Posts Tagged ‘ownership

06
Feb
20

Chew on it

light-bulb-changing“Is this mine to do?”

Sometimes this is an easy question to answer… other times it is surprisingly difficult.

In my experience, it is also a question that most folks do not ask nearly often enough.

I was across town last week, attending a volunteer training session. During one of the morning breaks, I went in to use the restroom. As I entered, the lighting inside the restroom seemed unnaturally dim. It did not take long to see why… one of the two light fixtures was burned out.

After washing my hands, I went to the front desk and reported the issue to the receptionist. “Thanks for letting me know,” she said. “I’ll tell maintenance people about it.”

Later that day – after lunch and during the afternoon break – I once again visited the men’s room. I should note that this was at least four hours after my morning visit.

Once again, the restroom had the same romantic, candlelit ambiance I had experienced during my morning visit. Yes, it would have been the perfect lighting had my wife and I chosen to dine there. But it was not so great for taking care of the actual business at hand.

What to do?

Should I report the problem again? Should I just take matters into my own hands and fix the light myself? I am actually a pretty handy guy and probably could have had it fixed in a jiffy. Or should I just go about my business and trust that the matter would eventually be handled?

In that case, the decision was easy. Fixing the light was NOT mine to do.

In other situations, I find it much more difficult to know what is mine to do and what isn’t.

I have to confess… most of the time I err on the side of over-doing. I have been known to be grossly over-solicitous in my effort to be helpful.

Just ask Joan. It is one thing to bring your spouse a cup of tea in the morning. It is quite another thing to put her half-empty cup and saucer into the dishwasher before she has finished drinking it.

As I have discovered more than once, there is a big difference between helping and doting… or between being compassionate and being unctuous.

I have learned (the hard way) that sometimes the truly compassionate act is to allow the other person to find their own way out of the pickle they are in. If you have ever been a parent you know exactly what I am talking about.

Then there are those other times… the times when I find myself squarely on the other end of the helpfulness spectrum. Those are the times I have been the “Hey! That’s not my job!” guy…

… even when it is.

Jesus regularly spoke in parables and then walked away without elaborating much on their meaning. “Those who have ears to hear, let them listen,” he said on more than one occasion. And yet somehow, the sight of ¾ of his audience standing there scratching their heads did not cause him to alter his approach at all.

“Jesus did not chew people’s food for them,” pastor/author Barbara Brown Taylor once graphically remarked. What she meant – I believe – was that Jesus recognized the value in allowing people to puzzle out meanings for themselves. He likely believed that when folks did some of their own heavy lifting of interpretation, they were far more likely to “own” the results.

 

This is the time in the blog post when I am supposed to wrap it all up with a neat little application illustration… carefully instructing you on how to take this nugget of wisdom and apply it to your own life.

Instead, I think I’ll just end it here and let you chew this one over on your own.

05
Dec
19

Mine/Not Mine

Sunflower paintingAfter enduring the rigors of this move, I no longer feel quite so smugly superior to those squalling seagulls from the Finding Nemo movie.

Do you remember them? These were the seagulls that swarmed around any discarded morsel of food screaming, “MINE! MINE! MINE!” as they ferociously contended to take possession.

I clucked my tongue judgmentally and muttered, “Greedy little gophers.”

But as Joan and I began preparing to relocate our lives 651 miles to the west of Overland Park, Kansas, I found myself struggling mightily to loosen my grip on a whole lot of stuff that I thought of as MINE.

In polite company, this exercise is called downsizing. A Buddhist might call it “practicing detachment.” A cruder individual would probably just call it, “throwing a whole bunch of shit away.”

Whatever names it goes by, I found the whole undertaking to be surprisingly difficult.

  • All of those folders with notes on all the weddings I have officiated? Out with them!
  • Those boxes of cards you received and saved over the years? To the bin!
  • At least half of those shirts and hats and jeans hanging in the closet? That’s why God made Goodwill Industries!
  • That cozy fire pit that sat out there on the deck? Facebook Marketplace!
  • That whole box of toys each grandkid played with until they hit the age of five? DONATE!

It all made sense. Every single one of them – and then some – needed to go.

“But they’re MINE!” cried out the pathetic little voice inside, apparently immune to the forces of logic and economy. “I don’t want to get rid of them!”

So now, two weeks to the day after dropping anchor in this new place, I still wonder: how did that happen? I mean, how did those inanimate lumps of carbon sink their little hooks so deeply into my soul?

How did I come to attach such a mind-boggling level of significance to this… STUFF?

I suppose the easy answer is to point to the nostalgic significance attached to each possession and say that my attachment is really to the MEMORY, not necessarily to the THING that provokes the memory. And to a certain extent that is true.

But as good ol’ Job reminded us, immediately after seeing his entire world wiped out in the twinkling of an eye, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21, NRSV).

The fact of the matter is, none of this stuff is mine. Not even the beautiful sunflower picture my friend Michael painted as a going-away gift to remind me of my enduring Kansas connections.

All of this is fleeting. It is all temporary. And as valuable, as important, and as comforting as it might all be, none of the STUFF I cling to actually belongs to me in the first place.

It all belongs to the one I belong to.

Which is a kind of cool thing to think about, isn’t it? I mean, the next time I forget where I decided to store something here in our new home, I can just drop to my knees, lace my fingers together and say, “So God… where did we decide to put your serving dishes again?”




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