A Formula for a Happy New Year and Life
“If it’s to be, it’s up to me.” That nugget of motivational wisdom was gifted to me early in life by a coach and mentor. It isn’t about rugged individualism or self-centeredness, as that may seem selfish. True, personal and financial self-sufficiency largely is a do-it yourself project, but all of us depend on others for some aspect of our varying needs and ultimate success. Parents, spouses, grandparents, friends and other loved ones, as well as teachers, coaches, mentors, friends, business associates, doctors and nurses, military and police, and countless others, whether truck drivers, store clerks, farmers, repair specialists, etc., play a vital role in our daily rounds of life.
The recent holy season of Advent, Hanukkah, and Christmas, and thoughts about new year’s resolutions, had me thinking about how I relate to others, spurred, too, by a new book by acclaimed author and speaker, Matthew Kelly. The powerful but short 116-page Holy Moments: A Handbook for the Rest of Your Life was a Christmas gift from St. Brigid Catholic Church in
This past Thanksgiving I was staying in a hotel along the Cristina River in downtown Wilmington, Delaware. I was in town to spend the holiday with my son and his family. I was feeling a bit blue and down as it was the first Thanksgiving that I was without my wife and best friend, as Helen had passed away in July following a tough year of needing 24/7 care and, finally, hospice at home. Missing her, I found it hard not to feel sorry for myself.
There was a large self-serve breakfast room at my hotel, but the coffee service was outside of the dining room in the lobby some distance away, a bit inconvenient. An elderly gentlemen entered the dining room, walking with a cane and with difficulty, looking like he was having a challenging day. He got annoyed when he could not find the coffee. I approached him and asked, “Sir, the coffee is out in the lobby. May I get you some? How would you like it?” He agreed and seem pleased. As I returned with his coffee, creamer, and sugar packets, a lady at a table nearby gave me a smiling nod of approval. I remembered that incident when reading Kelly’s book. It seemed at the time to be a trivial and easy thing to do, but it was a “holy moment.”
Kelly defines a holy moment as “a single moment in which you open yourself to God. You set aside personal preference and self-interest, and for one moment you do what you prayerfully believe God is calling you to do.” In that instant I could have ignored the man, seeing him as irascible as I continued to eat my breakfast, but for some reason I jumped in to help him with an act of kindness. Outside along the river it was cold, foggy, and raining, a gray day conducive to the funk I was in. But helping that man, as simple as it was, gave me a lift as I began to focus not on what I’d lost, but on what I had, including the gift of my son and family with whom I was to spend the day. Helen was in my life for fifty-six years, one year of courtship and fifty-five years married. Her children and grandchildren are her lasting gift to me.
In fact, this past year I lost my wife, sister, and two dear friends, but it helps to recognize not what is gone, but rather what is yet to be, appreciating the gift of love and friendship that sustains uplifting memories. Kelly advises that “the principle of holy moments teaches us to focus on the good we can do.” In a recent workshop he asked participants to list the ten aspects of life that mattered most. Cited were “health, marriage, family, spirituality, home life, finances, friendships, recreation, community, and personal growth.” That’s an excellent list for God-centered, “holy-moment-powered” new year resolutions as a foundation for serious, life-changing, and purpose-affirming planning and actions. How do your financial and other goals for 2023 and beyond relate to this list of ten? Financial self-sufficiency bolsters your ability to aid others, but you don’t have to be wealthy to help.
Read history books and the Old and New Testaments in the Bible. The world is a mess and always has been, plagued by “unholy moments” that won’t change. But we can change. We can spur holy moments in our family, community, country. There are countless charities locally that we can support with volunteer efforts and giving. Community food banks, North Fulton Community Charities, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Atlanta Mission, and the outreach efforts of your house of worship, as examples. Global charities such as Doctors Without Borders and Samaritan’s Purse depend on holy moments support.
Some holy moments may require great personal sacrifice, as in caring for an ailing loved one. But holy moments also liberate you from an energy-eroding sense of helplessness. As Kelly notes, they move us from a passive state (waiting for something good to happen), to an active state (making something good happen). Holy moments offer a gift of energy, focus, and purpose. Action-oriented holy moments instill selfless love for one’s neighbor. Philanthropy is an important aspect of life centered financial planning. Pablo Picasso counseled, “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”
Kindness is a gift and it may be as small as a cup of coffee for a troubled stranger.