This past week has been so scattered and so full; I've been trying to write this post, with fits and starts, for the past four days. Pathetic. Every time I sit down to write I am either interrupted by work or a new video from the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, like this one.
So, here's the honest truth: I don't even know what I'm writing about any more, but if I don't actually post this blasted thing I'll feel even guiltier than I do right now for neglecting my writing for weeks. So here is my collection of reflections, reading, and the things that have stirred my soul of late:
I've been reading these two really remarkable books over the past couple weeks. When I was in Seattle last fall, someone recommended Parker Palmer's Let Your Life Speak. It's about calling and vocation, and listening to the deepest and truest version of yourself. Parker Palmer is a Quaker, and as such, he writes a lot about listening as an essential piece of discovering who and what you were created to be—something that my phone, calendar, and workplace don't allow much room for. I was relieved to read his perspective on the importance of knowing just as well where you don't see yourself in five years as where you do. "There is as much guidance in what does not and cannot happen in my life as there is in what can and does—maybe more... We can learn as much about our nature by running into our limits as by experiencing our potentials." I'm grateful to him for those words. And these words, that seem to save us from the thinking that we may choose "wrongly" or that the trajectory of our lives doesn't impact the world:
Every journey, honestly undertaken, stands a chance of taking us toward the place where our deep gladness meets the world's deep need. The world needs people with the patience and the passion to make that pilgrimage not only for their own sake but also as a social and political act.
According to Palmer, the world needs us to discover our truest self just as much we do.
In an effort to do just that, I picked up Susan Cain's book Quiet in the airport recently. It is a fascinating and insightful read on The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. I already feel indebted to her for putting these insights out into the world. She begins by identifying people in history who were creative, influential, and remarkable because they were introverts. Susan Cain marks the societal loss when we undervalue introverts—largely as a result of the rise of the Extrovert Ideal in the 20th century, which has permeated our culture, education system, and standard of success. She debunks the myths that friendly = extrovert, leader = extrovert, successful = extrovert. I find myself nodding and "hmm-ing" as I read, resonating so deeply with the way she talks about our culture and the counter-cultural way of the introverted soul.
She opens the book with A Manifesto for Introverts, which I love. I was really struck by #3, which is something of a societal charge:
The next generation of quiet kids can and must be raised to know their own strength.
I was at the food pantry last night. It was an oddly slow day for distribution, but it gave me a chance to interact with clients a bit more than usual. A woman came in who I learned was the mother of the 3-year-old child who died in an apartment fire on the west side last weekend. Her 4-year-old child, rescued from the fire, is in critical condition. The 14-year-old brother of the two children tried to save them both, but couldn't. I had seen him on the news, tearfully telling the story of his failed rescue.
Our pantry manager spoke to the mother, who shared that she didn't have enough money to bury her child. Some of the pantry volunteers pooled together some money to give her, because we just couldn't begin to imagine this mother's struggle.
I'm not very proud of this week. The days have been long and hard, and I can't seem to shake the festering gloom. But this young mother's story put things in perspective. The week's struggles shrunk, and I was ashamed for my attitude. I'm grateful that God gives us opportunities to see beyond ourselves. When he demands that we look up from the little plot of ground we stand on, we can't help but see the hurting neighbor beside us.