With so much to do, we must remind ourselves to be grateful

This column was originally published as part of my “Looking Homeward” series at Herald-Dispatch.com.

The story struck me as stark, almost harsh in its truth. My father had filed it under “Thanksgiving” in some archives I recently discovered. As I reread his notes, I now know why he kept the original column reference, created in the early 1950s.

Dr. Halford E. Luccock was a pastor, preacher, and theologian — “all rolled into a writer of journalistic superlatives,” my father had written. Luccock’s column in The Christian Century entitled, “‘The Man Who Caught Up with Himself,” gave a unique perspective almost 50 years ago, yet rings true now as we enter into the steadfast demands of the holiday season.

It hit my reset button.

Dr. Luccock tells about a man who could never catch up with himself. For 20 years, he had chased himself but never seemed to catch up. He would look over his desk that resembled a post office during rush hour, stacked high with papers looking for their final resting place. For relief, he would step to the window to look out upon the beautiful world only to discover that the grass needed mowing badly.

Then he would see his car that needed washing, surrounded by untrimmed shrubbery. He rolled his tongue around his mouth in thoughtful gesture only to discover a cavity in a molar, unattended because he could never catch up enough to visit the dentist.

Glancing down on the desk, he noticed a letter from the bank indicating an overdraft. Then his wife entered his solitude to remind him something must be done about the leaking roof and the hot water faucet that was having a nervous breakdown. He promised to do something about everything once he caught up with himself a bit.

One night, after a breathless day at work trying to “catch up,” the man fell asleep and had a dream.

He dreamed he was in a beautiful room with a large, clean desk. Through the window, he saw a manicured lawn, providing a perfect setting for his freshly washed car, gleaming like a showroom model.

His desk had no bills, no piles, no nothing. No more foot races with himself.

He had finally caught up! Peace, perfect peace! Or was it?

For around the edges of the peaceful vacuum there nibbled a little question, “What do I do now?”

Seeing his postman pass by, he hailed him. He noticed the man carried no letters or papers in his bag. Nothing to deliver. Just out for a walk.

“Where am I?” asked the caught-up man.

“This is Hell,” replied the postman.

Perhaps it was at that, my father noted.

All caught up; nothing to chase; nothing to do.

Granted, at this time of year, our lists may be long and our piles high with accomplishments-in-waiting. Yet, without them, life could be lonely, even hellish as we idle in neutral, directionless and unengaged. How we spend our time, “catching up” or otherwise, connects us to what matters.

Thanksgiving. Gratitude for so much to do.