Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Breathe {inspiration for Wednesdays}

I am not a drinker, but I could get intoxicated by walking into a library!  The sight of rows and stacks of books - fresh for me to pull out of their resting place - makes me giddy!  Before lies so much wisdom, so many words, and best of all mounds and mounds of stories!  I stagger through the rows just wanting to be near the books, even though I am overwhelmed by so many options before me.  What book to pick?  What story will most connect to where my heart is at in that particular moment?  Ahhh..the sweet agony!

Last Friday the clouds reigned supreme (and rained supreme!) and cast a dingy gray hue over all the items in my house and the landscape of my life.  I was not in the mood to stay home in all this grayness, so I ventured to our local library.  The instant I walked through the doors, I felt the inebriation begin.  The huge windows of the library let in the same gray light from outside, but in this place it seemed more golden somehow.  I walked through stacks of books, gingerly touching their spines, trying desperately to make the right choice of reading material.  I half hoped a story would find me as I touched it - almost like a shot of electricity, knowing this was meant for me.

In my search, I found a biography of an author I am totally enamored with, thumbed through it, found a quote that I had to write down, but inevitably put it down because of its length.  I only had a limited amount of time.  Soon after, I found a magazine with some articles by a philosopher I've been wanting to read and settled into a comfy chair in a quiet corner.  And that is when a story found me.

I was seated near the back of our newly renovated library near a cluster of little meeting rooms flanked with glass doors.  A young woman sat in the chair next to me - her Starbucks cup, ipod, and computer her companions.  It was library-esque...quiet and tranquil.  

However, into our peaceful corner came a blond headed little imp who thought that in lieu of a playground, a library would suffice on a rainy, rainy day.  This little boy climbed up on the nearby couches, walked the length of them and practiced his jumping skills...over and over and over and over!  I was getting kind of annoyed, looking for the adult that had obviously forgotten this 4 year old tornado disturbing my book-intoxicated stupor.  Who brings their child to the library and just lets him go?  Who doesn't teach their child not to walk on others' furniture?  My drunken-word bliss was turning indignant.

Next, this child decided to peer into each meeting room by pressing his face against the glass and breathing REALLY hard (imagine a blowfish).  He must have found a group that pleased him because he let himself through the glass doors to a handful of ladies in a meeting.  I went back to my reading but in reality I was formulating negative ideas about his child and his parents.  "Reading", however, was interrupted again by the sound of one of the meeting-women asking (quite loudly), "Where's your mother?" and "Go find your mommy, dear.  We are having a meeting in here."  The little boy just looked at her and began walking around their table and touching the carefully placed papers and items upon it.  She said "no" to him, tried to take him by the arm to escort him out and he crumpled to the ground with a protesting outburst as they got through the doors.

At this point, none of us could ignore this.  My mind was racing, eyes darting all around.  Where was this kid's mother?  I avoided eye contact with the meeting-lady; I felt bad for her but didn't want her to think he was MINE!!  My efforts didn't pan out because she called out in my direction, "Is this your little boy?"  I shrugged my shoulders, grimaced my face and said no - eyes saying "I'm sorry" to her.  On the inside my brain was saying, "No way in Hades is that my kid!"

It was at this moment in this story-that-found-me that any drunken pleasure from the books that surrounded me disappeared.  In the next few events, God handed me a cup full of sobering reality...

The young girl next to me got up and offered to help the meeting-lady.  She took charge of the boy while the meeting-lady went to find a library worker.  She got down on her knees and talked kindly to the little boy, who looked back at her bewildered.  (Pretty sure English was not his first language.)  She asked him about his mom, tried to show him a book about butterflies and then he grabbed for her ipod.  Instead of yanking it away, she offered it to him as she helped him put the earbuds in place and laughed with him when his face told her it was too loud.

Within a minute or two, mom was found and the little boy was retrieved.  The girl and her ipod returned to their seat; meeting-lady went back to her meeting but I sat there with my sobering cocktail washing over my brain.

Why had I not stood up to help?  Why could I not extend such kindness and grace to this little one?  The answer??  (It hurts to write it)...Because I sat there with all my opinions and judgments about him and his parents...and I felt I was right.  And you know what?  I might have been, but holding on to wanting to be right kept me from being loving in the moment. The weight of my judgment kept me in my chair as a passive onlooker.  Or another way to say it...sitting in my judgment kept me from entering the situation and being helpful.


I thought about that young woman next to me and realized I wanted to be more like her the next time something like this happened.  I want to move in graciousness and kindness in order to be helpful to the present moment...and not allow my judgmental attitude to hold me back.

The truth is, I will probably always have judgments and opinions (it's a skill I have practiced all my life!!) AND there are times when judgment is needed - our justice system depends on it.  But the other truth is, I sometimes use it as an excuse not to be constructively helpful in a deteriorating situation.  Sure I might be right, but I am not loving!  (As I drank this "cup of soberness", I believe on most menus it is called "embarrassment"!  I do not suggest ordering it, but when it comes to you, drink it fully and learn from its wisdom.)

As I was getting ready to leave, I opened my little blue notebook that I always carry with me, to write a couple of thoughts about what had just unfolded.  There, on the page, was the last entry I had written...remember that quote from the beginning of this tale???

"Child", said the Lion, "I am telling you your story, not hers.  No-one is told any story but their own."
(CS Lewis - probably from The Silver Chair)

I am not kidding!!  Those were the words staring at me and I imagined them holding a drink of their own, tipping their head to me, clinking their glass to mine and quietly saying "cheers".  Coincidence?  I don't think so.  I think this exposing-my-heart-tale was the story God meant for me to "read" all along...

Breathe, smile and go slowly.

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