The Kindness of Strangers

The other day, I was on my way to work.  The morning had been the same as virtually every other weekday morning–got up early, worked out, ate breakfast, prayed and then got ready and headed off to work (I know, I do a LOT before 9:00 a.m.!).  As I was driving, I experienced a fleeting, yet overwhelming feeling that something special was going to happen this day.  No matter how hard I prayed, I just couldn’t seem to get this feeling back, because it felt so good.  I thanked God for His blessing and continued on my way.

As I was stopped at the light near my office, I absent-mindedly was looking around at my surroundings.  At this particular stop light, there are bus stops on either side of the street, and I often watch the people waiting for their transportation to wherever they are going.  I sometimes watch these people and say prayers for them; sometimes I am just watching them with no particular thought in my head.  This day was different, however.  I began watching an Asian woman, likely in her mid-50’s or so, walking toward the bus stop on the other side of the street.  She was blind and was using a cane to navigate her way down the sidewalk.  She moved slowly, and somewhat tentatively as she came upon a large electrical box adjacent to the sidewalk.  As she approached it, it appeared as though she would walk right into it, but her cane alerted her to its’ existence and she started slowly making her way to a clear path.

Suddenly, I observed a young Hispanic gentleman, maybe around 30 years old, walk up to her and say something to her.  She smiled broadly, grabbed his arm and he led her, slowly and safely, to the bus stop 50 feet away.  That fleeting feeling that I experienced earlier came back in a rush, and tears instantly came to my eyes. I had just witnessed a very simple, yet profound, act of kindness.  This young man, who had been waiting at the bus stop down the way, didn’t have to walk the 50 feet to help this woman.  This woman, who no doubt does not allow her blindness to prevent her from getting out and about, didn’t ask for his help, but willingly and with a big smile on her face gladly received it.  This incredible, blessed act of kindness will forever link these two strangers, as well as myself, who was fortunate and blessed enough to have witnessed it.

The light turned green and after blessing these two and thanking God for allowing me to witness this, I had to continue on to work, but I knew that I had experienced God in a very close and personal way that morning.  I went into my office with such a feeling of lightness, peace and joy that cannot be put into words.  Whenever the pressures of the workday reared their head (and at my job, that happens often), I thought back to that display of kindness and was brought back to that place of incredible peace and joy.  To this day, when I replay the image of that encounter in my mind, my eyes still well up with gratitude.  Sometimes, it’s the kindness of strangers toward each other that is the greatest gift.   I was simply a fortunate by-stander in this display, but was profoundly and forever impacted by it.  For that, God, I express my deepest gratitude.

 

Strength in Weakness

The past few weeks have been hard.  Without going into the gory details, I have been inundated with immense burdens at work due to others’ personal situations over which they have no control.  Doing my own work is hard enough, but having to do the work of three people, well, I think you get the picture.  I can’t say no, because it’s not right to turn one’s back on helping out when another is in distress.  What’s more, this all seems to be happening during a time of intense reflection and repurposing on my part.  It’s almost as if someone is saying, “No time to spend on yourself right now.  You need to take on everyone else’s problems and deal with them first.”

As a result of this, I have become beaten down, defeated, deflated.  On a physical level, I have been ill more this year than I have in the past three years combined!  On an emotional level, I have had moments of bitterness, anger and hostility that simply are not who I am.

Many days, the sound of my alarm in the morning would bring overwhelming feelings of dread of another day ahead.  Dreaming of a day to myself, I would wonder, “Who’s problems are I going to have to take on today?”  It’s exhausting.

In all of this, however, one thing that has not changed is spending time with God.  Each morning I have continued my practice of reading scripture and devotionals, mediating and praying.  Admittedly, of late, most mornings I haven’t felt like engaging in my ritual because, frankly, I was irritated with God.   I work hard, I’m honest, I do the right things in life. Why am I always the one getting dumped on, the one struggling, the one being taken for granted?  But I kept at it.  Reading the Word even though I didn’t feel like reading the Word.  Praying when it seemed as though I had no prayers in me.

And then it happened.  One morning I was drawn to 2 Cor. 12:10:  “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, them am I strong.”  Something about that Scripture spoke to me.  I realized that even though I was irritated with God, I never once felt like He wasn’t there with me, going through each any every trial with me, just like He promises.  When my alarm clock sounded every morning and I did not want to get out of bed, it wasn’t me who willed my feet to the floor, it was Him.  I didn’t have to be strong emotionally and physically to get through these days, because His strength became perfect in my weakness. My eyes were opened to this Truth and what it really means to have strength in weakness.  He loves me.  He is with me.  He got me through these days, and will continue walking with me on good days and bad.  These burdens have been turned into blessings, because I know, deep inside my “knower” that what He has taught me during this time is far better than what I could have learned in any time of ease and leisure.

Fighting the Busyness of Life

The best intentions are often not enough to battle the busyness of life.  I like to write.  I have promised myself that I would not allow my job to interfere with the pleasure of writing.  Unfortunately, I have failed myself miserably in these last several weeks.  When work is busy, it seems to trickle down to all other aspects of my life;  staying late at the office means eating dinner at a later hour, which means doing dishes at a later hour, which means less downtime before heading off to bed, exhausted both physically and mentally.   Being busy at work oftentimes means working on a Saturday, which means my Saturday chores and errands are pushed to Sunday.  You get the picture.

During the past week, I have had to drive several hours a couple of days for work.  Physical fatigue of driving five hours a day aside, this alone time in the car has helped to re-focus my intentions.  I often begin a writing in my mind, and this week I have been able to come up with some fantastic ideas that have me really excited.  I cannot wait to begin putting pen to paper, so to speak, to get this story going.   It is crazy to think that this past Monday, when looking at the week ahead with disdain for the schedule confronting me, was not the beginning of a busy work week, but rather the beginning of a new burst of creativity.  I am constantly fighting the busyness of life in order to realize my dreams and desires, and it’s comforting to know that the fight is not over.  The important thing to realize is that no matter how many blows I take, I’ve got to keep looking for that opening that will allow me to throw a wicked right cross.

I like being alone..

Horacio Jones wrote:  “I like being alone.  I have control over my own shit.  Therefore, in order to win me over, your presence has to feel better than my solitude.  You’re not competing with another person, you are competing with my comfort zones.”

I like being alone.  Not entirely, however, for the reasons stated in the above quote.  In solitude, I can spend time with God, which, I have come to realize, is THE most important, joyful, peaceful and loving time I can ever spend on this earth.  In this regard, Horacio Jones got it right:  “your presence has to feel better than my solitude.”  If spending a night out with friends, or constantly having another person in my ‘space’ feels better to me than spending time with God, then my priorities are out of whack.

These past two weeks for me have been a tale of two extremes.  Last week, I spent the week busy and hurried, in preparation for hosting a Christmas dinner for my entire family.   Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the purpose in the preparations.  I also immensely enjoyed spending time with my family.  But once it was over, I was glad to have my peace and quiet-my solitude-back.

This week of the impending New Year has swung to the opposite extreme.  My son has been away snowboarding with his father, and I have had the house, and my time, completely and utterly alone.  No commitments, no preparations to make, no expectations on my time.  And this week has been insanely blissful.  Much time has been spent in prayer and reflection on the exit of yet another year and the beginning of a new one.  This week has brought unparalleled relaxation and renewal–just what the doctor, or I believe in my case, God–ordered.  I have enjoyed the solitude of these days.  I have enjoyed running the occasional errand, with no stress attached, and with my heart open to whatever the day may bring.  I have taken drives to nowhere and discovered beautiful places in the Bay Area that I have never seen.  This is the way that life should be lived.  I think I may have just come up with my resolution for 2016!  How wonderful!

Thank you for the heartache

Countless songs, poems and novels have been written about heartache.  It is one of those universal life experiences to which nearly everyone can relate.  A broken heart, a betrayed friendship, a dream lost.  The pain of brokenness is one of those feelings that seem like it will never end, until it does.

I have learned to embrace the heartaches in my life, because they always seem to lead to something better.  That lover who shattered my heart into a million pieces taught me how to forgive.  That friend who betrayed my trust taught me discernment.  That teenage child with sometimes incredible lapses of judgment taught me unconditional love.  I would rather have learned to forgive, to discern and to love without condition than to have avoided the pain that led to these truths.

I believe that I am much stronger and more grounded today because of my past hurts.  Looking forward through the eyes of forgiveness, discernment and love is a joy much sweeter than the loves and friendships that broke my heart.  I have learned to rely on, and trust God undeniably and unconditionally, for which I am eternally grateful. So, I thank You for the heartache, because it has brought me closer to the person I was created to be.

 

It’s All Good

My brother called me last evening to invite my son and me for Thanksgiving dinner later this month.   As is typical with my conversations with my older sibling (that occur regrettably infrequently), he asked “what’s new?”  My response:  “Just workin.  It’s all good.”   Reflecting on that comment in these pre-dawn hours, it struck me that “it’s all good” was a truth that seemed to slip out of my soul and form into words before I could even think about them.  To most, the concept of “just workin” and “it’s all good” typically do not go hand in hand.  And my response to my brother did not necessarily connect the two.   I realize that my life does not consist of “just workin.”  Do I love my job? I would have to say ‘no,’ but the important thing to me is that it is a job, nothing more.  I have learned that my life is so much more that what I do to earn a paycheck.  I have been with my current employer nearly 19 years, and, while not as lucrative a position as most would assume, it has kept a roof over my head, food on the table for my son and me, and the bills paid.   The important thing is that I am content.  Not content in a passive “it is what it is” way; content in knowing that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.  As I look deeper into myself and learn more about the Infinite Source who loves me, guides me and protects me, I can joyfully arrive at work each day open to new possibilities of personal growth and awareness.   I am not at this job to be a lawyer.  I am at this job to be a soul ready to experience and engage in relationships that God is placing in my path to help me get to the place that He wants me to be.  With this perspective, I can honestly say “it’s all good.”

Answered Prayer

Have you ever felt as though God does not hear your prayers? Jesus says “ask and it shall be given to you.”  So why do some prayers seemingly go unanswered? Well, they don’t.  God answers each and every prayer and petition, it just may be that the answer is “no,” or “not just yet.”   The more I get to know God, the more I know that He wants more for us than we could ever fathom in our own minds.

A parent will tell a child “no” in order to protect the child and keep him or her safe. The parent knows that a child crossing a busy street is a recipe for disaster.  The child wants to cross the street; the child thinks he or she can cross the street; the child will even fuss and scream because they want to cross the street, but the parent knows that the child shouldn’t cross the street.  In much the same way, God says “no” to us.  I may think I want a certain thing, or person, or situation in my life.  I may ever fuss and scream because I want it to happen so badly.  But God knows better.   I have come to trust Him without fail, and you know what? my life has become so much more peaceful as a result.  No longer do I fight against the “no’s” or “not yets.”  I trust in God’s perfect timing, and look forward to the time when I can look over the landscape of my life and clearly see how those answered prayers guided me through life and to the place I will call my forever home.