Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Review: Lunch Bag Notes

Lunch Bag Notes: Everyday Advice from a Dad to His Daughter by Ann Marie Parisi and Al Parisi
2003, Loyola Press, 199 pages, softcover, Catholic

I frequently avoid reading book introductions because they have all-too-often caused me to "stall" in the book. This one shouldn't be missed - it makes you more eager to read the "meat" of the book and makes it more meaningful at the same time. We are introduced to the Parisi family (a little background can be a wonderful thing) and the origin of the inspirational notes that dad, Al, wrote on his daughter's lunch bags during high school.

Al was a successful executive having a difficult recovery from brain cancer. He decided to share some tidbits of wisdom with his teenage daughter. At first, she kept them to herself, but her girlfriends got curious, she started sharing them at the lunch table at school; and so they became an inspiration for many, long before they were published.

Ann Marie squirreled these notes away in a shoebow. A few years later, they literally fell on her head - and she decided to have them published.

And now the notes themselves... They are advise about life - nice Catholic flavor, a lot about character and attitude and the importance of making good choices in life. This is a definite departure from modern sensibilities that decide teens will misbehave anyway - just prepare them to deal with the consequences. These notes have a great "applicability" factor and are written by a man who understands young people (including the fact that they don't really wat watered-down philosophy or advice). I would also describe them as "genuine."

Here are a few random examples:
Dearest Ann Marie,

Heaven is our ultimate goal. Therefore, each decision we make should take us closer to heaven. It would be the worst of losses to lose sight of this goal, even if it were for only a second.

Remember: WWJD.

Love, Dad (page 32)
Dearest Ann Marie,

What would you do if you knew you had only one month left on Earth?

Who would you see?
Who would you call?
What would you try?
Where would you go?

The answers to these questions remind you what elements in your life you should never take for granted.

Imagine how wonerful the world would be if people felt, "This may be the last time I see this person."

Love, Dad (page 46)
Dearest Ann Marie,

A follow-up on character...character defines our life on Earth long after we are gone.

I read an interesting brochure about womanhood recently. Some of the points I remember were: A real woman is moral, modest, strong in faith, prayerful, and she cherishes her feminity.

That's all I recall, but that is enough to confirm you are a "real woman."

Love, Dad (page 114)

The format includes one of these notes on one page with a "thought starter" and room for notes on the facing page.

I think this would make a nice journal for teens (this volume is aimed at girls - More Lunch Bag Notes is written to Al's son and is more suitable for boys) to think about some of what matters most in life - faith, family, character, values - and work on applying these to their lives.

It occured to me that this book is good, not just for teens, but for their dads too. Al Parisi offers a wonderful role model by being very involved in his children's lives and communicating well with them. He is encouraging and positive without being wishy-washy. This book would be especially beneficial for fathers and daughters to read and discuss together.

Although I liked the book on the whole, there were two things I didn't like. First was this affirmation: "I believe I am divinely inspired. I believe I will always take the right turn of the road. I believe God will always make a way where there is no way." There's a good deal of truth in there somewhere, but I think the wording garbles it enough to be inaccurate to some degree. Second, I think Al is a little off-the-mark in a few comments about Lent. It is true that good works are very important. It's also true that making sacrifices and giving up things that we like are excellent exercises for the will which is certainly helpful in making good choices.

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