As I curled into bed last night I started processing what I had been thinking and feeling during the day, with the result that I (with the speed and precision of someone who one day hopes to make a living off of identifying feelings) took the next 3.5 hours to decipher that I am lonely. The earth did not oblige me by shattering beneath the weight of this realization, but with the enthusiasm of a behavioral therapist in the making, I sat up and began to plan my options for fixing* the problem.
Option A: Whine about it
Pro: I get to focus all on myself, creating a whirling vortex of selfish activity around my loneliness.
Con: People are repelled by selfish whiners. I’m repelled by selfish whiners.
Option B: Ignore it.
Pro: Ignorance is bliss.
Con: . . .until you wake up. And you always wake up.
Option C: Use my pain as leverage to empathize with and encourage others.
Pro: Gets to focus off myself and onto helping others–hey, that sounds suspiciously like what I plan to do with my life.
Con: Gets the focus off myself.
Option D: Listen to Christmas music on a 24/7 loop.
Pro: I like Christmas music.
Con: Probably not the best way to make friends and influence people. People are surprisingly Grinch-like with regard to their Christmas music.
While the decision was quite difficult to make (I really like Christmas music), I did finally get over myself and choose Option C.
So, here’s the challenge I’ve set up for myself. Each day for the next 30 days, I will actively seek to bless someone else, just as I have been richly and undeservedly blessed. I know that a once-a-day act of kindness doesn’t sound like much, especially since we as believers are supposed to be dying to self all the time and whatnot, but the idea here is to cultivate a mindset of giving, a mindset that says, “Hey, my life right now may not be ideal, but no one’s is, and maybe I can play a role in relieving someone else’s burden.”
A couple of ideas I’ve already come up with:
1. Answering my friends phone calls when possible or calling them back promptly. I’m lousy at this. Ask my friend Cate. Or Nate. Or Jessica. Or Steven. Or Meghan. Or Lara, Chelsea, Jenny. . .
2. Doing the dishes with a good attitude. Good attitude is key here. I can become very angsty about dirty cutlery.
3. Following up with people I know are hurting. Like many people, I do a decent job of being empathetic and supportive when directly confronted with pain, but my follow up is lacking, to say the least.
These are just a few of the ideas I have in mind, and I’m more than open to more of them if you have any brilliant suggestions. . .although any with the word “toilet” in them will be promptly discarded. We’re working on holiness by degrees, here, people.
*Lesson One in Counseling: “fixing” is a very bad orientation in counseling. That’s a very good lesson, and I plan to implement it as soon as I’m all fixed.