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Advent – a time to listen and watch while you wait for the ‘awe’

      Back on a Friday in early September I turned off the road that runs in front of the school where I work, and I slowly drove the long drive around the school to my parking spot. When I approached the speed-bumps, I slowed to nearly a halt.

      Approaching the school building itself, about thirty students, girls, were walking across the drive, making their way toward the track on the side of the school building. I stopped to let them pass. They were all clad in running attire. Some of the girls were my students, or former students, and several of them waved as they walked past my car.

      After the procession had cleared I resumed snaking my way back to lot. Though the sun had not popped up, a strong orange glow in the eastern sky was making itself known. Near the tennis courts a strip of fog hovered on the ground. Just in front of this little strip of fog, beads of dew twinkled on the grass that had been mowed the day before.

      I parked my car and stepped out, my sack lunch in my right hand. At the track the girls were jogging around the curve of the track. The air was humid, but nevertheless smelled sweet. A cardinal sang.

      I just stood there, inhaling the sweet morning air, and taking it all in: the students, the approaching sun, the fog, the twinkling dew, the bird singing. And I thought to myself: what a blessing to experience this! God was walking among us!

      With all this going on around me, I was in no hurry to walk into the school. So I just leaned up against my car and decided to stay put until Mr. Sun rose above the horizon.

      A car or two drove by, but mostly I was alone there in that parking lot at 6:00 a.m. And, as the world around me woke up, this is what I thought:

      The older I get, the faster it goes.

      Remember that top you had as a child? You know, that metal toy you pumped up and down, and the top spun round and round. At first, when you started pumping, the top turned slowly, but the more you pumped, the faster the top spun. Well, that’s how I feel life is. Life has pumped 60 years for me, now, and my life is revolving like a mad top. Not out of control, but fast nevertheless. My dad just turned 84. It must be reallyspinning fast for him.

      The older I get, the more I appreciate nature.

      Disclosure statement: I haven’t traveled much in my life. Never been out the USA. Never been to the West Coast. Never been to New York. Was in Washington, D.C. on an eighth-grade trip. Flew to Florida in 1981. Have been on an airplane exactly three times, all before 9/11. Have lived 57 of my 60 years in Indiana. My point: I haven’t seen much of this world.

      Having said that, I say this: one of the best sights in my life is at Horseshoe Bend on the Ohio River at the tiny town of Leavenworth, Ind. Check it out. The view of the Ohio River from the cliff is spectacular. Yet, when I was a kid and dad would take us there, Horseshoe Bend was just a stopping point on a Sunday drive. Yeah, this is great, dad, but can we keep moving? Appreciating nature is like appreciating bourbon; it gets better with age.

      Youth must indeed be served. Why? Vigor. Walk down the halls of a high school during passing period. The key word in that previous sentence is walk. Standing and watching the chaos pass by misses the point. Slip into the stream of laughter and bumps and listen to the conversations. It’s not noise; it’s the future. Helpful hint: keep to your right.

      Youth are worth listening to. You want to alienate a classroom of 18-year olds? Patronize them and tell them you have all the answers. It’s not that you don’thave answers. Rather, it’s that youth want to be shown, not told. And if you’re honest with yourself, you know that you were the same darn way when you were eighteen. Nothing’s changed.

      What’s all this got to do with anything? Just this:

      Advent is upon us. Something wonderful is happening. God is manifesting himself to us. Revel in that. Celebrate that. Hallelujah that. And in doing so, have the attitude and energy of youth, tempered with the wisdom of age. See the beauty in the snow, not its curse. Behold the night sky and see the stars that welcomed the Savior, and know that the Almighty who sent that Savior and splashed those stars into the sky spreads His arms for us and says, “See, I’m with you always.”

      Listen. Watch. Be in awe.


      Deacon Mark Plaiss teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein, Ill. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .





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