I see him at least once a week walking on the side of the road. He’s an elderly man who appears to be in his 80s. I don’t know his name. For now, I’ll call him Wilbur. I’ve never met Wilbur, but last week when I saw him walking, I had the urge to pull over, introduce myself, and ask him a few questions. But I didn’t follow through on my urge. As usual, I passed by him and continued driving.
I usually see Wilbur in the morning when I’m on my way to work. Because there are no sidewalks on the roads in the area where I live, he’s always walking on the side of the road, about two feet in from the edge. When it’s raining, he usually wears a couple of layers of clothing, with a raincoat on top. When it’s cold, he wears layered clothing, with a winter coat on top. During the summer, he ordinarily wears sweatpants, a tee shirt, and a sweatshirt.
Usually, after he walks for a while, he begins stripping off his layers of clothing. During the summer months, he eventually gets down to his sweat-drenched T-shirt. As he peels off his clothing, he wads it up and caries it while he’s walking.
Despite the fact that he walks long distances every day, Wilbur doesn’t look very healthy. He’s always hunched over, and he doesn’t have an even or balanced stride. He simply hobbles along at a brisk pace. I don’t know how long he walks in the morning, but it has to be for more than an hour each day because I’ve seen him at different times during the same morning, in different areas of town.
The first thought that always pops into my mind every time I pass by him is, One of these days he’s going to get hit by a car.
My experience in handling auto-accident injury claims tells me that regardless of what the law is, many of the people who are driving on the road are constantly being distracted by their phones. They think it’s okay to look down at their phones to see who’s calling or to quickly read a text message. The critical few seconds that they are distracted sometimes cause them to crash into someone else.
There’s a second thought that recently began popping into my mind each time I passed Wilbur: Does he spend the same amount of time praying each day that he spends walking around town?
It’s a legitimate and important question to ask.
Even though I don’t know Wilbur, I admire his determination to keep as physically fit as possible. I assume that one of the reasons he walks every day is so he can extend the length of time that he has left on Earth. But while he takes good care of his body, does he ever think about eternity and what he should be doing for his soul to guarantee that he will end up in God’s Kingdom?
Last week when I drove past Wilbur, I almost stopped to talk to him. I wanted to introduce myself and ask him how long he’s been doing his daily walk. After getting some preliminary questions out of the way, I would have then wanted to move on to some important questions, such as, What religion did you grow up with? Are you a religious person? Do you go to church? Do you pray every day? Do you pray while you’re walking? I wonder if anyone has asked him any of those questions in the past 20 or 30 years. Probably not.
All of us learned at a young age that at the beginning of every January, we should make resolutions for the new year. I’m not a psychic, but I think that I can accurately predict that one of Wilbur’s resolutions for 2020 was to continue to maintain his daily ritual of walking, so he can stay in good condition.
The word “resolution” comes from the word “resolute” which is defined as “admirably purposeful, determined, and unwavering.” If there were a definition of “Wilbur” in the dictionary, you would find the same adjectives in the definition: “admirably purposeful, determined, and unwavering.”
You can bet that there are days when Wilbur wakes up and he doesn’t feel like going outside for his long walk. On those days, I’m sure he would rather stay in bed for an extra hour, sit in his favorite chair and watch a movie, meet a friend or family member for breakfast, or hang out around the house and relax.
But regardless of how he feels, there’s always something inside him that forces him to put on his layers of clothing and venture out into the street. Once he’s outside, whatever temptation he had to avoid his walk, slowly dissipates. Every movement toward his goal of finishing his morning walk builds momentum. By the time he’s been on the road for several minutes, he feels a sense of accomplishment, and he’s glad that he had the willpower to step outside and take his morning walk.
But what is it that gives Wilbur the willpower to never miss his morning walk, regardless of his age and the unpredictable weather? Most people can’t seem to muster up enough willpower to exercise just one or two days a week. What’s Wilbur’s secret? Is it only willpower that drives him to predictably get out of his house every morning, so he can walk on the side of the road?
I don’t believe that it’s just willpower. In fact, willpower is secondary to two other specific factors that drive him to do what he does. The first factor is his burning desire to keep physically fit and to do what he believes is best for his health. The second factor is the creation of the rituals that are necessary to achieve his goal.
As a general rule, most people do not have the willpower to do the things that are necessary to achieve their goals. Their willpower must be accompanied by burning desire and rituals.
The rituals that I’m referring to involve the planning and effort that are necessary to intentionally remove yourself from unmanageable temptation, and then to immediately place yourself in an environment that will encourage and facilitate you in following through with what you desire to do.
Wilbur got into the habit — which eventually turned into a ritual — of removing himself from the unmanageable temptation of the comfort of his bed, the pleasure he gets from watching movies, the gratification he experiences when he’s meets a close friend or family member for breakfast, and the comfort of simply relaxing at his house. He removes those unmanageable temptations by getting out of bed and getting dressed at a certain time of the day, and then he puts one foot in front of the other until he’s outside where he can begin his daily journey. Once he’s outside, he’s in an environment that encourages him to achieve what he set out to do.
We’re winding down the month of January 2020, and we’ll soon be moving into February. What did you resolve to get done this year? Did you resolve to increase your knowledge and love of God? Did you resolve to follow God’s plan for you by practicing more of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy? What are you doing this year to enhance your prayer life in an admirably purposeful, determined, and unwavering way?
There are several Catholic churches in Central Illinois that offer daily Mass. The times range from 7:00 AM to 5:30 PM. If you really were purposeful, determined, and unwavering in your desire to know, love, and serve God, you would resolve to intentionally remove yourself from unmanageable temptation and then place yourself in an environment that would encourage and facilitate you in following through with what you desire to do.
It really is fairly simple. Just follow Wilbur’s routine by removing yourself from your comfortable, satisfying, pleasurable environment, and then get in your car and drive to church so you can attend Mass. After you park your car, simply walk into the church. By the time you sit down, you will feel a sense of great accomplishment and you will be glad you had the “willpower” to make it to Mass.
What’s your excuse for not doing that? Notice that I didn’t use the word reason because most people hide their excuses behind what they refer to as reasons.
But just in case you really do have a legitimate reason for not attending Mass during the week, unless you’re physically incapacitated, you have no excuse for not visiting our Savior in the perpetual adoration chapel at St. Philomena parish.
All you need is a key from the parish office and you can plop your body down inside the chapel at any time of the day or night. Now, what are your excuses for not making daily visits to the adoration chapel where our Lord is always present, body, blood, soul, and divinity?