An Encouraging Word — Finish line or starting line?

When a man ends, he is only beginning. Sirach 18:5

Father J. Ronald Knott
Father J. Ronald Knott

I associate September with “beginnings.” When I was growing up in Rhodelia, Ky., in the 1950s, August was the time we ordered new school clothes from the Sears, Roebuck & Company catalogue. Since there were several of us going to school at that time, our new school clothes came through the mail in a huge bundle.

My younger brother and I very often got the same item, but in different colors. He always seemed to get brown and I always seemed to get blue. In fact, I was probably in my 20s before I realized that it was not illegal for me to wear brown.

When September rolled around (we didn’t start in August like they do now), I can remember laying out my new school clothes the night before, feeling the excitement of seeing my classmates again and the pride of being in a different grade level — with the possibility of a new (religious) sister every two years.

Since I went to school full-time till I was 26, September will always be associated, in my mind, with a time of new beginnings.

This September feels rather odd, though. Since I retired several weeks back, this particular September has a strange feeling about it, It feels like a very different kind of beginning. It has the feel of the beginning of the last part of my life.

I’m not sad about that. I am excited to see what God and I, working together, can do with the last several laps of the race. Even this September has a feeling of excitement and possibility.

Hopefully, my enthusiasm can be shared by many of you who may be in the same boat — going through a serious life change, no matter what age you may be. Empty nester? Retiree? Job loss? Major health change?

Meister Eckhart has some words for you: “It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of new beginnings.”

Freeman Dyson may have summed up how this September really feels: “So long as you have courage and a sense of humor, it is never too late to start life afresh.”

The words of Barbara Sher seem to fit me this September: “You can learn new things at any time in your life if you are willing to be a beginner. If you actually learn to like being a beginner, the whole world opens up to you.”

As another September rolls around, one thought in particular stands out. When it comes to the years I have left, a lot depends on how I manage my thinking. As Henry Ford said, “Those who think they can, and those who think they can’t, are both right.”

Steve Jobs said this about his new start: “The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”

Father J. Ronald Knott

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