So, I was looking for a lead into an article about the “infinity of excuses” we make for inaction (as Theodore Roosevelt put it) when I stumbled across what, effectively, was the article I wanted to write. Nuts.
So, as presented by Stacy Trasancos at StacyTrasancos.com, here is the tale of Can and Could:
Could held himself in great esteem, and was always dreaming. “If I were rich, I could…” He felt blessed with a benevolent disposition, and in his imagination he thought of a great many projects for doing good on a grand scale. Can was a simple young woman, not great or so well-dressed. She went about her life neither sauntering nor scheming far into the future. She scarcely knew what a project was.
One day Could was riding a crowded bus and the conductor inquired if any of the gentlemen would like to give up his seat. A sick man wanted to ride the bus and it was very cold outside. “Like!” thought Could with a laugh. “Who would like to be outside in this cold?” And so Could stayed in his warm seat and thought of new laws he might pass to improve the transportation system. No one should have to walk sick in the cold.
On the same day Can, having finished her chores, entered a store to buy something to eat. Inside there was a child carrying a basket much too heavy for her small frame, and the shawl that she wore was fallen from her shoulders and dragged in the muddy snow. “What happened to your shawl?” Can asked. The little girl said her mother was too ill to go to the store, so she sent her daughter instead. The girl could not hold up her shawl to keep warm lest she drop the basket. ”You’ll die from the cold,” said Can. Then Can tied up the shawl, helped the girl sell the items in the basket, and walked with her back to her home where she made the sick mother’s bed.
That night Could feel asleep in his arm chair by the fire in his comfortable home reflecting on all the acts of justice his new laws would bring, while Can cooked a stew so she might return to check on the poor family the next day. The moral of the story? Of all the ills that human kind endure, small is the part which laws and kings can cure.
Now, the moral the story gives itself is of the folly of looking to laws and the government to solve all our problems when most of them could be solved by a little Christian charity. That’s an extremely relevant moral for today, but it’s not the one I’d like to draw from this story.
See, Could, as his name implies, looks at life through the lens of ‘if only:’ if only I were rich, if only I had political power, if only I were a Metahuman, then I would be a veritable saint! ‘Could,’ by its very nature, implies a ‘but:’ I could help you, but I’d much rather stay warm myself, so I won’t.
Most of us do this. We imagine ourselves to be so wonderfully charitable and kind because we picture the sort of things we would do…if we had more money, time, courage, faith, and energy. So, we live out our lives in a dream-like haze, waiting for our ship to come in so we can do all the wonderful things we imagine ourselves doing.
The truth, though, is that we’re deluding ourselves. We will always find an excuse for our inaction. We don’t give money to the poor because we don’t think we have enough, but if we won the lottery tomorrow we still wouldn’t give to the poor because we’d be afraid of swindlers. We don’t make time to exercise because we are so busy, but when we have vacations we don’t exercise because, well, it’s a vacation!
The short version of what I’m trying to say is that if you won’t do it now, you won’t do it then. If the absence of ideal circumstances prevents you from doing something, it means you don’t really intend to do it. The brutal fact is that circumstances will never be ideal and there will always be something we could come up with to excuse ourselves.
Look at the men throughout history who accomplished great things: can you find even one for whom circumstances were ideal? Theodore Roosevelt was a timid, asthmatic child who grew up to win the Medal of Honor, serve as President of the United States, and explore the Amazon jungle. John Paul II had his university career interrupted by the Second World War and completed his studies by firelight in between shifts at a chemical plant. George Eastman conducted his experiments with film and photography by night while working full time, going without sleep for up to 48 hours straight.
See, if you really want to do something, you’ll do it regardless of your circumstances. If you only imagine you would like to do something, you’ll come up with any number of excuses no matter what your circumstances. So, if you want to be a saint, help the poor, and spread the word of God, you’ll do it wherever you can and no matter what your circumstances. Remember how Jesus blessed the poor widow in the Gospel for resolutely giving alms despite her own destitution.
So, if there’s something you feel called to do, don’t wait: do it now! Don’t fall into the trap of thinking “when I have more time” or “when I have more money” or “when I am appointed the unquestioned lord and ruler of the world.” Whatever it is, start working on it right now. Even if you only have ten free minutes a day, that ten minutes to do a little writing, sketch a little, sew a little, do the Charles Atlas routine, or what have you. Ten real minutes of effort today will get you a lot further than hours of effort ‘someday.’
Vive Christus Rex!
Vive Christus Rex!