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Saved By a Stick

April 24, 2019


Some people are called to be a good sailor. Some people have a calling to be a good tiller of the land. Some people are called to be a good friend. You have to be the best at whatever you are called at. Whatever you do. It’s about confidence, not arrogance. — Bob Dylan

My grandfather wrote me in a letter, “It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. It’s not what you make, it’s who you become in the making. It’s not about getting recognized for what you’ve done, it’s recognizing what you’ve done you did for the right reason. And the right reason is always the Almighty and your fellow man. The rest is incidental.”

“Being best at it” is to strive to do each thing you do with full intention, as if each action were the first, last and only thing you will ever do. Living as if now was all your legacy would be in time, all your name would signify in eternity. To treat each encounter as defining, each next as a new beginning, as the whole present in the part. For God does not treat any moment as insignificant, since He is wholly present to each moment, loving with equally infinite intensity.

Back when my daughter Catherine was 4 years old, I came home from work one day feeling defeated and tired, and not prepared to patiently interact with my children. I wanted to stare at a blank wall that did not talk back, and sip a Blue Moon.

As I got out of my car and started toward the front door, I noticed Catherine was playing over by the tree line. When she caught sight of me, she ran excitedly toward me with a stick in hand and shouted, “Daddy look! A stick! A stick!” I mumbled something and hoped she’d go back to her solitary play. But she persisted, “No! No! Look at the stick!” As I looked, she pointed to little red mites running in and out of the cracks in the stick. She pulled me with her to the ground, and we blanked the whole world out to examine this microcosm together.

In a matter of seconds my whole disposition changed, the present presided over both past and future, and my regrets and worries were forgotten amid the lilies of her field.

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them. — Isaiah 11:6

In that moment, Catherine’s love seized me, and I was prepared to worthily receive the sacrament of the present moment. It is in such moments that the Kingdom Come, comes. More than anyone in the world, my children have taught me how to discover my vocation in the moment. “See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).