100 Words

Bill Crittenberger"100 Words" serves as a self-framing for me to keep things short and sweet, an homage paid and recognition to an expression I hold near and dear: less is more. Each of these reflection pieces lands quite close to the 100-word mark and provides me an avenue through which to share with you, the O'Connell community, a reflection from week to week on any number of my thoughts, observations, opinions, takeaways, musings etc.—falling within the realm, and in no patterned way whatsoever (trust me), of the prosaic to the lyrical, the informational to the aspirational, the serious to the whimsical, the arcane to the profound, the secular to the spiritual...you get the picture.

My goal and hope is for you to get to know me as I get to know you, the members of the Bishop Denis J. O’Connell community, and all I ask from you is that you take less than a minute each week to read (more or less) 100 words. God’s Peace.


The Thief of Joy

Teddy Roosevelt’s quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” is something I have been thinking about quite a bit, since hearing it earlier this month from a wise and thoughtful young person who noted that this is his No. 1 favorite expression to live by. I can see why! In thinking about joy and one’s search for joy it’s all too easy for each of us to feel less than, not as good as, or not in the mix at all, if we are constantly comparing ourselves to others. This is especially true in this age of social media and 24/7 newsfeeds, when “others” may be being hyped for reasons not particularly admirable or Christ-centric; they may be pretending, through embellishment, artifice, or non-truth, to be something they’re not; or they may be projecting to constantly be living the glam life. Comparing yourself—a child of God and a person of infinite beauty, worth, and dignity–can quickly erode your self-esteem. I hope you remember that every human being has his/her cross to bear, and that those who appear to be marked only by happiness and success have their struggles and uncertainties as well. If, as directed by God, you see Christ in others, then doesn’t it make sense that many, many others, as well, see Christ in you? You—but not through a comparison to others—are meant for greatness. While healthy and balanced reflections on the lives of others can be and often are a good thing—think about the inspiration we draw from Jesus’ life, teachings, and example or of role models and people we deeply admire—comparing yourself to others in a manner in which you’re likely to come up short or feeling crummy or insufficient is neither healthy nor constructive. In life’s ever-meandering journey toward discovering, fully appreciating, and wholeheartedly accepting who we are, I am reminded of that which Saint Francis de Sales wrote four centuries ago: “Be who you are and be that well.” Please, in reflecting on life, and on your life specifically, do not allow comparison to be the thief of YOUR joy.

Ready for the second half

My younger sister shared with me decades ago that one of her college friends, a stalwart member of his cross country team, used to check in with himself early in the race, literally asking each of many key body parts how things were going, as in: “Heart, how ya doin’?”; Lungs, how ya doin’?”; “Legs, how ya doin’?”, etc. In so doing, he and his mind could check in with his body’s essential running-related components to ensure that all of them were functioning well and were onboard symbiotically in the challenging push to compete hard and drive strong through the finish. As a result of checking in and hearing back affirmatively from Team Body—heart, lungs, legs, etc.—he was assured that his best not only was possible, but expected. So here we are at the midway point of this year’s race, the ‘22-‘23 school year, and I find myself asking, as I encourage you to do likewise, “How am I doing, and how do I intend for the second half of the race to go?” To me, this self-reflection is most meaningful and revealing if framed with deep gratitude to the Lord for this, His gift of my life. All of us will be called on to be ready to go this coming Monday, the start of the second semester, so I see these next few days as analogous to a halftime in any number of sports or an intermission in the world of theater. It is a chance for us to re-nourish, review, re-set, and touch base with others (be that teammates or cast mates, coach or director) in getting re-situated in the zone, readying with all of our heart, soul, and being to bring the joy, the energy, and the commitment as fully and as enthusiastically as was the case during this year’s first half/opening act. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI reminded all of us, “The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” I encourage each of you, DJO, in the coming semester to set out confidently, passionately, and humbly, and go be great. You got this.

Celebrating service

As you know, this coming Monday is a national holiday commemorating and honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., an iconic figure in American history whose legacy arguably is as strong today as it was 55 years ago. Dr. King’s non-violent approach—peacefully protesting in endeavoring to right societal wrongs and injustices—was modeled on Christ’s example and teachings. And today Dr. King’s deep devotion to serving others can be seen nation- and community-wide as manifested by folks annually getting out early on the third Monday of January to serve those less fortunate. In honoring Dr. King and in keeping alive the vitality of his life’s work, I encourage you and your loved ones to set aside time on Monday to do something of an active, spiritual, or emotional vein that will help another—a fellow human being who, like you, is a child of God, and has dignity and worth. Along the lines of selflessly supporting others, allow me, in segueing, to recognize fully and thank profusely the boatload of O’Connell parent volunteers who so generously and routinely pitch in to serve the school’s students, faculty/staff, and programs. Whether as a member of the PTO, the Dads Club, or the Boosters (be that Fine Arts or Athletics), our magnanimous slew of mom and dad volunteers provides an invaluable service to the school, a school and community that wouldn’t be nearly as good, productive, or high-functioning were it devoid of our devoted, capable, and resourceful parents. While the typical O’Connell parent may shrug off praise such as this—saying something like, “Hey, it’s who I am and what I do”—please know, each and every one of you, that your level of support and involvement is critical to the foundational well-being of the school. For any parent who to date hasn’t gotten involved at DJO, I encourage you to do so, as it is a great way of “giving to receive,” supporting and being present for your child, and meeting and likely becoming friends with other parents. With the Broadway Knights Cabaret but a week away and the “Bond, James Bond” Gala the first Saturday in February, this may be the optimum time to respond with a “heck, yes!” to that little voice in your head about getting more actively involved. I promise you won’t regret having done so.