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Live in the moment

Observer Viewpoint | Thursday, February 1, 2007

Guess how many school days remain until the end of the semester. Any ideas? The correct answer is, of course, “It depends on how you count.” Some possibilities include 108 days until commencement for those of you who are seniors; 99 calendar days until the end of exams; 62 actual class days, a number which you, having gained acceptance to Notre Dame, should be able to break down even further into your own personal tallies for your M-W-F and T-Th classes.

Now, though you may have a particular course which cannot come to an end quickly enough (hmmm, what a bummer if you already have this attitude on the first of February), hopefully you are not eagerly, anxiously, foot-tappingly, finger-drummingly awaiting the end of the semester. I mean, what’s not to like? You have access to the best professors; a wide selection of good and plentiful food (which you must do nothing more than carry a tray around the dining hall to receive … just wait till you have to cook it yourself!); beautiful churches and chapels where you can pray and attend Mass about 458 times a week; free NOMAD wireless almost everywhere on campus; the use of fitness facilities you’d pay big bucks for in the “real world;” opportunities to attend retreats, spring break service projects and world-renowned music and theater presentations. This is a pretty good life. Rather than rushing ahead to whatever’s next, it seems reasonable to live it with gratitude.

Unfortunately, circumstances seem to conspire to make “an attitude of gratitude” difficult. We face disappointments in love, academics or employment; we worry about ailing family members far away. Perhaps underlying all these others, we worry about the future. The obligation to choose a major, figure out a career, obtain summer jobs – or for those of you facing commencement, real jobs – weighs heavily on our minds.

From beautiful and classic prayers by saints and holy men and women to the scores of self-help books on the Amazon or Barnes & Noble Web sites you can find endless suggestions, from profound to insipid, for how to “live in the now.” How about just living each day with gratitude? Why not try to find something to be grateful for each and every day – something about being here, now, for which you give thanks? If you’re a senior looking forward to Commencement (in 108 days), perhaps you especially will want to try the “daily gratitude” plan. For example, one of your classmates has returned to campus this semester after battling cancer and looks forward to graduating in May, cancer-free. That seems to me to be worth a big heap of gratitude.

We may create countdowns or spend all our time waiting for the future to happen out of worry or anxiety. We may also do it because we’ve just come to take our present situation for granted. If you feel like you’ve used up all Notre Dame has to offer, then it’s time to make a new friend; go to a Mass or prayer service you’ve never been to before; make a retreat (see below!); attend a lecture or concert you never thought you’d try; or best of all, find some small, new way to give something back to this community.

If you’re one of those seniors counting down the 108 days until commencement, consider tossing your countdown in the trash – unless, of course, you’re using it to find “108 Ways to be Grateful During My Last Semester Here.” Additionally, how about going on the senior retreat this weekend (Feb. 2 and 3; see campusministry.nd.edu)? It starts tomorrow but you can still sign up – and no one will make fun of you for having no previous plans for the weekend. Hey, you’re living in the now!

This week’s FaithPoint is written by Kate Barrett, director of resources and special projects in the Office of Campus Ministry. She can be reached at kbarrett@nd.edu

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.