It’s How You Choose

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

The other day I was reading one of those emails that is sent by a friend because he found it inspiring. Am I the only person who is amazed at the volume of stuff that is circulating out there?

Anyway, I do not always choose to read Bill’s emails – sometimes it’s a time thing or a mood thing or a need to feel the tiny satisfaction of pressing the delete button. I read this one, though.

This one was about a man who was always positive – never did he seem to have a bad day or a lousy reaction to circumstances in his life. Now this always “up” attitude both amazed and bothered others! And finally, one friend approached the man and asked him how it is that he always is so unbothered by life’s challenging moments …

The explanation given was thoughtful and insightful.

The man said he had arrived at a point in his life where he realized that everything is about choice. While one cannot control everything that happens, one does have a choice of how to respond. He decided that he would look for the positive in whatever happened and choose to focus on that. He explained that he knew there were a lot of problems and issues in his life and in the world, and he was not ignoring them; rather he was choosing to live through them, finding the good that he is certain is within each moment.

It sounds so simple, maybe even naïve! And yet, as I have pondered the story, I recognized that in myself. More often than not, I react to a moment without really, consciously choosing how I wish to react. And my reaction can draw me in a direction that is not positive for me or others. It is that extra moment of conscious awareness to recognize what is happening and to deliberately choose how I wish to respond – yes, that for me is the element I often by-pass.

In a conversation with a group of young adults the other evening, we discussed the intensity of their lives, fast-paced and time pressured. It seems that there is less free time – many are scheduled into scripted lives and feel the tension and stress of very limited available time.

Family life seems no different: parents often speak of the hectic pace of daily life where children have so many activities and commitments that a typical calendar is crammed with appointments and “to-do’s”, hanging on to the refrigerator door – by a thread.

I do not recall living at any other time or in any other place where I have heard so often how busy people are. And so I wonder, why do we choose to live with such intensity? Or, do we even forget that we have that choice to make? One response to this is to say, “But there is so much that has to be done …”! Yet again, who made that choice to put so much on the “gotta do all this stuff plate”?

There is a beautiful scene from the Old Testament where God tell Moses to go to the people and invite them to make a choice: “Today I set before you life and death – to whichever you stretch out your hand – you will have”. Every new day, even before we put our feet on the floor, we have a choice of how we wish to live that day – in a life-giving way or not. No one else can make that choice for us– it is ours alone to make.

God is very clear on how we should live each day: choosing life. Of necessity, that means treating ourselves and others with respect, patience, kindness, humor and love. Indeed that is precisely how God treats me and you every day – maybe we should make the same choice.

Fr. Ronan