The List

Updated: Jul 19, 2020

October, 2018

I never venture to the grocery store without a shopping list. Lacking one I’ll forget essentials, filling my basket with stuff I could’ve done without. A list keeps me focused, and more importantly, ensures domestic tranquility upon my return home with the goods.

Years ago I was struggling to make sense of life. In my distress, a counselor handed me a shopping list of sorts, a daily inventory I was to read first thing in the morning, with instructions to refer to it anytime I found myself frustrated, afraid, or at a fork in the road.

I’ve long since internalized those duties and customized them a bit, but the basics have stayed the same.

The funny thing about having any daily routine is its long-term effect. Days become weeks, turning into months, then years, and before we know it we’ve built a lifetime. We’re transformed by our small, consistent thoughts and practices, becoming the things we do.

The list is a reminder that meaning and purpose is found less in reaching a distant goal, and more in how we travel; that we’re created to journey through every day in thanksgiving, joy, peace, and hope.

Call my daily list simplistic, naïve, or clichéd, but it works for me:

· Make someone else’s day. Praise and encouragement is a no-cost gift of grace, whether it’s an affirmation for a major effort, or as simple as complimenting a great-looking pair of shoes.

· Learn something new and challenging. Stretching our mental and spiritual muscles to grasp another point of view is always worthwhile. An open mind doesn’t equal moral weakness.

· Never give up. No power on Earth can beat the person who keeps plugging away. Sheer pluck and persistence builds confidence and earns admiration. It trumps education, wealth, talent, and luck.

· Give thanks for what’s taken for granted. Appreciate our incredible freedoms. We can worship as our conscience dictates, excellent health care and higher education are available, and a world of information is only a mouse click away. If our home catches fire, brave folks will respond within minutes. Compared to most people on the planet, we have very little to complain about.

· Picture the best outcome. Fear can become a self-fulfilling prophecy or create anxiety over things that never materialize. Either way, it’s wasted energy. Conversely, imagining the finest usually yields positive results, and optimistic energy is contagious.

· Treat others with courtesy and respect. No matter a person’s station in life, everyone has the same basic hopes and dreams, every life has value, and every human is worthy of dignity and high regard.

· Don’t forget you are beloved. If you believe as I do that love never ends and knows no boundaries, cherish the fact that you have been, are, and will be loved, always.

· Approach a stranger as a good friend already. Each new encounter is ripe with potential for authentic kinship and positive connections. Believe every person has something valuable to teach you. They do.

· Step back and see the big picture. We tend to get bogged down in the immediate, but asking, “What’s of ultimate, long-term importance?” clarifies, calms, and brings solutions to the surface.

· Assume the best of everyone. Our self image is mirrored in how we hold suspect or have faith in other’s motives. Anticipating goodness leads to goodness made real.

· Don’t ever delay doing the right thing. It’s usually staring us in the face, and is our first impulse. Summon courage and act on it.

· Cut folks plenty of slack. Everyone makes mistakes and disappoints. Freedom from resentment comes when we forgive and appreciate that humans occasionally mess up. Just like us.

· Remember: people are more important than things. Relationships last; objects crumble. No project, paperwork, or deadline matters more than giving someone your undivided time and attention.

· In any time of stress or crisis, ask, “Five years from now, will I be proud of what I did in this moment?”

· Seek forgiveness. Owning up to mistakes and making things right leads to healing, reconciliation, and peace.

· Practice self-care. Be intentional about refreshing the spirit and body, in ways as unique as you are: prayer, meditation, yoga, Tai-Chi, walking, cycling, or going to the gym. Caring for our bodies and souls enables us to care for others.

· Take every opportunity to tell the people you love that you love them. Don’t wait.

· Live each day as if it were the last. Not in dread, but with determination to grasp every tick of the clock as a precious gift not to be squandered.

· Give yourself away. True richness comes in seeking not to serve ourselves, but others. Lasting contentment is found in living sacrificially. Sounds crazy, but I’m pretty positive that’s what we’re here to learn.

I can’t claim to check off every single item on my list every day, but it still helps me focus on my journey. The goal is to return home knowing I did my best to fill life’s shopping cart with the right stuff.

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