January 9, 2015

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Reflect God’s love and mercy one ordinary day at a time

Patti LambMy kids and I were listening to the car radio while running errands on the morning of New Year’s Eve. My daughter, Margaret, acknowledged a “pattern” in commercials.

“All the commercials talk about ‘New Year’s revolutions,’ ” she said.

I explained that the correct term was “resolutions,” and went on to explain that those are little promises we make to do better in our lives.

Margaret, 7, was inquisitive.

“That’s why people promise to go places, like to the gym or back to school?” Margaret asked.

In his 10-year-old wisdom, Margaret’s older brother, Henry, chimed in with, “It’s more than that, Margaret,” he said. “People say they will stop wasting money, and clean up stuff, like their garages and backpacks.” (Maybe I had finally gotten through to him about the state of his backpack.)

“And that makes them better people?” Margaret asked.

I explained how that’s a step in the right direction. I told her that it’s important to take care of our bodies, our planet and our things. But I talked about how “things” don’t last.

I said, “What’s most important is …,” and I paused to find the right words.

But Margaret excitedly interjected with “Getting to heaven!”

Margaret had found better words than I would have used.

I congratulated her on coming up with our family’s collective New Year’s resolution—living in a way that will help us get to heaven. Then I asked the kids to name some practical ways we could achieve success.

“Tell good knock-knock jokes to turn someone’s frown upside down,” Margaret said.

“And share your popcorn,” she added.

I asked Henry to name a few.

“Sit by the kid who is all alone,” he said. Then he went on to say, “And don’t be embarrassed to say grace before you eat at Wendy’s—even if people look at you.”

I threw some into the mix. “Remember to say ‘thank you,’ and really work at forgiving people,” I said.

“When someone messes up, offer them reassurance, and remind him that no one is perfect,” I mentioned.

It turns out that there are so many ways to succeed at this resolution.

Nothing we came up with was beyond our reach. Margaret decided that she doesn’t think God asks too much of us if we want to get to heaven. Henry agreed, and mentioned that simple things like sending cards to sick people and being more patient would also count.

I suggested that if we just show love, even—and especially—when people are mean, sick, alone, slow or imperfect, then God would be pleased with that.

We determined that no valiant feats or saintly ventures were required. God really only asks us to do simple, ordinary things that are within all of our powers to do wherever he has placed us—whether at school, at the office, on the volleyball court or in line at the grocery store. That makes the resolution of getting to heaven seem attainable. (This may be the one New Year’s resolution that actually sticks.)

I think the secret to reaching a goal is to repeatedly do the little things well, and keep chipping away at the bigger task. Heaven is within our reach by reflecting God’s love, his mercy, and his glory in small ways, one ordinary day at a time. Sometimes, we’ll mess up and we’ll need to start again. But striving to make our way back to God, to our eternal home in heaven, should be the single most important resolution we ever make.

Thanks, Margaret.

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

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