Look at your car.
Now, I do not know where you have been this summer, but I have a feeling I could probably learn a good bit by looking at your car. Sand in the foot wells is a sure sign of a trip to the beach. Lots of sand means lots of beach time….or a lot of people who really enjoy the beach! But what else in in there, and what does it say about how you spent your summer?
Are there cups from fast-food places, water bottles, extra napkins, and wadded-up empty bags that held treats? Are there candies under the seats and down in the tracks they slide on? Are there ribbons, barrettes, and brushes, or other grooming aids, because you did a lot of your primping in the car? Are there brochures from parks or attractions, maps and guides? How about shoes, shirts, or hats? Are those batteries rolling around down there? How many games and puzzles are in there? These are all signs of a long family road trip. Is that an old french-fry I smell?
Is there evidence of many trips to the pool, or maybe to the pick-your-own fruit place? What’s still there from the end of your team’s baseball season, or the last Irish dance event? Is that a program from a concert, or maybe a Nats game? Is that the flag they handed out at the Fourth-of-July fireworks show you went to? What about the parking stub from when you left your car at the airport? Did you ever finish that paperback that’s in there?
Sunscreen and spare sunglasses, bug repellent and hand lotion, tissues new and used. The car holds so many of the supplies we need for our adventures. Father Nick keeps golf clubs in his, I have my hiking poles. The car tells a lot about how we spend our time. Look at your car, and you’ll see a veritable Smithsonian exhibit about your summer.
If that’s what your car has accumulated, imagine what your soul looks like. Dirt, debris, and grit from a carefree time when everybody just wants to relax and have fun, and duties are postponed or ignored. Evidence of excess or neglect can build up in your life just as much as in your car.
That’s why I recommend a trip to the detailer. It was always my job in my family to clean up the cars, including a good scouring after summer vacation, inside and out. Some years I swear I could have filled a dumpster – especially after that big 6,000-mile trip out west in ’78. I did the same thing with my parents’ cars as recently as three years ago! I always thought it was fun and rewarding, but I don’t know a kid who does that anymore. Now they have professionals who can help you.
Similarly, bring that soul in to a professional for a good detailing session. This time of transition from flip-flops to lace-ups and sunscreen to computer screen is a perfect time to get everything in order. You may not think you have enough to warrant a trip now, but even if you couldn’t fill a dumpster, you’re not going to remember in Advent what you committed or omitted in July. Don’t tell yourself you have too many errands to run; write grace and mercy right at the top of your list of school supplies.
Look at that car. Bring everyone in the family out to the driveway to look at it and be reminded how great their summer was. Then, pile everybody into it, and come up here, or go to the Franciscan Monastery, or the Basilica for one last excursion: to the confessional! Get those souls as pristine as they were on the day of your baptism! It’s even better than that new-car smell.
Then once you’re home, for Pete’s sake, do something about that car.