On any given Friday morning, my schedule is as follows: I wake up at 4 a.m., go for a 10-mile run, clean the house, pay bills, and pack my bag with a wide range of electronic items in order to drive my son to his college campus across town where he attends his two classes and I sit in the library trying to get some work done. When he is finished, I drive home, get the grocery shopping done, cook dinner and fall into bed around 10 p.m. Seriously, I used to be much cooler than this.
Before you decide that I have taken “helicopter parenting” to a whole new level, allow me to explain: My son has Asperger’s Syndrome, a mild form of autism that complicates his life in more ways than I can begin to explain. Living with Boy Wonder is akin to living with Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory, however he is not a physicist and does not have a “spot” on the sofa where no one else can sit. Suffice to say, his “quirks” makes his living on campus impossible.
Unfortunately, he can’t drive either, at least not well enough to pass the test and be issued a license. Last year, he had an on campus job and was able to afford his monthly bus pass to take him where he needed to go. But this year the job status changed, which means I either have to pony up the bucks for a bus pass or make the sacrifice to write in a library for a couple of hours. It’s not so bad, really. After all, JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter in a coffee shop!
My point for bringing this up is that whether we like to admit it or not, most of us spend a lot of time trying to serve two masters. In fact, it’s the very definition of multi-tasking, isn’t it – trying to do two things at once? And while we all have our incredibly lofty reasons and justifications as to why we do the things we do, in reality…it’s often driven by money. Think about it: I don’t want my son to deplete his savings account and yet I want to save money on the bus pass so I am willing to completely inconvenience myself in an effort to save a buck or two. I can tell you that I am simply trying to be a good parent, but if I stop and unravel the things I do to its lowest common denominator, it’s a financial decision backed by what I think are good intentions.
My husband takes an entirely different approach. On a recent day off, I told him that he would have to get Boy Wonder to school. He readily agreed and shuffled off to run carpool, returning 20 minutes later and parking himself in front of the TV.
“How did you get home so quickly?” I asked, baffled.
“I took him to the bus stop, gave him the cash he needed for two trips and came home. I’m not driving all that way to sit in a library. I’ll pick him up from the bus stop later,” he replied.
I was stunned. In one fell swoop, the man usurped the sacrifice I have been making for the last month and he had no qualms with it. He wasn’t about to give up his precious time off and while it may seem selfish, he wasn’t enslaved to the almighty dollar the way I tend to be. His conscience was clear as he watched The Price is Right, the Food Channel and a few Martial Arts films.
Don’t get me wrong, I know we have to have our jobs and we all need money to survive, but we also have to stop and consider the true motivation behind our self-sacrificing behavior. Does the time we spend clipping coupons each week prevent us from counting our existing blessings? Would it not be better to make a small sacrifice when we shop rather than figuring out a way to have it all? Does our weekend activity schedule stop us from making it to Mass because the kids take part in so many sporting events that we might as well get our money’s worth? It makes me wonder if we have become master multi-taskers only to avoid serving the only Master who matters?
Naturally, our lives require balance but ultimately the best investments we can make are the ones that bring us closer to God and make Him the priority. He is not going to care how much time I spent in the library “sacrificing” for my son if I can’t recall how much time I devoted to Him. He’s going to know that I made a trade off and He will know why I did it…even if I am too blind to acknowledge it.
Mass readings: PHIL 4:10-19; PS 112: 1B-2, 5-6, 8A and 9; LK 16:9-15