One thing I noticed about my parent’s generation is the remarkable differences in the way they use things. Even after a meal, rather than throwing everything out, they learned by living through very tough times that nothing should be wasted. Often I may see a tea bag used several times, coffee filters preserved, paper cups and plastic forks washed and reused. Our generation is more of a throw-away culture, not hesitating to pitch anything–even big things like appliances and furniture–once it has outlived its appeal (never mind its use.) Once someone has lived through an era of desperation like the Great Depression, they may have a refreshed appreciation for the tiny things in life because of what hardships they experienced. Grateful souls experience the smallest things more profoundly and most all of the people in my life who were a product of this generation are the least likely to complain. We can learn much from them in this era of a new kind of “great depression.”
Just before Christmas day, I drove by the corner lot which is used seasonally for Christmas trees, pumpkin patches and the FIREWORK sales which happen several times a year in my neck of the woods. The lot that had been Christmas trees was already turning over to FIREWORKS (for New Year’s eve, Valentine’s Day, Arbor Day, Canada Day, whatever you can think of for a reason to light something loud and smelly on fire and scare my poor dog to death for days.) I am not a fan of fireworks in general (I hide it well right?) but I was more horribly stricken by the banner that waved over the firework tent suggesting: “BLOW UP 2020!”
As I continue to grow in my faith and realize how much there is that I still do not understand, one thing I do know without a doubt: NOTHING is wasted when given to God. That’s why I wake up every day and remember to go to Jesus and say “This day is for you…my prayer, work, struggles, sufferings and joys.” I know, without a doubt, that 2020 was a very valuable year. Every day we draw breath is to be praised, because God has something waiting in that day for us to gain from His graces.
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.1 Cor 15:58 NABRE
Someday we will come to understand what all we did have in 2020. We will understand that the noise that keeps us from God and family was essentially peeled away for us. We will understand what was and was not missing from our lives. We may have said good-bye to someone dear to us or struggled to watch someone suffer through illness, only to come to a deeper understanding of how precious life is to us. We may more fully realize how life is valuable and full of things–like hope and love–that surpass the perimeters of this earth. No matter how hard it was, we saw courage in those medical workers who risked their lives caring for others every day. We may have realized how much we need to be engaged face-to-face with others just by the nature of the way we were created, or that seeing someone’s full face, smile and all, is such an enormously beautiful work of art. We may have realized how our chaotic running-about was chopping up our family time, or how we were more thoughtful about others who need us.
Someday we will look back at the hours and hours of time we wasted “binging” on shows and wish so much we could get the hours back and use them for the greater good. Moreover, may we realize that now we have only been given this moment, and ask ourselves “What is the very best thing I can do with this moment right now, right here? Can I send a message to someone who is down? Can I spend a moment in silence praying and listening to God? Can I create something new?”
We are in the midst of a new kind of depression era with the pandemic life. We are in more kinds of spiritual, social and emotional poverty than we realize. In the end, our austere walk through the Pandemic of 2020 (and maybe 2021 as well) is cause enough for us to learn that we should not be wasting time. In more recent generations we have learned how to recycle the earth’s resources. Let’s take the moment in our hands and just as a depression-era human would not dump a pound of sugar down the drain, we too should be preserving and not wasting. To put it in terms of today’s culture, we should be recycling. Recycling love. Recycling Hope. Recycling our efforts to attend to the needs of others, my relationship with God, and using moments to better myself. May we not wish away tomorrow, forget what a gift it was to wake up breathing today, or forget what yesterday made of me as a person who understands a little more of how to be patient, kind, and persevering. Perhaps we are a new kind of recycled generation, rather than the restless parade of dissatisfaction we had been experiencing in the culture leading up to the pandemic?
The only thing that we cannot recycle is time. Where we cannot have time back, we can appreciate what we did have and how it was not wasted, even if we thought it wasn’t spent doing the thing we wrote on our calendar. The moment at hand is the mission before us. Don’t listen to the voice that says “we can’t do anything” right now. We are only limited by our doubt.