1/01/2013

Infectious authenticity


Coffee Pot Rock, Sedona, Arizona
With my first day of the year just under wraps, a nagging thought pushed me toward my computer. A voice in my head told me: You will do well if you plan something for the year to come. Knowing myself, it sounded like I needed to take charge of my attitudes, and turn them into a blessing.
         Every new year on January 1, most everyone creates a list of promises to work on. Admittedly, my promises are created to easily transform into feelings of guilt when the good intentions falter. My guilt, and not the fulfillment of promises, has an easier start and finish in my everydayness. So, January quickly turns into February, and so on, with acting on promises turns rusty.
         An experience from a few years ago come to mind.
         We had a dear friend who lived in Sedona, Arizona. She invited us frequently to enjoy “God’s country,” as she called it. Mary Schnack passed away in February last year, but apart from professional interests and collaborations, what remains in our memories are many a moment we spent trekking the red-rock trails of Sedona's God’s country.
         Mary lived just under the Coffee Pot Rock landmark, and a short distance from St. John Vianney Church. It was a chance visit, which provided a reflection as I observed an after Christmas service.
         What’s vivid in my memory is the sound of a nearly empty church, its silence broken by hard-hitting steps of a minister walking from the back of the church nave toward the altar. The sound meant he knew his destination.
         Soon my eyes were drawn to the space associated with the language of the steps, revealing a well-worn-out cowboy boots with a hint of jeans showing slightly below his vestments.
         It was not as much what I saw, but what a short, bearded man in his forties shared in his equally short homily. Later, I learned that many a Sedonian refers to him as J-C, and his presence is felt outside the walls of the church. Stories abound making him a fixture in the local lore.
         A memory of what I heard that morning jumped at me on this New Year’s morning. Father J-C told a story about a good-for-nothing seminary mate of his, who phoned him wondering if J-C lives by what he preaches.
         All of a sudden I was confronted by a lot of stuff, the preacher told the congregation.  
         “What pillow do you have under your head? It’s soft, isn’t it? And what’s your duvet like? Warm, right?”
         Whatever else was said next it was set against the importance of being rather than having, all seasoned with personal honesty.
         My nagging thought of this morning is this: Make yourself useful in the lives of those who will cross onto your path in 2013.
         Instead of waiting for someone else to be love I am inviting myself to make the world better by getting out of my shell in order to become more responsive to the disenfranchised and the needy.
         That’s a challenge I am throwing at myself for 2013.
         And if a wish is in order to all who are pushing the borders with me, may your authenticity become infectious!