What really matters



Mom turned 93 in September. She usually remembers most of us, although occasionally she mixes up names or spouses. She lives in a beautiful memory unit in Zionsville, Indiana. All that is left of her possessions are a bed, a few dressers, some of her paintings and a chair. Reflecting on the diminished capacity of a once-vibrant wife, mother, nurse and friend, I was struck by the thought that, when we are stripped of all that society purports as important, we discover what truly matters – our belief in God and our life of loving service to others.

As a child, I was the queen of fairness. I have a few grandchildren with the same attribute. I wanted equality for all; and in my generation, that did not always work out. We two daughters were expected to help with all the housework every Saturday morning while five brothers mowed our suburban yard.

At the age of 13, I held my first solo protest when I dramatically refused to clean my brothers’ bedroom unless they were expected to clean mine – an idea that didn’t even strike me as pragmatic. Fortunately, my parents, being rational people, did acquiesce to the obvious inequity; and the boys’ room proved worse for the acknowledgement.

There was a movie, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” in which the main character ages in reverse. Beginning as an older man, over time he reverts back to a baby. I have often thought the world would be a kinder, more peaceful place if we had the wisdom of life experiences from the beginning. But, I like God’s idea better.

Most of us must repeatedly trip over our mistakes to come to a greater wisdom. Along my life’s journey, I have learned some valuable lessons.

I have learned that if I take the time to admit my faults and work to correct them (an ongoing battle), life becomes simpler. I have learned that listening first and speaking later diverts many problems and tears.

I have learned that fair does not necessarily mean equal. In fact, when focusing on what we don’t have, we often lose sight of the blessings given. Gratitude is the antidote.

I believe the love of money has led to a world governed by greed. It is the greatest evil and the reason so many live in poverty today. When our goal in life is to outshine others with our worldly possessions, we lose sight of the values that bring joy - generosity and love.

I believe jealousy and envy damage relationships. Being unhappy because another receives the recognition or the prize does not change the fact. Let us learn to rejoice in others’ good fortune and to also be aware pf our many blessings, many unearned.

I have found that being generous with time, talent and treasures returns to us, as Jesus promised, seven-fold. St. Francis’ wisdom, “It is in giving, that we receive,” holds true.

The day we realize that everyone carries a cross is the day that ours becomes lighter. Focusing on aiding others in their sorrows creates a solidarity with all mankind and alleviates some of our own worry and pain.

I understand that many of life’s tragedies are unexplainable. Why does a young person die? Why is a child born in an abusive home? Why did that plane go down? But listening to this year’s resolution, “The Bible in a Year” podcast, I am convinced that just as God has a plan for his chosen people, the Jewish nation, he has a plan for all of us. If we are patient and trust Him, someday – maybe even while on this earth – we will gain some insight. God wishes us to be happy; more importantly, He desires that we use our gifts to build up His kingdom.

Finally, I have learned that the Truth is found in the Mass, in prayer, in the bible, in the lives of the saints, in adoration and in readings inspired by God’s word. It is our choice as to whether we pursue Truth or allow ourselves to be led by the fleeting, secular ideas of the world.