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Religion column — The priority lists

By Fr. Jonathan Filkins

Mister Earl Jones had attended several of the finest business schools in our country and attained many honors in the educational pursuit. His managerial skillset was honed over time to a fine edge, as his renown came to the attention of several prestigious corporations, institutions, and boards of directors. Often asked for perspectives and advice on effective business management, many leaders frequently sought to emulate this titan of the corporate world.

Yet, in Earl’s ambitious efforts, many personal relationships suffered, as the business leader had not learned about the priorities of life. About to end his third marriage, and estranged from four of his five children, his personal life lacked the polish and accolades he was receiving on the professional.

Tabatha, the youngest daughter and the only child who would put up with her father, saw and heard the pain; even though it was well-hidden behind a stoic façade. “Dad, I understand that Marilyn has left you. What went on?” she asked. The answer followed the traditional path, with several, “I don’t have a clue,” thrown in.

Like her dad, this caring woman excelled in her studies and in the work place. While not yet as widely known, her personal life was far more stable. She was well into her second decade of marriage to a great husband, with three precocious kids, a well-satisfying career and a large circle of friends. Each day, her happiness and joy spread to all who knew her; and it did not go unnoticed by her father.

Standing by her dad during the latest divorce proceedings, Tabitha began to understand her father’s confusion and the need for her to provide guidance, as well as strength. She felt uneasy about the role reversal, but it was something she was called to do. Reflecting upon the dad’s strong points, it was believed that the solution was to come from the pragmatic methodology of the business education Earl received.

Over the past decades, educational institutions have taught several methodologies to enhance the efficacy of management. One of them is the construction of lists; giving each task a priority. In its simplest form, the activity requires the participant to list their goals on three pieces of paper, or computer pages, and label them, “A, B,” or “C.” “A” are those goals which have the highest priorities and are planned to be accomplished that day. “B” are goals of lesser priority, but important. “C” are those items which should be completed, but may wait for a later time.

Tabitha believed this concept was a potential solution for Jerry’s personal ills. Soon, they quietly sat down, while candidly and honestly listing the challenges, proposed solutions, and goals which were not always readily apparent. Part of their understanding was that the lists were fluid. As in the business world, priorities would be accomplished, new ones arise and take a lower, or greater, status. As also in the business world, the lists were meant to be reviewed during the day; most importantly at the beginning of a new day, with a fresh view on moving the listings up to the “A” action list. The first item, on the “A” list was, ‘Call all of the kids and begin to rebuild my relationship with them.’ The daughter was not yet quite done, asking, “Now, we have organized your personal life, at least a bit, I have to ask you, ‘On which list do you place your relationship with Jesus Christ and the condition of your soul? Are they on the top propriety ‘A’ list which needs to be accomplished now, or are they further down in the alphabet and somewhat less important?”

Time would provide the answer.