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On my 48th birthday, I am glad I cannot play pool, and other “bad” things



Tom Hoopes - published on 07/03/17

Tom Hoopes' gratitude for bad coffee, worse pool playing, and more can help all of us realize the blessings we barely see.

It was a hot day in Casa Grande, Arizona on July 3, 1969.

The nurse approached my mother’s room, her eyes smiling over the face mask nurses wore in labor and delivery rooms back then. “He’s perfect,” she said, presenting the infant me to my mother, who was wiping away a tear. “He is just perfect!”

Okay, actually I’m not sure that happened that way at all. But I like to think it did. And I am in a reflective mood as I turn 48.

Today, on my 48th birthday, I find I am thankful for more than just the gift of life: I am thankful for this life. My life.

I am grateful for the gift of my cheap tastes in material goods and my limousine tastes in spiritual goods.

I am thankful that Busch Light is my favorite beer. I am thankful that Folgers for me is truly good to the last drop. I am thankful that I like a pepperoni quesadilla with corn in it better than steak … and I am thankful that I don’t care much what I wear and that I don’t care at all what I drive.

But I am thankful that, on the other hand, my faith does not come cheap. I had to be argued into it step by step by a Cambridge-educated Oxford Dominican, and I have to continually re-examine it as new information challenges it.

I am thankful that I demanded, and sought, and by God’s grace secured, a wife of the highest quality — the most passionate, intelligent, articulate, beautiful, committed, and mature person I have met, and that I pursued her, even though it was clear to everybody that I was way out of my league.

I am grateful that I have ridiculously high standards in my spiritual life — ridiculous because I fall so embarrassingly short of them. All the same, I am thankful that my conscience won’t let me change them. I just wish my will would catch up.

I am also grateful for things I lack.

I am grateful that God has wisely kept me out of trouble by making me have to work hard to make ends (almost) meet. I am grateful God has given me a gift of awkwardness that makes even the thought of straying from my wedding vows absurd. And I am grateful that God made me bad at pool because I love playing it and would do so – a lot – if others could tolerate playing it with me.

I am grateful for the free time I lack, because I have children.

Oops, yes, and I am grateful for the children! The younger ones who remind we how great I am just for existing and the older ones who remind me I’m not really so great after all.

I thank God for the gifts he gave me to live well and as I look to the future, and I ask him for the graces to perfect me and improve me so that I can die well one day.

I picture, and hope and pray for, some future bright day in heaven when the Blessed Mother, beaming, presents me to my mother once again, and says, “He’s perfected!” as my mom wipes away tears of joy … “At last, he is perfected!”

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