Spring’s a busy season. These days, when it comes to spiritual books, I’m looking for something of substance that I can read in short bursts of free time: between work and picking up the kids, say, or during breaks from grading my towering stacks of papers.
Make Today Matter: 10 Habits for a Better Life (and World) by Chris Lowney is just the ticket. I’m loving this book: it’s short and sweet, well-written and wise.
As the title indicates, the book looks at ten habits that can improve your life. These habits do not involve drinking more water or planking (both of which, I should add, I’m still trying to do more of). This book is about your spiritual and emotional life, not your physical life … and yet if we work on living the best life we can, Lowney demonstrates, everything else – our work, our relationships, our world – will benefit.
Lowney’s a thoughtful guy with quite a resume: a former Jesuit seminiarian who now chairs the board of one of the country’s major hospital systems. You can tell he walks the walk. This book is written with heart and conviction and even people who don’t like overtly “religious” books will like the practical, conversational tone of this one. There’s lots to chew on here, and all sorts of great stories.
For example, Chapter Four is titled “Give Away Your Sneakers: Help Someone Today.” Lowney opens the chapter with the story of an emergency room doctor who one day treated a homeless patient, a man who had no shoes. Just as the patient was about to be discharged, the doctor took off his own sneakers and gave them to the patient, so he would not have to go out into the night barefoot.
Lowney cites this as an example of the fact that throughout our day, we have so many little moments where we intersect with people who are in need. Maybe they need shoes, spare change, a hug, a listening ear, someone to hold the door open for them, or just someone to look into their eyes and see them. And yet a lot of us – myself included, ahem – don’t take these opportunities. “Some inner demon – a fear, an insecurity, a bad habit – holds us back,” Lowney writes. This even happens when what we are called to give is far less than the shoes off our feet. Sometimes, we don’t take the opportunity even to give a simple “hello” to another person.
This chapter resonated with me and made me think. I realized that my missed opportunities often have to do with something fundamental to my nature: my introversion.
I often say that I’m an introvert who does a good job of pretending to be an extrovert (this is not uncommon among teachers, I’ve learned). But since I give so much energy to my students – and as a mom, to my own children – I sometimes don’t want to give it to anyone else. There are days where all I want to do is go hunker down alone and not talk to anyone … even someone who looks like he or she needs a little recognition or affirmation.
I like how Lowney’s book challenges me to look squarely at this tendency, and to consider its role in the little choices I make and opportunities I don’t take. How much does it cost me to pause and greet, say, the substitute teacher who is in the lunch room sitting alone? Not much, and yet it can mean a lot. A few minutes of chat – “Who are you subbing for? How is it going?” – is a way of providing welcome to someone who may be feeling like the odd woman out in a group of clubby teachers who all know each other. It doesn’t cost me much, really, but it can change the mood of someone’s day. Mine too, honestly. It’s a little habit I’m trying to adopt lately. I’m grateful that this book helped get it on my radar.
Anyhow, if you’re looking for a quick but rich read, check out Make Today Matter. It’s a gift to all of us — introverts and extroverts alike.