Folk-tunes blared from my silver computer mid-morning last week as I sipped my third, lukewarm cup of coffee. These days, my Spotify playlists have been inundated with artists like the Dirty Guv’nahs, Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors, or The Civil Wars. There’s something spectacularly calming about strumming banjos, melodies that sound like campfires in the back-country, and lyrics that speak on the potency of truth, the allure of a sweet, sweet crush, and the hopes for unfulfilled dreams.
I smiled as I heard the lyrics from Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors’ song, “I Like To Be Me When I’m With You.” It’s just too adorable. Perhaps, should I get married someday, this would be a lovely choice for “our song.”
You never know.
If I owned the finest vineyard, I’d rather sit and drink cheap wine with you.
If I could live on the moon, I would rather stay in Tennessee with you.
If I could sail across the ocean, the ocean would just be blue without you.
And if I climbed up Mount Everest, I would turn around and climb in bed with you.
With you I can be myself, with you I don’t have to be somebody else.
It’s like puttin’ on my favorite pair of shoes. I like to be with me when I’m with you.
The song finishes, but my mind does not.
Grant applications await. Upcoming events, needed content for website, the meeting at noon, and a review of our bank statements for the previous month’s transactions flood my brief moment of peace. Soon, I’m reminded of my own, personal finances and the things I have left un-done within the realm of my own life. I think of budgets, bills, and responsibilities; my goodness the glamour of adult life has run dry, it seems.
Yes. It took all of 10 seconds to transform from a calm, gentle morning to the chaos of spinning thoughts, worries, and pieces of the day to pull together.Unfortunately, living life in a myriad of rush in the gross glorification of productivity is considered the norm in our world. Just because I don’t agree with it, doesn’t mean I haven’t become victim. I know I’m not alone in this. But goodness, it can create a weary soul in no time.
In the midst of these distractions, I got a call from a Rwandan friend in Denver.
Recently, we have become fast friends. He’s a father of two, with a wife that works downtown at a large hotel in the housekeeping department. He works as a care-taker in a nursing facility. He – and his family – don’t speak much English. It continue to astounds me how they get by. Last week, I helped them mail their rent check to their landlord in Denver. The address had changed and when they received the notice in the mail, they couldn’t decipher what exactly the change meant.
It’s the little things, you see, that make living in an outside culture overbearing and overwhelming.
This particular call was different, too. He was frantic.
A car accident had occurred the day prior and his Subaru was getting fixed at a local shop. His insurance company had issued him a rental car in the meantime. He needed someone to take him to Enterprise to pick it up for the three-day allotment.He would need an advocate; someone who could explain the insurance policies and provide a thorough process for how renting a car in the United States works.
You know what I told him when I asked if I would come?
“No. I can’t. I am working, I am sorry. I’m just too busy today.”
He was surprised as I was. The air hung in a thick silence until he resigned to the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to come. We hung up the phone and I sat back down at my dining room table.
With folk music still playing, I quietly contemplated what had just happened. A friend of mine – a friend who can’t speak English! – needed help. I said no. Did I really just turn him down? Who else would help him out? How is it possible that I just reacted like this? Worse of all, I could have taken the break! Most of my work wasn’t time sensitive and I would need a lunch break anyway!
I was quickly upset with myself. Certainly, you can’t say “yes” every single time a need arises, but if you are able to lend a hand, my goodness, lend a hand! Hadn’t I learned anything from all of the countless times that I have been helped in life? Gratitude, like dust swept from the concrete floors of our home, had been swept away for a portion of time. I was embarrassed.
I called him back immediately. I apologized, and grabbed the keys to my car so I could journey to Aurora to help him. “I’m coming,” I told him. For that, I was glad.
A situation was salvaged – but we don’t always have those kinds of chances to make things right again. I was lucky. I had placed my needs first, above a friends’. Even in my best of intentions, I had missed (almost) a potential opportunity to serve.
We get so focused thinking our job or occupation has to be “of service” and yet so often, God gives us the opportunity in so many other ways. Would we actually take it?
In a spirit of honesty, I think my initial harshness was a deeper reaction to day-to-day, on-going stress that inevitably has created tangible, real burn-out. I felt trapped by the confines of my day, by my own lack of energy, and frankly, from exhaustion. I felt beaten down and so helping someone else – even for just a moment – felt impossible. For me, when I start feeling this way, that’s when I know I am in need of a strong dose of re-calibration.
It might be folk music. It might be roller-blading. It might be long talks with friends. It might be night walks. It might be a bath and a book. It might be a glass of red wine. It might be all of the above. What’s important, is to know when this is happening, and upon recognizing, developing a way to work through it.
Ignoring it doesn’t work. Becoming enveloped by it creates discouragement.
The only way is forward. Take that path. It’s the harder one, but it’s the better one. Plan to get more sleep. Eat healthy. Take a break. Find perspective. Be active.
I’m trying this and it’s hard. These seasons can be tumultuous; but in faith, and with prayer, there will be solace. You have to believe that. Because when you do, you can live – truly live- and know the bigger picture of what’s important – and what you have to hold onto. Our brothers and sister are all around us. Sometimes they need us, sometimes we need them. We mustn’t be afraid to ask. And, we mustn’t be afraid to answer.