“I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut
I have spent thirty of my thirty-six years as a priest in parishes with schools. Those thirty years have given me ample opportunities to watch students and see what “makes them tick”. Every age group has their own special way of dealing with the world around them and the ambiguity that the world can often throw their way.
Watching the youngest ones — Pre-K, K, and 1st grade — can be extremely interesting in terms of group dynamics. Often, when someone is very shy and/or afraid of leaving home and coming to school, that student will enter the classroom and gravitate to the center of the room. When that student goes outside to play, he or she will go to the center of a group of students. It is as if staying in the center somehow makes the student feel safe.
As we grow older, we often exercise that same kind of thinking. To stay safe, we often move to the center not only in groups but in discussions and in our beliefs. We try not to go out to the fringes where there are less people around and where we will be challenged more. Instead, we remain safe and comfortable drawing to the middle of the road.
Kurt Vonnegut encourages us to leave the middle behind and go out to the fringe. There, we can see all sorts of things that staying in the middle often deprives us from seeing. When we decide to entertain new thoughts or new ways of doing things, we often see our world in a different way. It might be more challenging and difficult or it might be more intriguing and easy. We will never know, though, unless we try.
Some people stay to the middle of the road in their faith lives. They have learned their basic prayers and they do the bare minimum to get by: attend Mass weekly, contribute toward the work of the parish, et cetera. However, they never leave that middle ground. They do not take up any new learning by attending Bible classes or classes that teach deeper forms of prayer. They do not embrace the challenge to serve the poor and needy by volunteering in different organizations. They just stay safe doing as little as possible.
They are like the person in one of the parables who went out and buried his talent given to him by the landowner for fear of losing it. But that was not why the landowner gave the talents to his employees. He gave them talents so that they could make more.
God has blessed us richly. Some of us have tapped the gifts that God has given to us and allowed they to bloom and grow in our lives. Others have merely acknowledged the receipt of a gift but did nothing to use their gifts.
Be daring. Live on the edge. Use the gifts that God has given to you to the very best of your abilities. In doing so, you will find that God will give you even more and allow you to get even closer to the edge — and to Him.
FAITH ACTION: Challenge yourself to do something new in your faith life today and in the future.