... there is one fashion trend from the 1990s that is worth revisiting -- the bracelets that were simply printed with the letters WWJD.
As a middle-aged man in America, there are many fashion disasters littering the family photo album. There is the shirt with trees on it, paired with a stunning denim-like wide-collared jacket with white piping from the 1970s. Then, there are the photos of me with the rolled collars and cuffs of the 1990s. I was fortunate to attend Catholic school, where my wardrobe consisted of navy pants and a light blue shirt for eight years. This saves me from having to reflect too regretfully on the bad fashion choices of my past.
However, there is one fashion trend from the 1990s that is worth revisiting -- the bracelets that were simply printed with the letters WWJD.
"What would Jesus do?"
Jocks, slackers, the Dungeons and Dragons crowd and every type of 1990s high schooler in between wore these bracelets. This fashion choice became a common denominator between those of different backgrounds and ages and brought to light that Jesus should be part of daily life. Even if the wearer did not always ask himself or herself the question of what Jesus would do, a look down at the wrist was a simple reminder that one should.
Today, when people look at their wrists, it is not like in the 1990s; instead, it seems like technology that Hollywood imagined in the 1950s -- the Dick Tracy watch. We can now access all of the information in the world, make phone calls, video chat, text, stay on schedule, and become lost in all of the minutiae of our lives by glancing at our wrists. Is this an improvement? Sometimes complexity is not better. The most crucial messages we can receive are the simple and direct ones that bring us immediately to Jesus.
In many Catholic schools, there is a small sign as you enter the building that reads:
"Be it known to all who enter here that Christ is the reason for this school. He is the unseen but ever present teacher in its classroom. He is the model of its faculty and the inspiration of its students."
This simple message exemplifies that ingrained in the fabric of every Catholic school is the knowledge that Jesus Christ is present and the model for everything that occurs in the building. Academic excellence is paramount. However, excellence in this area alone is not what makes Catholic schools so successful.
Catholic schools form young people in an understanding that Christ is an example for us all. In other words, even if it is not always put this simply, Catholic schools challenge students to ask themselves, "What would Jesus do?" Jesus would work hard, he would be kind, and he would use the gifts his Father gave him. This is what children in Catholic schools learn.
Asking ourselves what Jesus would do is not just for children in Catholic schools. In a world full of distractions and complexity, it is easy to lose sight of what is important. If we believe the truth of the Gospel, Jesus answered the question of what he would do. He told us very simply to love one another as he loved us.
So, next time complexity is weighing you down in deciding how to respond to an issue, close your eyes and imagine Jesus present in the situation. What would a man who embraced the marginalized, the sinner and the lonely do?
This does not mean the issues today are simple, but it does mean we can respond to them in a simple way. We can respond using the intellect God gave us, and the empathy, compassion, and love Jesus modeled for us.
This is what Catholic schools teach. This is why Catholic schools work.
- Michael B. Reardon is executive director of the Catholic Schools Foundation, www.CSFBoston.org.