On this day of celebrating and looking back and looking forward, I’m thinking on these things:

merry christmas and happy new year 20121.that good friends can save your sanity, your self-respect, your life . . .

2. that the teaching life is a privilege, despite misguided bureaucrats who would rob it of its joy . . .

3. that my students are neighbors I’ve been given to love and my task is to love them well . . .

4. that some days I forget this  . . .

5. that I want to learn to listen like a cow . . .

Those of you who grew up in the country know that cows are good listeners. And barns are great contemplative places–at least the old ones were. I recommend to you this kind of dairy barn listening. We don’t need fixing, most of us, as much as we need a warm space and a good cow. Cows cock their big brown eyes at you and twitch their ears when you talk. This is a great antidote to the critical listening that goes on in academia, where we listen for the mistake, the flaw in the argument. Cows, by contrast, manage at least the appearance of deep, openhearted attention.

If you are listening, if you are turning your big brown eyes or blue eyes on somebody and twitching your ears at them, you are earning your silage. You are listening people into existence. You are saving lives. You are producing Grade A.

Mary Rose O’Reilley

6. That my work in this world is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished . . .

7. that good poetry, and a good poem, can change your life . . .

8. that a good poet died too soon (Dennis O’Driscollrequiescat in pace) . . .

9. that good music, and a good song, can change your life . . .

10. that the life of faith (a wholly inadequate way to describe the radical discipleship we’re called to) is about learning to be more human, not less . . .

11. that the life of faith is not separate from life . . .

12. that we need exemplars–neighbors, witnesses, friends–to show us how to be more human, not less . . .

13. that good friends can save your sanity, your self-respect, your life . . .