Interrupting Busy with Gratitude
I’m busy and I like to keep busy. I’ve found that having projects to work on in the evenings is a really handy tool for me because I really hate being bored. My need to keep busy has spilled into all aspects of my life. I noticed that even when I didn’t need to be, I would find myself scrolling through the news or Facebook on my phone instead of just being present. The downside to always being busy is that sometimes I get really tired. So, as I headed to Indianapolis for Missional Voices, I was tired. I was so tired that I sat in the wrong seat and row on the airplane and caused quite the disruption. I try to get to my seat early and put in my headphones so I don’t have to talk to anyone, but because I was in the wrong seat, I found myself being warmly greeted by the person next to me. I remember feeling a twinge of frustration because I had a pile of things to read for work, and here I was being asked what I do for a living. My frustration was soon overpowered by the kindness of my companion and his genuine interest in me and my work. I realized I was deeply grateful for the talk we had when we both settled into our respective work. Most important, I was struck by the moments I miss to be grateful because I am busy. I decided, while I was in Indianapolis, to be less busy, especially fake busy (I’m thinking of all those times I stand in line for coffee staring at my phone), and to be present. In doing this, I had some great conversations I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I let others decide where we would eat and how to get there. I simply showed up as much as I could.
There was a Starbucks right across from where we were meeting, so I would duck in there for coffee each day. (I know, I have a problem.) On one of these trips, the line was long and not moving. I instantly thought about putting in a mobile order so I wouldn’t have to wait in line. Thankfully, I remembered that I wasn’t busy or late and there was no need to jump the line – I could wait and do it without looking at my phone the whole time. Well, I’m really glad that I did because I got to see a really beautiful event. The line wasn’t moving because two men at the front of the line were trying to accomplish a lot of things. They had an order for food and coffee, and they were trying to buy a gift card. I realized that the older man of the two was homeless. The people at Starbucks spoke to him by name, just like they spoke to anyone else that came into the shop. They gave him the bathroom code. They made sure they had his order right. But what really got me was when they asked the other man about the gift card. The barista asked if the food order was to come out of the gift card or if it was in addition to it. I watched as the older man cast his eyes down as if to not be a witness to the answer. The younger man said, no, the gift card amount was in addition to what he ordered. This man not only bought lunch for the homeless man, but he also gave him a $20 gift card to come and eat again in a place where he would be welcomed and treated with dignity and respect. It was all very quiet, and all very normal, and all a very real reminder of the movement of the Holy Spirit in the midst of us. And I would have missed it if I had given in to wanting to be busy, or thinking I was too busy to wait.
Every day, God gives us the opportunity to be reminded that we were made for goodness, for love, and for gratitude. Every day, some of us miss seeing some of those moments unfold because we are busy. I’m coming to realize that adopting a personal spiritual discipline of gratitude is more than just paying attention to the good that God is doing in my life; it also means paying attention to the good that God is doing in the world. We know that gratitude requires presence, but it also requires us to be present. God is doing incredible things all around us, and we will miss those things if we are too busy (or want to appear busy) to stop and experience the blessing of those moments. I hope you’ll join me this month in trying to be more present and less busy, or better yet, join me in looking for things to give thanks for that are happening in someone else’s life or in the life of a complete stranger.