Sunday, November 29, 2009

Busy-ness and the Death of Common Courtesy

One of my pet peeves is the ignoring of common courtesy.  When someone asks, "How are you?," the polite, appropriate response is something like, "Fine. And how are you?"  The reason for this is because "How are you" is a friendly, non-invasive greeting, not an invitation to recount the drama of your life in the freezer aisle at SunMart.

But these days, more often than not, when you ask someone how they're doing, they say something about being either busy or tired, and often both.  Sometimes you even receive a rapid fire version of that person's schedule.  When I receive an answer like this, I am always a little bit sad to see our society's lack of basic courtesy.

And yet, I am guilty, too.  A few Sundays ago, I was steered into our pastor's office just before service by my daughter's need to raid his M&M jar.  He is a good friend, and when he asked me how I was doing, I could not stop myself.  I rattled on about how I had just taught and had to work after church and then come back for an evening event.  Even as the words were coming out of my mouth, I was embarrassed at myself.  I have wondered since then what in the world came over me.

My conclusion is that I am the product of a culture that values busyness.  Our society prizes productivity.  How often have you heard "multi-tasking" used as a bragging right?  How much advertising is aimed at our desire for organization and efficiency?  Our busyness has become our golden calf, an idol that we parade around in our rush to get from one place to the next.

As a result, we feel overwhelmed and overworked, so it's hard for us to focus and be fully present for those around us.  We spend ourselves on keeping up with our busyness, and we have very little left over to give to our spouses or our families, much less our friends or our churches. Worse,we often feel guilty for taking time to do the things that refresh our souls (whatever that may be; more on this in a coming post).

We get very little rest.  The lucky among us may get a nap on Sunday afternoon... but is that what God had in mind when he gave us the Sabbath?  The Genesis story tells us that God rested--was that for his benefit, or ours?  Are we so much better than him that we don't need to rest as he did?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Weight of Gratitude

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, so here are some of my (rambly, convoluted) thoughts in honor of the day...
A friend recently brought to my attention this old journal entry:
May 21, 2006 – I had a dream last night in which Greg and I had a baby.  A girl.  She was so sweet, and so small, and I couldn’t help but hold her in my arms and talk to her.  I told her all about how her father and I had wanted her and tried to get her here, and how much we both loved her and would do anything in the world for her.  She was beautiful and warm, and I woke up feeling as though I had lost a part of myself.  I haven’t been able to shake that feeling all day long. 
I truly thank God every day for my daughter, and for the life that Greg and I get to share with her.  Sometimes (like when I go to pick her up after work and she wraps herself around me, or when she is playing with her father and they fill the house with laughter) I feel gratitude swell up in my chest, like it could squeeze the air right out of me.  It literally takes my breath away.   
I have met several people through the years who seemed blind to the blessings in their lives.  I'm glad that I am aware of mine, and I thank my parents for this.  My birth mother didn't have a lot of resources, emotional or otherwise, but she did her best to teach me to appreciate what I had.  (I remember one specific time when I was 7 and my favorite band was Def Leppard.  Their drummer had just returned to touring after losing an arm, and she asked me to sweep the kitchen floor with only one arm, just to see a little bit of what his life must be like.) 
My adoptive parents, whose parenting methods were a little more orthodox, also taught me to be thankful.  I remember my dad's many prayers of thanksgiving, around the table, or at church, or just during family prayer.  Mom was (and is) especially good at appreciating the positives of a situation and not ignoring the negatives, but acknowledging them and seeing around them.  
And so I'm thankful.  For my husband and my daughter; for my mom, who did the best she could for me; for my parents and family and the lessons they've all taught me; for friends near and far, new and old; for those moments when the goodness of God seems overwhelming; and for Jesus, God's son, in whom all of this (and so much more) is held together.