A while ago, a friend emailed me a list entitled, “Reasons It’s Great to be a Guy.” Some of the reasons were:
- you can be showered and ready in ten minutes.
- you can go on a five-day vacation with only one suitcase.
- your bathroom lines are 80% shorter.
- your phone conversations seldom last more than thirty seconds.
- Wedding dress: $3,000; tux rental $200.
But there was one reason that really caught my attention. It said, it’s great to be a guy because “You get extra credit for the slightest act of thoughtfulness.” I’m not going to argue here whether women are more thoughtful than men. Rather, I am raising this question for all of us: Are we thoughtful on a regular basis or only on rare occasions?
The renowned Jewish Rabbi, Abraham Heschel, wrote: “A good person is not one who does the right thing, but one who is in the habit of doing the right thing.” When we hear the word habit we sometimes automatically think of bad habits–like biting your nails, losing your temper, or leaving your dirty dishes in the kitchen sink. Many of us struggle our whole lives trying to rid ourselves of bad habits. But maybe we don’t take enough time to acknowledge and appreciate those good habits we have developed over the years. Remember, one classic definition of the word virtue is this: it is a good habit!
I think it is a wise practice to take stock of the good habits we (and others) have developed that make life not only safer and more morally sound, but also more pleasant. What good habits? Here are a few to ask yourself about:
- Do you get out of bed in the morning even when you don’t feel like it?
- Do you perform the tasks involved in good hygiene?
- Do you show up on time for work?
- Are you basically a responsible person?
- Do you help others?
- Do you try to be patient and kind?
- Do you drive safely?
- Do you pay your taxes?
- Do you stay within your budget?
- Do you contribute to charities?
- Are you honest?
- Do you exercise your right to vote?
- Do you smile regularly?
- Do you wait your turn in line?
- Do you volunteer your time for a good cause?
- Do you recycle?
- Are you saving with the use of water and electricity?
- Do you have some good friends?
- Do you pray?
- Do you practice your religion?
Sometimes when I’m out and about, I pause and marvel at the good people I rub shoulders with every day—especially strangers. I sense they are responsible, kind, generous, hard-working people. You meet them everywhere. The other day I was buying some ears of corn at the grocery store. This store has a large garbage bin next to the corn so you can husk your corn right in the store. So there I was husking my corn with a younger couple. We started chatting with each other. The conversation was pleasant and friendly. From their demeanor and their words, I sensed they were basically good people.
Or maybe it’s the cashier at the store, the guy who changes the oil in your car, the receptionist at the dentist office, the letter carrier, the person who cuts your hair. My experience has been that almost all of them seem like decent human beings. You get the impression if you suddenly needed their help (if you fell or were having a heart attack, for example), they would jump in and help you.
I’m not being naive here. I realize there are serial killers in our midst. One such person, Ted Bundy, confessed to 30 homicides in 7 states between 1974-1978! And he looked like such a nice, ordinary guy! But let’s be realistic: most of the people we encounter on a daily basis are not serial killers. They’re not even pickpockets! They are essentially good people. And basically virtuous.
Today you might want to reflect on some of the good habits you have developed over the years. Thank God for them. Then you might want to thank God for the individuals or circumstances that nourished these virtues in you.
Then pay attention to the individuals you encounter today. Do you sense their goodness? If so, thank God for them too.
About our song: In the natural world we know that great pressure can produce diamonds. So too in the spiritual life, pressure and stress can also produce diamonds—diamonds such as patience, understanding, humility, kindness, forgiveness, prayerfulness, and love. Here is a lively song that celebrates this theme. It’s called “Diamonds” and it’s by Hawk Nelson. (I especially like the drums!)
Do you have any thoughts on this reflection or song that you’d like to share?
PS: Once again I ask for your prayers for a retreat I’ll be leading for the Mercy Sisters in Merion, PA from June 11-18. Thank you!