It’s now 2019 and many of us have made some kind of New Year’s resolutions. We all want to change: lose weight, build relationships, reduce global warming.
I’ve recently gone through a lot of change. Last November I received a new cat — a stray who spent the night in our church and was found by our organist. Another week, for my birthday, our office manager got me my first smartphone. And at Thanksgiving, I got a dog. Lots of change, and it’s all good, or, mostly so, like life.
Americans are about all kinds of change — with three big areas many of us are focused on being: government gridlock; immigration and Catholic Church abuse. We’ll see about these in the coming days and weeks now that Congress has reconvened and the pope has called bishops to the Vatican for a February summit to discuss summit to discuss preventing clergy sex abuse and protecting children.
The timeline for personal change is a little more flexible. From self-esteem fixes to exercise and dieting, Americanist pursuits and personalities seem infinitely fungible and plastic.
I recently went to the dentist and got my usual cleaning, and the kindly hygienist then asked me how often I floss. Yikes, after my Catholic guilt kicked in, I replied, “once a week.” The hygienist then said, “Maybe you can bump that up to twice a week, or so.” I smilingly agreed, on Jan. 2, and made that one of my New Year’s resolutions. Never too late!
As a priest, I’m in the “change business.” And so through that “floss challenge,” I realized, there are at least three essentials to change: First, an idea or challenge to rise to must be planted in the mind. Second, it must be realistic and achievable. Third, it must be transformative.
I recently challenged our flock on New Year’s Day to pray more, read spiritual literature and develop bonds with others. A New York Times op-ed I read that same day — titled: “In Search of Lost Screen Time” — explored what we could do with a year away from smartphones. You could buy land and plant trees, make love, motivate others, read and read and read, wrote Paul Greenburg. Something to think about.
Happiness studies indicate contentment comes more from relation-building and human solidarity than from money and professional success. So, I’m working on my family — the spiritual and natural ones.
Exercise too is a proven way to improve your quality of life. Get off the grid and sofa, and move. It’s so easy now for Americans with limited time as more physical studies imply that short, intense physical spurts of exercise, instead of long marathons, can alter one’s body and mind, if done regularly.
As a pragmatic American, I recently found myself doing several of these activities all at once On my new smartphone I realized I could carry it while taking my Labrador dog, Bella, along the Potomac C&O Canal Oath for a walk while listening to Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” playing joyfully in my shirt pocket. Good exercise while deepening a canine relationship and enjoying the arts (on a smartphone, yes, but two out of three ain’t bad).
Rev. John J. Lombardi (firstname.lastname@example.org) is pastor of St. Peter Catholic church in Hancock, and author of “ABC’s: A Basic Christian’s Guide to Living Harmoniously in a Stress Filled World,” (Xlibris).