At a meeting today, a minister said he was taking three days of Sabbath this week “to prepare for the busy season ahead.” It reminded me of that juxtaposed phrase: “don’t just do something, stand there!”
What if we considered not doing something an essential act of preparation for the activities of this holiday season?
I read in the book Unplug the Christmas Machine that the number one thing that children really want for Christmas is a relaxed and loving time with family. What better way to prepare for that kind of time together than to take some Sabbath time and reflect on scaling down the activities to have more time and peace of mind to really enjoy each other?
I was sort of bored standing at the counter of the downtown post office putting stamps on a stack of postcards. An elderly man came through the door and just as he was passing me his cellphone rang. When he answered the phone, instead of saying “hello” he said (with great enthusiasm) “glad to be here!” Then he had an animated conversation with someone—punctured throughout with laughter. He made my day.
For the rest of the afternoon, when something happened I thought of his vitality as he said “glad to be here!” and applied that to my current action. When the speaker was not sure she could “make it” after all, I thought, “glad to be here”. When I ate my chili that night I thought “glad to be here.”
What would life be like if, no matter what, we exclaimed “glad to be here!”? It’s something to consider as we make hairpin turns throughout our day.
We were in a meeting talking about how much we want change, and yet, we clearly resist change.
The facilitator asked us to share one of the biggest risks of our lives. The responses included: when I got married; when I got divorced; when I left a great paying position that was draining the life out of me; when I moved my elderly Mother to live with us. The air filled with energy as we listened to the bravery in one another. Then the facilitator asked us to name a big risk that is “waiting in the wings” of our current lives. Again, but this time with hesitancy, each person spoke: to start a charitable foundation; to become a full time Mom; to travel for a year; to run for public office. The room fell silent.
The facilitator asked us to turn to one other person and describe one small step in the direction of this dream. The room filled up with ideas, encouragement and hope. We experienced the support of the community gathered as we listened to one another’s stories and we left understanding both the mystery and the making of change.
At lunch I described a challenging situation to a friend. I told her how I said “no” to a request to be the point person on a project, and then somehow got roped into the work anyway. I was simply sharing a situation. She proceeded to give me many minutes of advice: “Tell him you are not going to be in town that weekend” (not true) and “Demand more money.” (not relevant) I noticed how this uninvited advice shut me down.
I was reminded of the three kinds of business: mine, yours and God’s. Whose business is it if an earthquake happens? God’s business. Whose business is it if your neighbor’s backyard looks like a dump? Your neighbor’s business. Whose business is it if you are angry at your neighbor because of the backyard mess? Your business. Simply notice how many times we are all in each other’s business.
How often do we give uninvited advice? We can pause and ask ourselves: “Am I in their business? Did they ask me for the advice I am about to offer? Would I take the advice I am offering and apply it to my life?”
Taking the hairpin turn in life requires us to mind our own business.
Our local nonprofit group had two events last week to celebrate November as nonprofit awareness month. As I stood in a crowded ballroom and looked around, my heart both ached and rejoiced at the same time. I saw people who, at great risk, had started a nonprofit to meet a need in the community. Now they are barely holding on financially.
I listened to others who, with great enthusiasm for their mission, took the next steps in a strategic plan—with faith that the funding would follow.
The room throbbed with creativity, compassion and courage, yet I suspected that at next years celebration some folks in the room would not be present—mainly because of the changing economic reality.
What can we do to help each other face this reality and yet also remain steadfast in taking risks to meet the many needs in our community? How can we manage expectations about a future, and continue to move courageously toward our goals each day? Can we celebrate our work in our lives and in the community, while simultaneously holding the realities and possibilities of this new economic climate?
As I got into bed, I reviewed my day. I asked myself: “What was life-draining today?” My heart squeezed with regret. I thought of little Destiny. As tutors, we instituted the use of a new and simple Homework Pledge. The children signed a poster that said they would bring their homework and work to the best of their ability. When we reviewed how this was going with the other tutors (before the children arrived) someone asked: “What about Destiny?” We have known this child for almost two years and we are aware of her challenging life. We have allowed her to come in and do art, as this seems to calm her. But yesterday I pushed her towards our agenda. She shut down. Her mom came and got her. Later she came back with swollen eyes.
As tutors we convinced ourselves that “we need all the children to comply” with our new pledge. Yet, in that moment when someone asked about Destiny my heart said “let her be—she needs her art” and yet my mouth said “no exceptions.” So when I reviewed my day I whispered a prayer of forgiveness to Destiny and to my heart, and hope she returns so we can both try once again.
With hesitation, I cleaned off our refrigerator art. Our lives were in full view of anyone pausing in our kitchen. The observer would have seen a few political stickers; pictures of our grown daughter as the pink Power Ranger at Halloween from years ago; a magnet of a cactus from Arizona and one of an orange from Florida from two trips I took with my Mother. There were a variety of word magnets that had been arranged to create funny phrases; there were expired coupons that never made it to the grocery store and a few yellowed cartoons.
I put these old memories in an envelope—like a time capsule for someone to discover some day in the future. Now the refrigerator looks oddly lonely and yet inviting.
Sometimes we need to clean out what is sitting in our lives from our past in order to venture forth to the future. Even the good memories of the past can keep us stuck there. What does your refrigerator art say about your relationship to the past and to the present?