Friday, May 7, 2010
Lately I've been thinking about how messy life is, for everyone.
Maybe it's because my sweet girl moved home from college this week and her stuff is EVERYWHERE, only because there's no place to put it except the attic, and I'm scared to go in there. Remember the scene from Star Wars where the gang falls in the huge trash compactor and some kind of garbage squid-monster pulls Luke under, and then the walls start closing in? That's my attic. Plus it's already at least 110 degrees in there, and I'm a wimp.
So I think for now we'll be content to have a microwave by the fireplace. At least we can make s'mores without heating up the living room.
The shoe tree by the piano, however, is not quite as useful.
So, back to the larger subject at hand...
I once taught school with a fine lady who had this quote hanging above her chalkboard:
"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." Plato
At the time, I thought it was a perfect message for teenagers. After all, who else is fighting harder in life, battling to figure out what they want their lives to be about, what they'll speak up for and what they'll let slide, when they'll choose to summon the courage to go against the flow, and when they'll just close their eyes, shush that inner voice, and let life happen? Even the happiest teen is in a messy struggle, and their bodies and changing faces show it.
But lately I'm thinking Plato was right. His words really apply to everyone. I might just need to paint that quote on my living room wall, hang it at the food court at the mall, plaster it across the Town Hall, and hire an airplane to fly the message all over South Carolina and the world.
Everybody is fighting a battle of some kind.
It seems like lately I see the messiness of battles everywhere I go.
Moms and Dads watching their children struggle, unable to relieve their pain or solve their problems for them. Or the battle of want-to-be parents, positively dying to birth the children they already love, feeling the stab every time they see a baby. People who feel alone, invisible. Men and women trapped in the busyness of life, and others who long for the busyness our society requires to be considered a worthwhile person.
Being friends with several writers like myself, I see a lot of messiness. It's a messy business, involving great, seemingly unending periods of waiting. Waiting, which allows you plenty of time to question everything about yourself, your skill, your purpose in life. You wait to hear if your work (in other words, you?) is okay and acceptable. You wait, hoping that the part of your heart that you sent to them for their approval will be allowed to sing in public, rather than throb in your desk drawer. The trick, for me at least, is to use that waiting time to find both meaning outside of work and meaningful work. But still, it's a struggle. Some days I'm better at it than others.
Everyone is fighting a battle. Even the people I think are perfect.
I've always envied one particular friend of mine. She grew up knowing she wanted to be a doctor, and by golly, she did it. She has a wonderful practice and teaches at a med school as well. When we were college roommates, she had a long line of would-be suitors, and I remember one kneeling beside her as we put on our running shoes to go for a jog. "Gosh, even your teeth are perfect!" he said, gazing into her eyes.
I nearly gagged and had to leave the room before I bopped him on the head.
My friend lives a wonderful life, but I'm sure it hasn't been without times of personal pain and struggle and messiness.
Plato, was so right. Kindness (and love) is the answer.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. What struggles are you seeing over and over where you are? What acts of kindness? Have you caught those commercials where one act of kindness /goodness leads to another and then another? I'd post one, but I can't remember what product the commercial is advertising! (I guess I'm struggling with memory too!)
Lately it makes me really happy to see people being kind to cashiers. Dealing with the public is such a hard job, and it's fun to see kindness spread.
Have a great weekend, y'all!
PS. That quote reminds me of another, from The Message.
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.