When I was a senior at the Catholic high school I attended, my class went to a religious retreat somewhere. I don’t remember any of the specifics about the retreat as far as any spiritual benefits. Remember, I was in high school so I was more concerned about my make-up being applied perfectly than I was about saving my soul.
I have two memories of that retreat: The first is that the priest who led the retreat was a young man and when he said Mass, he passed around a loaf of bread from which each of us tore a piece. Given the Catholic belief about bread and wine, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t supposed to do that, but its impact on me has lasted 45 years. The second thing I remember is that there was an exercise in which we broke into small groups, and were asked to match a type of flower to each person in the group. I’m not sure of the purpose of that exercise. But I remember 45 years later that the flower name attributed to me was the daisy. The group proclaimed that the daisy matched my sunny personality…..
Fast forward 30-some years to 2003, when I bought my yellow Volkswagen bug. I knew I wanted a bright color, and I had it narrowed down to red or yellow. I eventually went with yellow because somewhere I had heard that cops stop more red cars than any other color. My guess would be that cops are less likely to stop a Volkswagen bug than any other car, but I have no data to prove that theory. Anyway, the first time I drove the car to my office, I parked it in the garage. As I got out, the director of Human Resources happened to be in the garage. She complimented me on my new car, and went on to say that she has never seen a car match a person’s personality like that yellow bug matched mine. I was surprised, and asked her why. You’re so cheerful, she told me.
I am amused when I think back to those two experiences, because I feel so far removed from joyful these days. It’s not that my life isn’t a great one full of wonderful people and experiences and blessings. It’s about my personal outlook, which often isn’t very optimistic. It seems like fear has replaced joy in my palate of emotions. I’m more cheerful than Eyore but less cheerful than Big Bird…..
St. Paul tells us that no matter what we are doing in our life, we should do everything for the glory of God. It only makes sense that if you live your life giving glory to God, you will be filled with joy. And if you’re filled with joy, you will please others by your optimistic spirit. It’s hard to be joyful and unkind at the same time.
Lent begins this week on Ash Wednesday, which falls on Valentine’s Day this year. Instead of “giving up” something, this year I’m going to concentrate on two things in particular. First, I’m going to remove myself from as much social media as I can. Specifically, I’m giving up Facebook, Instagram, and (gulp) Pinterest. I don’t have to give up Twitter because I haven’t quite figured out why people like it to begin with. I’m going to post my blog on Facebook every day, but not look at any posts. So don’t alert me to a disaster via Facebook. I’m not only giving up social media because it will be a sacrifice, but also to give my mind some quiet time in which I hope to be able to hear God speak to me.
Second, I’m going to try to approach life with joy each day. I’m going to attempt to avoid the negative approach to situations which I seem to have developed. I’m going to remember all of the good parts of my life and with Bill as my model, enjoy my half-full glass instead of my half-empty glass. Especially if it’s half-full of gin and tonic.
Beginning Wednesday, I’m going to go back to being a daisy who drives a yellow bug.