October 21, 2019

Life is Really Just a Lease

I was surprised recently when a young girl in one of my classes announced that next week was her birthday and she was turning 15. I suddenly realized that this young lady was born in 2001 and that all she would ever know about the 20th century would be from books. We spend a few years on this earth and some of us spend a few more years than others but in terms of the thousands of years that this earth has been around, it is a small amount of time. My uncle, a priest, gave a sermon back before they were called homilies, and illustrated how short our time on earth was by saying “that few of us were here 100 years ago and few of us will be here 100 years from now.”

We come into this earthly existence with nothing and go out with nothing. Our faith has to be the most precious thing we have as all the earthly treasures we accumulate will have a limited life just like us. My son answered a question from one of his children the other day by saying “the bank and I have an arrangement and as long as I keep making the payments they let us keep the house.”

Several years ago before I relocated to New Jersey, I took a tour of some of the houses, churches and schools that I attended as a young adult. Sadly, most of them had been torn down or were in the process of being torn down as part of the new “urban redevelopment.” What I thought was “forever” existed for just a few years. What I had was memories as the actual buildings were gone. I think we live in a “recyclable” world and some areas seem to be hit harder than others. Not much is left of the Detroit neighborhoods where I grew up. Older homes take a lot more money to maintain than newer homes and the people that moved into these older areas did not have the financial assets to keep them up.

I guess as I get older and a lot of my old friends and relatives now reside in cemeteries, I see things in a different light. I value education now more than ever which is why I am taking the closing of the Catholic schools so hard. I pay a lot of tuition now for my grandchildren to attend these same Catholic schools. Unless a home is part of a faith structure, nothing will support this Catholic education if it is not fostered in a Catholic school. In today’s world, children grow up too fast and are exposed to the worldly culture through cell phones, television and iPods. And sad to say, much of this is fostered through money. The wealthier the parents, the less chance that the children will have to experience a normal life.

We have to look at life as a lease. Nothing that we build or accumulate on this earth will last. We are here as God’s servants and we should use what money or time that we have to do what we can to make life better for those that we can help. All we really “own” is the short time that we are on this earth.

My son and his family lived in Europe for several years. Part of the tourist brochure in Zurich, Switzerland was an attraction called a “church tour.” It included at least a half dozen former cathedrals that no longer functioned as churches but were still unbelievable architectural wonders. I used to ponder what happened to the people that attended those churches. Apparently they disappeared similar to the United States today where society is breaking down and church attendance and participation is a “casual” activity. I hope and pray that “church tours” are not in the near future for us.

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Written by
Donald Wittmer

DONALD WITTMER is a retired business executive who held key roles in the automotive and banking sectors. For a time, he also served as a Fiscal Agency Manager for the Detroit branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. He received his undergraduate degree from Cincinnati's Xavier University, an M.A. in business management from Central Michigan University, and earned certification in bank operations from the School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A husband, father, and grandfather, he teaches part-time at the Kent Place School for Girls in Summit, New Jersey.

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Written by Donald Wittmer
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