I recall the Monday after Christmas two years ago when I had to work for part of the day to meet a few clients, tie up loose ends for the year and do some preparation for the coming year. It was challenging to be pulled away from my family over the holidays, especially with my easily bored sons out of school during the break. I felt guilty, but I needed to be a good steward of my business and financial responsibilities and get some of my work done.
The last meeting of the day was to be a late lunch with a new client prospect which had been scheduled several weeks ago. He called me 30 minutes before our appointment to apologize and say he could not make it. Suppressing my mild irritation, we rescheduled our meeting for another day. I found myself with an unexpected extra hour. What to do? Well, I had a pile of paperwork back at my office to be handled. Perhaps I could leave messages for some of my clients or send them emails in an effort to start filling up my meeting calendar after the holidays. Maybe I could find a quiet place and write that new business blog post which has been on my mind for weeks.
I did none of these things and went home instead.
Maybe it was guilt or the prompting of the Holy Spirit, but nothing at that very moment seemed as important as going home to my wife and sons. As I pulled into the driveway, I saw my (then) 13 year old practicing his jump shot with the new basketball he received for Christmas. Without any words being exchanged, we took turns shooting baskets for half an hour. We were simply a father and son having fun together and enjoying being with each other.
Then, he broke the silence. “Dad, why did that kid commit suicide?” My son’s jarring question was referring to a local high school student who had killed himself several weeks before which our family had discussed over dinner one night right after the tragedy. After talking about the possible reasons why this young man had chosen to end his own life, we talked about how difficult it is for kids today to deal with the enormous pressure schools, peers, society and even their own families place on them. I think he was relieved to talk about this topic (he said it had been on his mind for days) and seemed comforted by our conversation. I was very grateful at that moment to be reassured that my son takes our Catholic faith seriously and understands the wonderful recourse we have to prayer and the intercession of the saints, especially our Blessed Mother, when we face difficulties. I am especially glad that he felt comfortable talking to me about this painful subject rather than tackling it on his own.
Maybe only other parents will understand, but I was even more grateful to be there for my son at that moment when he needed to get something off his chest and hear guidance and an explanation from someone he trusted. I would have missed this wonderful opportunity if I had opted for one of the various non-critical tasks I could have chosen instead. There is a profound lesson here that really hit home for me and possibly many of the readers of this post: we need to be more mindful of the choices we make about where we spend our time.
As we begin 2017, I encourage all of us to put more thinking and discernment into our busy schedules and recognize that we may need to reset our priorities. Are we letting the unimportant crowd out the important? Are we missing opportunities like the one I was blessed to have with my son because of paperwork, catching up on emails or returning one more phone call? Do we control our calendars or do our calendars control us? Do we have a disproportionate focus on the pursuit of worldly treasure when we could be spending more time in prayer, at Mass, with our loved ones or in the service of others in need?
One way to be more thoughtful and discerning about time and priorities is to pray the Daily Examen, which I have mentioned before in past blog posts. In the Examen, we are challenged five times a day to pull away from the world for just a few minutes to pray and reflect on where we are and what we are doing…and discern the lessons God might have for us in the people and situations we encounter throughout the day. This excellent tool has been a mainstay in my prayer life and I hope everyone will consider using it.
Just a few days ago in a conversation with my son, I witnessed for myself in a simple choice I made the incredible difference an hour can make. As we look forward to another year, what difference will our choices about how we spend our time have on our relationships with Christ, the practice of our faith, the time we spend with our loved ones and the important causes in need of our assistance? Remember that one of the most meaningful gifts we can give to others doesn’t require fancy wrapping and a big red bow.
This gift is simply called time.
Editor’s Note: Editor’s Note: This post is adapted from Randy Hain’s fifth book, Journey to Heaven: A Road Map for Catholic Men (Emmaus Road Publishing) is available through Amazon.com, EmmausRoad.org or found in your local Catholic bookstore. Also, Journey to Heaven has been recently been translated into Spanish! The book can be found as Camino al Cielo: Una Guia Practica Para El Hombre Catolico on Amazon. All of Randy Hain’s books are available through Amazon.