This morning in church we were finishing a song and the song leader asked us to be seated. Beth had on a beautiful gray, black and white scarf wrapped around her neck and as we were sitting it ended up between the person and seat back of the pew in front of us. Beth was sitting and all a sudden the scarf now pressed into the pew by the woman couldn’t sit back she was stuck, tethered to someone we didn’t know. The situation was absurd and funny and we both got the giggles. I reached over to pull it from between the woman and pew and realized there was a lot of scarf to retrieve. Luckily, we weren’t seated for long and we stood back up expecting the woman to do the same. Unfortunately, she didn’t. Argh! Beth then began to pull the scarf little by little until, finally, she had freed herself and was careful not to lean too far forward again.
In life, there are times we find ourselves tethered to someone or a group that chokes the life out of us. We might not notice it at first but sooner or later we find we must be free or suffer. Cutting the cord, letting go, escaping from a toxic relationship is hard but it is better than the life being pulled out of us.
Today was busy! I know for some it was a holiday but my schedule was stuffed! The day started early and it felt like a sprint to the end of it. I don’t mind busy days most of the time because it keeps the time moving and there’s no boredom to fight off.
On the other hand, my wife had a holiday. Today is Martin Luther King day and she was able to sleep in, keep her PJs on and enjoy a wonderful day of doing nothing, purposefully. She’s been incredibly busy since November of last year and a day home, without me!, and zilch on her schedule was what she needed.
There is a thin line between balancing a healthy life or action and inaction. Our chaotic world and its need for non-stop entertainment, to-do lists, places to go, things to experience, can set a pace where eventually we burn out, fall apart, or both. We need to know when to stop, take our foot off the gas and be still; not just emotionally and mentally but physically.
Knowing, sensing, its time for a break, a rest, a lazy day is an important sense to develop and put into practice.
Today, while working out, I began to think of someone I haven’t thought of in a long time. It was a song that started the flashback. The memories began emerging and it wasn’t long before I began to feel the emotions, experience the memories and time melted away. It was almost as if I was back in the place, with the person and struggling. This person and I had a difficult relationship. There are times when two people don’t mesh. Sometimes there are reasons other times there are not. The pairing produces negative results, hurt feelings, harmful actions, and regrets.
I was thankful my anxiety didn’t take me too far down the road. There are times when my anxiety disorder goes into high gear and I can’t turn my thoughts off. They keep coming and it seems I am at their mercy. Today, the flashback was only a few moments and I was able to move on.
Though unexpected and unwanted the flashback was a good reminder that I have put a lot of distance between what was then and what is now. Most of the pain has vanished, the hurt feelings healed, the memories and experiences seen differently. The person is no longer my adversary but a fellow sojourner trying to find their way home on another path.
It happened several weeks ago but has happened before many times and chances are will happen again. A stranger, someone we don’t know and not sure we want to, approaches us and asks us for assistance. This last time it was at a gas station when a long, matted hair, holes in his shirt and pants man, with a gas can in his hand asked me to buy him some gas. I always feel vulnerable and suspicious when anything similar to this happens and try to take a look around without being obvious. I was almost finished filling my tank and told him to set his canister down and proceeded to give him enough to almost fill it. When I finished he said; “Thank you,” took the container and went back to where he and another person were sitting. I opened the front door, sat in the driver’s seat and told the story to Beth who had watched from inside our car.
It’s been a rule of mine for as long as I can remember to not ask or demand from someone what they will do with money, gas or whatever when I give it to them. I understand some people take advantage of others and use people’s generosity for nefarious purposes. I know others need genuine help. I also believe in serving angels unaware and there’s no doubt I can’t tell the difference between the three. When I give it is a letting go of the abundance I sometimes have and allow others to use it as they deem necessary.
Assisting another in need is often vague. However, giving to another isn’t about how they use the gift but having a heart that’s willing to help.
Bullets and Breaks –
I saw my first bullet hole in a human body this week. Well, what it looks like with a thin bandage over it anyway. The leg and the hole belonged to one of the men I teach in my incarcerated father’s class. I had noticed last week he was limping and when he came in on Wednesday I asked how he was doing and what had happened. I had no idea the story which would be told.
The tale included drugs, friends pulling guns on one another, a high-speed car chase, resisting arrest, guns on all sides and finally an arrest and a charge of nine felonies. Whew! By the time he finished I was worn out! The most important detail he shared was before everything fell apart, when he was sitting on the couch with a friend and things began to escalate, he said; “If I would’ve stopped for thirty seconds and thought about what I was doing. If I would have just walked away, none of this would have happened.”
Although there was much in his story I couldn’t relate to I certainly know the harm of acting in haste, not taking time to think before I said or did something harmful, in the heat of the moment, only to regret it soon after. The difficulty is that once we do anything good, bad, positive, or negative the consequence will follow. We can’t take it back. “When we pick up one end of the stick, we pick up the other.”
One of the most difficult yet important disciplines wisdom teaches is the; “space in the middle.” It is that place between the event, the action and our response, our reaction. Usually the less space we allow the higher possibility of making a bad decision and dealing with the results of our choices.
The young man with the bullet hole in his leg is looking at a long sentence in the state penitentiary. I hope that he, all the students and their teacher will learn and put into practice the lesson of; “the space in between.”