March 5, 2010

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

This Lent, do something productive by God’s standards

Patti LambThe other night, I started to put a load of clothes into the washing machine and realized that we were out of laundry detergent. Fortunately, my husband was home and could look after the kids so I dashed out the door faster than my son could tattle on his sister.

Because there were no car seats to buckle and unbuckle on this trip, and no kids to keep in line, I could move faster. I estimated that I could go roughly three times my normal motherly speed. Excited at this prospect, I drew the list from my pocket.

I should probably preface this story with the fact that I am a list-maker. I live by my to-do list, and if I don’t write it down on the list then it usually doesn’t get done.

The sun rises and sets according to my list. If each day is comprised of a list, it keeps me on task when my cluttered mind and a busy world would otherwise distract me.

I glanced at my list:

  • Pick up dry cleaning.
  • Buy chocolate chips for bake-sale cookies.
  • Send a birthday card to Ashley.

The list went on.

I set off on my errand outing. And with each task I completed, I swelled with satisfaction.

  • Return library books—check.

“I’m productive,” I thought to myself. “I’m getting things done.”

Such gratification came from crossing things off the list.

But when I arrived home more than an hour later, I realized that I had—in classic Patti fashion—forgotten the laundry detergent. It was the very reason why I left the house on this errand run in the first place.

Feeling deflated, I walked in the door, swiped the list out of my pocket and scribbled briskly in Sharpie marker: Buy laundry detergent.

I realize list-making may be part of my compulsive nature. Or maybe I’m just plain forgetful.

But it didn’t dawn on me until later that evening, when my son asked me the question, “Can you add ‘Play Legos with Henry’ to your list?”

Did I need to add family activities and prayer time to my list so they wouldn’t escape my attention? If I cross-referenced my to-do list with my list of priorities, would they even resemble each other? Maybe I was focusing on all the wrong action items.

My husband says that sometimes life can feel like a game of Whac-a-mole. The object of that game is to “pop the mole back into his hole” with a rubber mallet, but this can barely be done before another mole pops up. One thing after another springs up on our to-do lists, distracting our focus on, and appreciation of, the present moment.

My desire to refocus on life’s more important “to-do’s” has inspired my Lenten resolution.

This year, instead of giving up candy, I’m attempting to make sure that each day of Lent I do something productive by God’s standards. I put an act of love on the list for every day of Lent. This can be something as simple as making time to have a tea party with my daughter, baking cookies for my sister or taking lunch to my friend, who is in a nursing home.

Then, at the end of the day, when I look at my list, I hope to feel like I am on the same page with God.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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