Paul Moore: Spring cleaning decisions — It seemed so important at the time . . .
In My Father’s House / By Paul Thomas Moore
The other day we were clearing out some stuff, and I came upon a framed certificate. I received it about 20 years ago when, with God’s help, I completed the requirements for my Accredited Business Communicator designation (ABC).
I had already fallen short of acquiring the designation a couple of times before I was successful. (This was better than with my driver’s license, which took five tries).
It’s hard to remember now how important acquiring the ABC designation was for me at the time. I had had challenges in my personal life — a failed marriage the low point — and had only recently completed my university education after returning to school in my mid-30s. However, ready this time, I had remarried, and the ABC had come to represent the completion of a process of personal reclamation, one that would incidentally help me land the proverbial “good steady job.”
Getting those letters — ABC — after my name had come to mean so much to me that I daydreamed about putting them on my gravestone. The accreditation certificate hung on my office wall proudly for 16 years until my retirement in 2018.
ONLY SIGNIFICANT TO ME
The application process took some time to complete. It involved assembling work samples, sitting for written and oral examinations . . . and then waiting. Funny thing was, by the time I found out I had passed, I already had a job as a communications officer with the Canadian government. The job featured a nice salary, great benefits, and a private office. It was a name-on-the-door, broadloom-on-the-floor kind of career milestone.
When the ABC certificate arrived, it was a bit of an anti-climax. My boss was happy for me when I told him, and he had his boss send me a congratulatory email, and it was lovely, but I felt a bit like the wife who had to remind her husband it was their anniversary. He obligingly bought her some flowers, but as she looked at them, she almost felt as if she had given them to herself.
In its time, working toward the designation had given me a goal, a direction, a desire that motivated me positively, but I started to realize that the recognition aspect of the achievement wasn’t significant to anybody except me. I had imagined that the certificate in my office would silently proclaim I “had arrived” as a professional communicator. Instead, I was more likely to hear, “What’s that?” or provide fodder for jokesters, “Does that mean you know your ABCs?”
DOING THINGS FOR THE RIGHT REASONS
Life can be a paradox that way, so much so that writer and educator Kent Keith composed “The Paradoxical Commandments,” a spiritual version of which is credited to Mother Teresa. Reportedly inscribed on a wall in her room, the poem was a paean to doing things for the right reasons.
Paraphrased, the verses describe how if you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish motives, but be kind anyway. If you are honest, you may be cheated. That’s tough; be honest anyway. Mother’s version concludes, “In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”
As I was sorting through my yes, no, and maybe spring clearing piles, I concluded I was holding on to my nicely framed ABC certificate for sentiments of a lesser nobility than those expressed in the “Anyway” poem-prayer. Perhaps it was time to let it go. First, I nudged it over tentatively into the “maybe keep,” pile, then demoted it to “no.”
Will I regret my decision? A wise woman once told me you haven’t thrown out enough stuff until you’ve tossed something you end up missing. However, she advised you’ll miss it less than you’ll appreciate having cleared more time and space for real priorities (closet and headspace).
Likewise, I revisited my idea of placing the ABC accreditation acronym on my gravestone. I still think it works — only now it would stand for A Blessed Christian. That’s a recognition to which I can eternally aspire.
Paul Thomas Moore is a Catholic commentator and singer-songwriter. He and wife Mary Louise attend St. Mary of Lourdes in Germantown Hills. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.