Sunday, April 4, 2010

Payin' it Forward and Slowin' it Down

My week started out fast and got faster. Too much work, too many errands, trying to fit in a little exercise between being a mom and planning my wedding, moving with my daughters to a new home, and the arrival of my first grandchild--all within the next four months. That's enough stress points to count as a seriously life-altering experience. But as a co-worker reminded me, "at least it's all good stress, right?" I find myself needing to go a little slower these days, or the world feels like it's spinning out of control around me.

Bob and I took some of our kids to a 5K race yesterday morning, the Big Bunny Fun Run. I had to take running slower, too, but for some reason I didn't care. The competetive, driving, "gotta get ahead" part of me is wilting and I don't really mind. Something about turning forty-seven and facing big changes in life has caused me to take life less seriously and I find myself squinting to see those little bright spots each day that remind me it's all worth the effort, and these transition phases don't go on forever. At some point things do settle down. On my way home yesterday, cars were speeding along 280 and several of them weaved around me almost in tandem. This happened twice, with different sets of drivers acting as if they were both competing for the same lane on an open stretch of a four-lane freeway. The second time this happened in front of me, I shook my head and backed away. "Too much hurrying for the Easter Bunny," I thought.

I arrived at home and intentionally ignored the things-to-do list, simply concentrating on the most pressing issues of the day. "I like this better," I thought, "no list to order me around, I can do what I want today." The afternoon passed slowly as I picked away at my Saturday chores, then we joined Bob's family for a strategy session planning the upcoming move, and dinner in downtown San Jose. Bob and I were both depleted after a busy week and an even busier Saturday. He usually accomplishes about twice as much as I do every day, so I wasn't surprised to hear that he had made it the post office after our morning race. Even after I told him he wouldn't make it. He wrapped up presents for his two grown sons, who are serving missions for our church, and took them to mail. He made it just as the post office was closing but In his haste, he had left his wallet in the car. He told his little girl, Taryn, to wait for him with the clerk while he ran out to get the wallet. When he returned, he discovered the customer ahead of him had chatted with Taryn and perceived that he was doing something special for his boys. She paid the bill and refused reimbursement. "It's Easter, and a time for celebration," she told him, "it's my pleasure." Little did this woman know how deserving this man is, and I am very grateful that she chose him to share her good deed to benefit a hard working single dad who never seems to complain.

In this pushy world of going faster and fitting more into our day, trying to all squeeze into the same lane on the freeway until our backs ache with the burdens we carry, it's comforting to know there are still some who take the time to notice another person's need. That was the premise of the story "Pay it Forward," by Catherine Ryan Hide, in which a twelve-year-old boy was inspired to do good works for others. I know Bob and Taryn were inspired by the woman at the post office who wished them a Happy Easter. Whether she continues to do service like this in her daily errands, she affected two lives yesterday. And when they later told the rest of us the story, another five were touched. We are reminded that we don't need to go quite so fast; the list will always be there, but the opportunity to do something good and needed can only be recognized in that split second opportunity. It cannot be recognized in a hurry.

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