I read the other day that Denver International Airport is working on a $1.3- billion renovation — $1.3 billion. Written out, that is $1,300,000,000. For a renovation. I was at DIA in May and it seemed fine. The floors were polished granite, the train was cheerfully automated and the seats in the terminal were comfortable (dentist-office comfortable). Also, I was safely able to get on a plane and go somewhere — the core function of an airport.
There was a time when churches were the greatest expression of contemporary values. Now we have airports and football stadiums. At least an airport gets used every day. We build monuments to work with names on them like “FirstBank,” or “CenturyLink.” My dream is for the tallest building in Colorado Springs to read: “Believe in the Real Presence,” or “Give to Returning God’s Gifts.”
The recent congressional contest in Georgia’s sixth district reportedly cost $50 million, and the 2016 presidential election cost over $1 billion. To put that into perspective, it costs a little more than $25 million to operate all 39 parishes in the Diocese of Colorado Springs and the Catholic Pastoral Center each year.
Other things that are expensive: health care, education, housing and childbirth. Cars are relatively cheap but I could certainly spend a lot on that Mercedes-AMG E63 S. And it might feel worth it the first time I put the gas pedal on the floor. After that, though, buyer’s remorse.
We can afford it because we are a rich country. We have a lot of financial wealth in assets and bank accounts. Most charitable institutions — the Church especially — rely solely on contributions from benefactors.
And it’s not just the rich who are wealthy. I keep a microcomputer in my pocket that required billions of dollars of research and development. The ecosystem in which it is required to run also cost billions in R&D and infrastructure build-out. (I’m talking about my iPhone . . . )
Americans are rich, and we have a lot of stuff. First, let’s recognize that this stuff is a gift from God. A gift is freely given, meaning that God gave us our stuff. By giving it to us, he doesn’t own it anymore. God gave to Adam all the animals in the Garden and didn’t even want them back — he just asked Adam to name them. By naming them, Adam recognized and acknowledged them. His naming of the animals in the garden is recognized as co-creation with God and is understood as an act of stewardship.
So, in this, the first in a five- part series on stewardship, let’s take a moment to name the blessings we’ve received from God.
I’ll go first. I am thankful for my wife and kids! That someone would marry me, commit to living with me until one of us dies and even creating a family together — that’s a miracle! And my kids are miracles. Except for when they are terrors.
We who live in Central Colorado in 2017 have a lot to be thankful for. For starters, let’s name clean air and clean water. When my wife and I lived in Denver, there was a flatulent whiff of air that settled over our condo some nights. That was horrible. We’re so close to the mountains in Colorado Springs that the air produced by the pine trees goes directly into our lungs! (science). Also, the water here is exceptional.
Secondly, I am thankful for vaccines. This clearly isn’t a column about vaccines, but I want to give them a shout-out: Thank you vaccines for the fact that I don’t have diphtheria, measles, polio, river blindness or any of the other horrors that mankind lived and died with for millennia. I am thankful that my kids have access to vaccines.
I am thankful for all the civic things that our combined tax dollars pay for: firemen, police, road crews, park rangers, enforcement of laws (except for speeding, curiously enough . . .). I am glad that people with the title “health inspector” exist. I am glad that there are regulations on things like wiring and electricity so that my house doesn’t burn down.
My friend Brian is in the Army. I am grateful to him for the sacrifices he makes for my safety. He spends a lot of time away from his family, and so I am grateful to them for their sacrifice. There is nothing more heroic than sacrificing time with a loved one for the greater good of society.
I am glad that certain people chose to follow their eccentricity and master great arts like brewing beer or painting. I am grateful to those who study theology and philosophy and can tell us what it all means. I am also happy when they patiently listen to my cheerful yet often ignorant attempts to argue.
I am glad that Philip Glass didn’t become a podiatrist and that Thom Yorke didn’t become a realtor and that Billy Joe Armstrong didn’t become a lawyer. Also, glad for the fact that priests chose to become priests and not accountants. I am glad that Pope John Paul II became a saint and told us all that we should not be afraid to do the same.
I am thankful for the Catholic Church and those who brought her along throughout the ages. Yes, it was the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit works within us and through us. If it wasn’t for the millions of our forebears who took up the faith, we’d be reading about Catholicism in history books. I marvel at the fact that no matter where I go, I am minutes away from a daily Mass (maybe excepting for certain places in Utah). Our diocese is relatively new, but the legacies of faith left by those who built our parishes and maintain them today is a gift to us and to coming generations.
And my parents: thanks parents.
What are you thankful for? Stewardship — and happiness — begins with acknowledging the things we are thankful for. Thankfulness is the antidote for so many miseries — jealousy, covetousness (of the Mercedes-AMG E63 S), depression and tooth decay. This column is the beginning of a five-column series on Catholic Stewardship. I am thankful to have started the series with gratitude. And literacy.