Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Advent: JOY

I love it when God wants me to learn a lesson.

Monday was starting out as a real Monday. One of those Mondayest of Mondays kind of Monday. Everyone woke up cranky. No one had slept well. No one was happy with anything. No one wanted to go to work or to school. We sniped and griped and whined.

The drive was awful. The weather was dreary. Everything about the day was just... monday.

Work wasn't proving to be any fun. The day started with a meeting that announced more changes - positive ones, potentially - but changes are always a bit wearing. Work load, end of year, dismal, dreary, blah.


A day of meetings and busy schedule and a day where I needed to help pick up, pack up, and deliver our company's donations to a local women's housing group.

I co-lead a women's leadership group at work. And our primary outreach focus is on a place that provides women who are homeless due to domestic violence a place to live that is safe for them and their kids. They also receive education assistance, child care assistance, job placement, etc. These families live in this place for up to 2 years until they can thrive and sustain on their own.

It's a really great organization.

This year, our company decided that our women's leadership group would "drive the train" on the company's community outreach efforts for the holiday. So we divided the 2 buildings into teams, each team received a themed basket with a list of ideas under that theme (kitchen, bedroom, transportation, pantry, etc) and a deadline by which to have donations brought in. We also asked for volunteers to help on the day we would be picking up and loading cars and driving the donations to the organization.

There were 2 of us.

Mondayest of Mondays.

We gathered each group's donations. Some were big. Large boxes, bags full of stuff. Some were small. We walked all over 2 buildings - offices and warehouses and production groups. We hauled load after load after load to our 2 vehicles. In the rain. And the wind. We had the wind "steal" pillows and lighter items a few times. It was hard and kind of miserable work.

And we didn't have help. We had people stand and watch as we struggled with doors and weather and boxes and bags.

When we arrived with our 2 carloads of brand new household items to donate to an organization who creates a home for families who have nothing and the women who helped us carry in the donations gushed over how amazing all of this was - that this was far beyond their expectation... my partner in the job felt good.

"This is why we did this."

But I still didn't feel good.

It was still the Mondayest of Mondays. Why wasn't I feeling good like my co-worker?

I still just felt... exhausted, worn, troubled.

Today, it hit me.

It was a lack of coming-togetherness that had felt so off all day long. My family woke up not being together. We were each focused on individual wants or complaints. Same thing at work - everyone is focused on their own struggles. And the same thing with the donation drive and picking up and loading efforts.

Everyone just wants to focus on their own thing and not see anyone else's needs or wants.

It was that realization that filled me with joy. I get my kicks by seeing a need and filling it if I possibly can. I am very grateful to know other people who are also wired this same way. And most days, my family seeks to take care of each other with this same motivation.

If you're cold and I have a sweater, I will give it to you.

If you're hungry and I have a sandwich, I will give it to you.

If you're struggling to get a load of stuff into your car, I will stop and help you.

Not everyone sees the world this way. Not everyone acknowledges the reality of the experiences of other people. But for me, that's what humanity is. We're all the same, we all have struggles. And when we see someone who is really just like us and they are struggling and we have some way of making it better or fixing the problem or at least showing them that they aren't alone... that's where I find joy. It doesn't mean I can fix every problem. It doesn't mean I have any answers. It doesn't mean I have unlimited resources. It just means that I pay attention and when I see a need that I can address, I don't turn away.

Being on the receiving end of people turning away was just setting me up for understanding where my joy comes from. My joy comes not just from me being able to help. My joy comes in seeing others feel the same way. My joy comes when my daughter creates joy for another person by making them feel special. My joy comes when someone reaches out to my son to bring him a teensy bit out of his shy shell. My joy comes when someone stops at an accident scene, someone holds a door, someone puts away an overwhelmed mom's grocery cart, someone takes meals to the homeless, someone spends time with someone who is lonely.

My joy comes from knowing that compassion and love really do exist in the world.

And that's a pretty good lesson to learn.

sig jan 2014 photo owlsig.jpg

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