distracted, or having expectations does not result in a life-threatening outcome. On the other hand, it doesn’t take much for most of us to realize we live in a world increasingly overrun with these attitudes and behaviors.

For whatever reason the first technician created a new problem, I’m convinced he didn’t do so with intent. Which is usually the case with you and me.

All the more reason we need to remind ourselves to not forget or overlook the importance of maintaining a clear head and a nonjudgmental heart—problem or not.   

Which potential problem-creating-behavior am I prone to following?

How do I feel about taking time to assure my attention is where it needs to be?

How do I feel when the actions of another person create a new problem for me?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Being Thankful—When Real Gratitude Means Loving the Unlovely

By Micky Wolf

The first real sign of trouble may be the word unlovely. Why? Scripture (and Jesus) make it pretty clear, in similar language and on more than one occasion, that we best not make a decision to love—or not—on the basis of what appeals to us, or makes us feel good.

Given the nature of our (human) nature, deciding who or what is lovely means—according to our criteria—some things or some people aren’t. Which means we teeter on falling into the precipice of prejudice and judgment by even making the choice to attach that descriptor to any person, or any object in the first place.

Consider how the idea of what’s lovely or unlovely is unique to each of us.

Lovely sunflower…yet unlovely if you don’t like yellow.

Lovely lobster…yet unlovely if you have an allergy to seafood.

Lovely Aunt Martha…yet unlovely if she’s best known for endlessly repeating her orthodox views on the value of eating all things organic when your budget barely covers the cost of basic nutrition and food.

The good news is that the unlovely state doesn’t exist all the time. Nor is there reason to believe it need be permanent.

The truth is when it comes to the moment of hug or shun, you and I have the wherewithal to make a difference—for the better.

Maybe it’s because I had an up-close lesson on this whole topic in recent days.

Number one…of being reminded some of the people closest to me can be a real challenge to love based on my sense of how one ought to live and behave and;

Number two…of being reminded that within the small circle of family and friends I care about, (and who have made it clear, care about me) I am, without a doubt, that (unlovely) person to at least one, if not more of them, at any given moment.

It helps to remember it's all about perspective. Personal history and life experiences. Likes. Dislikes. Vanilla or chocolate. Beef or chicken. Republican, Democrat, or Independent. Black skin, white skin, wrinkled skin.

One thing I know for sure to be true through all these many years—loving others most like myself is easier. But as Christians, we are called to a deeper, more compassionate way of living.

We are invited to come face-to-face with the reality that it is only through our openness of heart to love those most unlike or different than ourselves that we truly understand what it means to love, and be loved in return.

What better opportunity for that to happen than around our tables and amid our family gatherings this Thanksgiving and holiday season?