I'm one of those silly girls that sometimes saves the quaint typed messages I find particularly profound in my purse, so I may find them later, in a grimier state. The little paper probably doesn't appreciate this. He probably thinks "Oh, good grief, white girl. Put me out of my misery. I have already been stuffed into a hot bland "cookie," suffocated by a plastic wrapper, sat in the back of a restaurant for twelve years (only 1/3 of my shelf life), and had my home smashed and devoured. Now you're going to make yourself feel poetic by keeping me in the bottom of your nasty wallet, where I will just collect that mysterious dirt that plagues handbags worldwide, get entangled with a receipt, and end up in the trash anyways. Just do it now, lady. Throw me away. I'm ready."
Well, long ago, one of my after-dinner asian delights held the message "The more you give, the more you receive."
I like that. More than "it is better to give," I interpret this as a notion that when you give you also receive.
Certainly, I don't always act like I believe this. However, the biggest blessings in my life have always come from some form of sacrifice. I'm still getting the hang of trusting in this, but I witnessed a young girl the other day that put my attempts at generosity to shame.
I was strolling casually down south congress on a Sunday afternoon, just whistling and window-shopping, and thinking naught of anything significant when the sound of a mandolin crept into my ears. Ahead of me, on the sidewalk, was a man playing his instrument for tips. There's no way to know for sure, but context clues indicated he might be without a place to live. He was talented, and his song was cheerful, but his posture and demeanor seemed sad. As I drew closer, I saw a little girl, probably about nine years old, and of course, wearing all sorts of bubble-gum pink apparel, shyly approach his open case and, in the cutest way possible, drop a dollar bill inside. She smiled at him, took a few steps back, hesitated, then re-approached, and added a piece of paper to the pile. She made eye contact with him and said "I drew you a picture."
He stopped playing, broke out into a huge grin, and said "What is it of?" She returned his smile, and with less timidity than she had before answered, "It's an owl."
At this point I was just walking past, and as I continued down the street I was filled with joy. I practically started skipping. How sweet that little darling was, and how apparent the appreciation of the mandolin man!
Perhaps most touching was the lack of agenda in that bubblegum girl's heart. I mean, maybe she was trying to earn a badge for her girl scout sash, but I doubt it. For one thing, the forest green uniform that would require would like so totally clash with her earrings. I think she just saw the man for what he is- a human. He is not sub-par in any way and he doesn't deserve any less than the next guy. He might, however, have needed a bit of love and encouragement that day. Babygirl knew this, and she gave that to him with the only resources she really had. From that simple and pure gift, the man, the girl, myself, and any others that were lucky enough to observe, were recipients of a blessing. And a convicting lesson.
"I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver."
Father Time. Unlike the rest of us, he gets faster with age.
He pays no mind to the moments we wish would linger.
He doesn't care if we aren't quite ready to pay that bill.
He tirelessly rushes on, leaving his mark on our faces and in our perspectives.
Yet, are we truly the victims in this relationship ("oh, where does the time go?")?
Or do we have a vital part in the high-speed dance?
After all, we are always thinking about the future. We watch the hands on the wall, wishing it were time to clock out. As soon as we reach a goal, receive a gift, or pass a milestone we barely blink before we are planning our next move, craving a newer version of the unwrapped present in our hand, or counting down until the next momentous occasion.
"Humans are amphibians- half spirit and half animal. As spirits, they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time." C.S. Lewis
In a culture obsessed with productivity and materialism, how can we choose to live with gratitude in the moment?
One tool I've found that helps me is the practice of yoga. I know how this sounds. But seriously. It's not because my body is painfully twisted into ungodly positions. It's not the crazy names for said positions. It's not even the really awesome transient music filling the aura-licious room. The real magic is found in the goal of focusing on the moment. Listening to my breath, my body, my mind, and even to the whispered curse words as the instructor cheerfully commands another outrageous pose.
It is so challenging to be still. It seems absurd to take the long way nowadays. Efficiency is the constant goal. But what's the rush? These...are the days....of our lives, all my children, so don't be so young and restless or you might end up in the E.R. Eh?
Whatever our avenues, perhaps we could all take time to breathe today. We could attempt to slow down, even if just for five minutes, to reflect on the present and the past, to dwell in gratitude, to contemplate self-purpose, to just be ourselves. It is a small discipline that, to me at least, can make a huge difference. Let me know what you think.