Last week Beth had purchased some groceries at the store and brought them home. I went outside to help her bring them in when she arrived home. One of the bags I grabbed was a carton of milk and as I carried it inside somehow the milk fell out and bounced off the floor. Then milk began to shoot out everywhere. I picked it up and put it over the sink and observed there was a two-inch crack that resulted from the fall in the plastic container. I called to Beth and she came and found something else to pour the milk into before it had all of it was wasted in the sink.
There are times when I feel like that container of milk. It’s like; “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up or stop leaking!” Life has a way of bouncing us around, cracking us up and before we know it the good stuff; emotional stability, mental acuity and healthy spirituality are wasted away. Thankfully most of us have others we can depend on to help us through these difficult times. They help keep negative attitudes from filling what is empty and enable us to still remain useful no matter what life may bring our way.
This morning, driving to a Father/Child reading event I was rounding a curve when out of nowhere came a big white dog, barking and headed straight for the truck. I didn’t have much time to react when at the last second it decided to turn back. My heart went into my stomach and as I looked in the rearview mirror the dog made its way back to the bush it was hiding behind to wait for its next victim. It was frightening to have this huge canine all of a sudden appear on what should have been an easy drive to a county library.
After my heart and stomach settled I thought about the dog and the fright it gave me. The fear had subsided and I wondered where its owner was, why the dog was allowed to play this dangerous game when, in a collision, the vehicle almost always wins?
I don’t like being afraid. Fear is unsettling and I’d prefer to live life without it. However, I admit that life can be a lot like the, almost, run in with the dog today. We navigate the road of life the best we know how hoping to reach our destination. When, out of nowhere, something happens which makes us afraid. It may be a brush with death, a lingering sickness, a mental health issue, a financial crisis, a danger or challenge to friends and family. In these moments we become afraid. Our goal is no longer reaching our destination but getting through each next moment. Everything slows down and our attention becomes solely on the fear.
In one sense it’s helpful our vision is singularly focused. It helps us concentrate on what’s in our way and how to avoid it or fight it. However, if we are not careful the thing which makes us afraid becomes the only thing we see and our vision to all the beauty and wonder of life is obscured. Balancing being fearful and mindful is tricky but is the only way we make sure we don’t spend our lives afraid to live.
Good Eye –
Last week I had an important meeting. During it, a woman walked into the room to give the person I was meeting with a message. As she delivered it the other noticed the woman was shaking. She asked; “Are you okay? You’re really shaking!” The person said she had a lot going on and was trying to fit all of it into a small amount of time. She then left the room and my meeting continued. Afterwards, I saw the woman who had been shaking and told her I hoped she had a good day.
As I went to my next appointment I thought about both the woman and the fact that I didn’t notice her shaking at all. I totally missed it. I try to be aware of people and their emotional, mental and spiritual states. I even try to notice new glasses, haircuts, and changes people make but not this time. I realized it swept by me because all of my focus was on the “important” meeting. The person I met with was at the same meeting but didn’t allow it to consume all of her attention and she was able to show concern to someone in need.
It was a good reminder that true awareness is finding the balance between paying attention to ourselves and others.
I could tell she needing something without knowing how to ask for it. Finally, she began to say a few words, jumbled, somewhat coherent, and then blurted out a need her husband had and could I help? Responding in an assuring voice with, hopefully, peace giving words I told her; “Yes” and “would she like a card?” She smiled affirmatively, took the card and said; “Thank you.” “Anytime,” I replied back. “I hope you have a nice weekend.” I don’t know if I’ll hear from her or her husband again but it was not my first time I’ve encountered someone looking for assistance and yet hesitant, resistant, to ask for help.
I reflect on our brief conversation and wonder; “Why is it so hard for some to admit need?” I think part of it is our; “Pull yourselves up by your own bootstraps” culture. Folks who need a helping hand often feel they are somehow “less than” others.
Maybe it’s the thought that; “Others are so much worse off.” It seems selfish to take food out of their mouths, clothes off their backs, a roof over their heads.
Might be, perhaps the darkest reason; “I don’t want to be lumped in with the people who ‘have their hands out.'” They are judged, looked down upon, seen as lazy, under-achievers, taking advantage of people, churches, community organizations and the government.
Being in need is nothing to be ashamed of. Whether its physical, mental, emotional or spiritual we all need each other to make it. A wisdom proverb states; “No one can navigate the road of life alone.” In truth, we are all needy, weak, impoverished and cannot do it on our own. Asking for help is not helplessness it’s having the right balance of strength and humility to admit we are flawed, defective, deficient, have shortcomings, imperfections, in short,we are all; human and to be so is to be in need.
“Someone asked the great Master one day; “What is the gospel?” The Master replied; “The gospel is simply one beggar telling another beggar where to find food.” Wisdom Proverb
On Saturday, Beth and I drove to the store to buy a few items for the long weekend. Returning home I noticed the gas gauge light had come on but wasn’t sure how far I had driven since its illumination. I made a mental note to get gas first thing Tuesday morning. Today, however, I forgot to stop by the fuel station as I drove to my first appointment. It was only several miles later I noticed the gas gauge again and felt my stomach drop. The indicator was on; “E” and there wasn’t a gas station anywhere close to my present location. My focus went from all the things which needed to be done today to that gauge. I knew I was running on fumes and was worried about being stranded on a Tennessee highway on an already hot Tuesday in September. My eyes darted from the road to the indicator and back again over and over. Finally, a gas station came into view and I pulled in to get gas and let out a huge sigh of relief!
After filling up and getting back on the road I reflected on the tense moments and how the worry and anxiety took over everything. Running on fumes is not enjoyable. When we’re depleted, at our wit’s end, have been used up and we’re not sure we going to make it much further, we have a difficult time seeing anything else. Our focus becomes survival not finding the meaning in every moment or the good with each person with whom we connect.
Being sure we are caring for ourselves and keeping our mental, emotional, and spiritual, tank full is vital for our lives and the ones with whom we share the road of life.