March 6, 2015

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Make space for God, simplify your life during Lent and beyond

Patti LambRecently, in addition to a respiratory virus and a tenacious stomach bug, our household also encountered a nasty computer virus. This has not been the healthiest winter in our home—physically or electronically.

The computer virus seemed to wreak the most havoc, as it wiped some important data. Years’ worth of documents, receipts, certificates and articles that we had scanned—so that we could recycle the paper copies—were gone in a flash.

I’m sentimental, but I also realize that I can’t save every single art project or book report the kids produce. So I keep one box for each child’s uber special items. The remainder are photographed or scanned so we can remember them without physically keeping them. We thought this would be a happy medium.

But the computer virus attacked and poof—it was all gone.

I have a tech-savvy friend, who gently scolded me for not saving everything in “the cloud.” The cloud is basically software that runs on the Internet instead of our computers. (At least that’s what I think the cloud is.)

My friend took this opportunity to chide me for my technological ignorance—and phobia, in some cases. I saw his point, but “the cloud” is not the answer, I suggested.

I have a friend in St. Louis whose family was displaced due to a house fire. When I expressed my sympathy, she said, “We did lose a lot of stuff, but my real valuables weren’t harmed.” She was referring to her husband and two sons as her most prized possessions.

I know other lovely souls who have lost more than data and their possessions. They’ve lost the people most important to them—true originals, which can never be replaced.

“The cloud” can’t save “everything.”

On Ash Wednesday, when I received ashes on my forehead, I was told, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” This world—and all of its accompanying “stuff”—is fleeting. The computer virus, which turned out only to be a minor inconvenience in the big picture, has instigated some Lenten reflection about what I’m holding on to, and what I’m making space for.

My heart should be making space for God, and my treasure should be stored in heaven (Mt 6:20).

I know this, but I’m human and sometimes it’s not at the forefront of my mind.

As I write this, I see our Lenten Rice Bowl sitting on the countertop. It reminds me of the quote, “Live simply so that others may simply live.” A computer virus pales in comparison to problems that others face. Others are worrying about whether their children will have food to eat today.

I remember a well-spoken missionary priest who visited our parish a few years ago. He quipped that he never saw a hearse pulling a U-Haul. He quickly followed that up with, “You can’t take it with you, people.”

Recently, I talked with a friend who told me that her New Year’s resolution is to purposefully simplify her life. She hoped to make a real effort to put people before things. I thought that would also make a lovely Lenten resolution. How can we put people before things in small ways each day of Lent? Perhaps I could put my change in the Rice Bowl instead of the soda machine at work in the morning.

This computer virus taught me that the most important things cannot be saved or contained—not even in some mystical “cloud.” All will become dust, except love. Love endures. (1 Cor 13:7)

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

Local site Links: