My Dad e-mailed all of my siblings and I last week and let us know that he had decided he was going to sell his car and stop driving, and in the next line he let us know, “No, I didn’t get in an accident.” He’ll be 91 this Fall and I think all of us think that for him this is a good thing, and we are also happy for us that it didn’t have to get to the point where we had to tell him we think it would be a good thing. But we also realize it is a very major and difficult thing. Even though he didn’t drive that much anymore, and he had been limiting himself more and more through the years as far as how far he would drive or in what conditions, he still always had his car there if he wanted or needed it. But in some ways he has really freed himself now, while he does have to figure out how he will go somewhere he may need or want to go to, he knows he doesn’t have to consider driving and if he should or shouldn’t. (or taking care of the car, or paying insurance, or renewing the plates, or worry about if they will renew his driver’s license).
That is kind of strange how some decisions that can seem in some ways to be so restricting of us, where we are giving up so much freedom, are really very freeing in themselves, that we no longer have to worry about so many things that we had before. Driving and your car are a big one that most of us will have to face some day, but how about a bigger one, giving up all your material goods and having no money. Religious priests (Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits…) and nuns make this vow. They don’t own anything, they don’t own their cars, they don’t get a salary, their order takes care of all of that. But they don’t have to worry about money either, about how to spend or save it, about if they are getting a raise this year or not, about the monthly bills, they don’t even have to file taxes. But of course this also means they can’t just go out and buy whatever they want, or even give a gift or to a charity if they want, or even accept many gifts for themselves, they are really given to the order.
I realize most of us aren’t thinking that big, and likely due to responsibilities anda situation in life we might not be able to, but what are things we could realize are not necessary in our lives even if they may seem that way? Easy ones to identify at times are drinking alcohol or smoking, maybe something that we eat regularly that we know is bad for us, but we’ve always eaten it. For some people these things are fine, but for us we realize they may take too much of our time, or money, or tempt us to sin, or hurt us in other ways. Maybe it means making a ‘downsizing’ decision in our home or some other aspect of our life. Or how about something a little different, like giving up judging others that we have no control over. Like the person who just cut in front of you in traffic, or someone we saw on TV. Chances are all this is going to do is get us angry, possibly affect our relations with others even, but it will never affect the person we are mad at.
I realize some of these are things we might consider in Lent or Advent, but we don’t have to wait. And just taking the time to think about it a little can hopefully help us recognize the difference between needs, wants, and just habits, and what their true cost might be in our lives.