When you spend your time on something, how to you feel afterwards? For years I felt this specific feeling of relief after I would spend a day on a volunteer project. It was kind of a, “woof I’m glad that’s over,” feeling. I only participated because other people were, and it was a good cause right?The parental quote that always comes back to me is: “sometimes we have to do things that we don’t want to do.”
I misinterpreted the “sometimes”. I didn’t know which times were the sometimes that I had to participate even though I didn’t like it.
Sometimes I have to go to work so that I can feed myself and have a home to live in. Sometimes I have to go to the doctor to get tests run and have uncomfortable places prodded against my will. Those are things I sometimes have to do even though I don’t want to. Those are things that keep me healthy and happy.
Sometimes, I don’t have to serve food to the homeless on Saturday mornings.
I don’t have to dig a well in Africa.
I don’t have to run a marathon.
Giving to others is life giving. Exercise is life giving. I would argue that these above experiences are fantastic for human health. The health of some humans, not all, and certainly not me.
Digging a well in Africa sounds like such a deep experience. There’s so much kindness and helping in providing the most essential need to people who need it. But I would hate it. I would be with the same people day after day, I would miss home, and I wouldn’t be able to wait to be done. I would be exhausted.
Does that mean I’m a bad person?
Am I a bad person for not pulling myself from bed on my only morning off to serve the homeless? Am I unhealthy for not running? What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I serve people the way my friends do? Why can’t I get excited about such good things? Why is this all so exhausting when it’s supposed to be life giving?
My inner monologue has fed me these questions, as I’m sure the minds of others have as well. We despair in our apparent failure. And then we think of our parents. And we say, “oh. Sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do. This must be one of those times.”
It sure as hell ain’t!
Maybe your friend has a gift for running. Maybe they are extroverted and love talking to people. Maybe they find joy in digging that well.
We acknowledge our differences when it comes to tastes in food and our favorite movies, so why not this? When we think things should be good for us and we can’t get down to doing them, it suddenly means we are bad people.
I refuse to run. I will also not diet with you. You go nuts and I’ll support you from the sideline while I eat my donut. I don’t feel guilty.
Being a good person isn’t in taking every challenge or good deed that comes into our vision; it’s in recognizing our strengths and passions and taking steps into them.
Every Sunday I wake up early, I get dressed, I climb into my car, I have a swig or two of coffee, and then I play with 25 preschoolers for an hour and a half. Parents keep thanking me when they see me, and the first thing that I always want to say is, “why?” It takes me a second to remember that they are thanking me for caring for their children.
“You are a saint, I can’t imagine dealing with preschoolers all morning.”
My brain still has trouble figuring out what to say when I hear this, because I feel nothing like a saint. If anything I feel selfish! I have so much fun on Sunday mornings that I feel like I should be the one thanking the parents. I am so energized by the raw love that these kids have that I go to church afterwards pumped to learn all the things and sing all the songs. I know I learn more from them than they will ever remember of me.
I have felt physically tired from keeping up with these kids, or frustrated by things that have happened, but I have yet to leave thinking, “God I don’t want to do that next week.”
I’m not dragging behind someone else just because their gift sounds more helpful or worthy than mine. I don’t use my gift for recognition or thanks (in fact those things make me twitchy and I’m ok without either). I just want to play with nuggets and teach them to love and pray and be joyful with God. I’m doing it because it’s energizing, not exhausting.
I went where I was called, not where I thought would make the most impact, because how am I supposed to know what would make the most impact anyway? God calls me where he needs me, even if the reason isn’t clear to my human eyeballs. I trust that he’s got his shit together, and he’s got ideas for me that are way bigger and better than I can see.
So I do what I want to do, not what I think I should do. The freedom in that is awesome.