Standing for 12-plus hours in the cold and driving rain to experience a less-than-one-minute moment isn’t exactly my idea of a good time, but on New Year’s Eve, hundreds of thousands seemed to think that the pain was worth the "gain" to be able to say, "I was in Times Square as the ball dropped."
In fact, several of those interviewed for television mentioned that their experience fulfilled one of the must-do items on their bucket lists. No matter the discomfort, the accomplishment added up to a long-dreamed goal pursued and met.
Snug in my comfy chair at home, I watched the evening unfold and heard the many references to "bucket lists" with growing curiosity. On the surface, experiencing Times Square on New Year’s Eve seems a plausible endeavor, despite the fact that this year, it took a great deal of stamina, grit and willingness to endure awful conditions to "get it done."
But, if we look at bucket lists through the prism of faith, and New Year’s Eve 2018/19’s rain-soaked event, how many of us would endure the same degree of hardship in pursuit of other, more faith-centered goals or activities, that could have a positive, perhaps lasting, impact on others?
Or, putting the question differently, what if all those hundreds of thousands of people took that same time and effort and fed the homeless, built shelters, visited the lonely or -- a wonderful thought -- prayed together?
I don’t mean to imply that the whole Times Square/New Year’s Eve festivities are meaningless or bad. The turning from one year to another merits marking, and I was among the many who watched, albeit from a distance, as the ball dropped somewhere in and through the rain. And, of course I, like most people, have a bucket list of things I’d like to accomplish or do or see in my oh-so-finite lifetime!
But I do wonder about how we, myself included, prioritize our goals and decide just how much effort or discomfort we’re willing to endure to accomplish them. To go the next level up in a career, for example, requires above-the-call effort. To increase in depth of faith requires extra work, too, but is that before or after the hours spent toiling overtime "at work"?
The conditions under which we undertake to achieve our goals often come into play, too. So many were willing to weather the weather to see that ball drop. But, if the same rain were falling on a day set for volunteering outdoors, well, I confess I might beg off, along with, perhaps, many others.
Those of us who live with chronic pain might consider these questions even more personally. As we already have discomfort, just how much more can or should we take to serve God better? More effectively?
If we already feel as if we are sacrificing by living with poor health or other challenges, what other sacrifice are we called to make? How can we see beyond ourselves to better find our place among others, including those in greater need, in the world?
None of these questions has an easy answer. But as I begin this new year, I am grateful that they popped into my head late on Dec. 31, 2018.
These and other faith-centered musings make me rethink the priorities on my "bucket list," not necessarily to bring on more hardship, but to "live well" in all the fullness of the term -- with emphasis on compassion, service and deepening of faith and, yes, joy and enjoyment of God’s world and all that is precious in life!
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