Closed doors can make you stronger

I really don’t like trite expressions, but I guess there’s a reason they exist.

Perhaps they were true at least once.

I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying “When one door closes, another door opens” many times, and maybe there’s a logical explanation for that. But is it really true? Or is it one of those things we say to make people feel better when we don’t actually know what’s going to happen? Aren’t there some doors that simply close, and other open doors have nothing to do with the ones that closed? Or will there always be another door that opens for you solely because another one just closed in your face?

I’m still trying to figure that one out.

It can be pretty painful when a door in your life closes when you really hoped it would be one you’d walk through. My mom used to love the store Coldwater Creek—in fact, she loved it so much that she once got a part-time job there so that she could not only make a little extra cash but also get a discount on all of the clothes she wanted to buy. (I’m surprised she wasn’t featured in the Coldwater Creek catalogues, seeing as how she was decked out in the apparel from head to toe.)

Imagine her reaction when she found out her favorite store was closing its doors forever.

park

When you find out you didn’t get a callback to be one of Beyoncé’s background dancers

Imagine how people feel when doors close on things that matter so much more than skirts and shirts and dresses and whatnot. You’ve likely been there before—it’s not a fun place to be. You might realize a closed door will never open again. You might wonder if it’s closed temporarily for renovations. You might know in your heart that the door is merely closed for a bit, and you simply need to wait outside until it opens again.

But what do you do if you really don’t know?

I’ve started watching the Netflix original series The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Kimmy literally had a door closed on her for 15 years, living in a bunker until she and the three other girls with her were finally rescued. She walks through the open door that once closed on her, and she goes on to find a tremendous amount of other doors welcoming and daring her to walk through. One thing I love about Kimmy is that she never loses hope, and she doesn’t give up on her goals—or on people. There are a lot of doors that continue to slam in her face, but she keeps fighting, either by trying to kick those closed doors back open or by directing her path elsewhere.

Doors closing have been fairly common in my world lately. Some of them don’t bother me too much—others leave me wondering why they ever offered even little lights of hope at all if they were only going to close right when it seemed like I was about to walk through them. So much about life doesn’t make sense to me, and maybe it isn’t supposed to. I don’t always understand why things happen the way they do and why there sometimes has to be so much pain involved. I was thinking about this Sunday in church when the band started playing a familiar tune I love as the final worship song, some of the lines reminding me that I don’t need to concern myself with any of the doors anywhere.

And I can see a light that is coming
For the heart that holds on
A glorious light beyond all compare
And there will be an end to these troubles
But until that day comes
Still I will praise You

It’s easier to say not to worry rather than actually not worry, but the truth is that worrying doesn’t really do any good. It doesn’t open closed doors or find other opportunities. We’re probably all going to face a lot more closed doors in our lives than we want to, but the hurt that happens after won’t last forever. It can be really difficult to trust and have faith during those times, but sometimes that’s all we can do—be the hearts that hold on.

There may be other doors that open when certain doors close, but even if it seems like there aren’t, that doesn’t mean there isn’t any hope left. The door that closes closes for a reason. It may be for a while; it may be forever. Either way, the sadness or frustration or pain or whatever emotion you feel afterward will eventually fade, and you may or may not see the reason you had to go through what you did. But it’s important to keep going through the rain when you’re there and find the strength you may not have even known you have.

Because there’s a light that is coming for the heart that holds on.

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Some destinations are worth the journeys to get there

I’m not a huge traveler, and I think I’ve figured out why.

The journey to the destination feels like forever.

If I’m being perfectly honest, road trips aren’t really my thing. I guess every once in a while I enjoy them because there sure are a lot of memories you can make if you’re with other people, but I generally don’t jump at the opportunities for them. I’ve driven to Florida and New Mexico multiple times with my family over the years, and each time I was reminded that riding in a car for long periods of time isn’t the most enjoyable way to spend multiple hours of life. Actually, sitting for any extended amount of time is a challenge in itself.

But sometimes those road trips are needed.

A couple of years ago, my sister and I drove to Tennessee. We were both going through some difficult times, and I think we both needed a little getaway. It was a long drive, and we spent more time in the car than at our actual destination, but it’s a trip I’ll never forget for so many reasons.

rodeo_group

West Texas rodeo time

Over the weekend, I needed another escape. I think we occasionally simply need to get away from our normal surroundings and routines to clear our minds and be refreshed. On Thanksgiving, I had talked to my cousin Rachel about traveling to visit her and her family in West Texas—when you’re going through the rough stuff, it’s best to be around the people who make you smile as much as possible.

But to get to some of those people, I had a journey to make.

I’m actually glad I went on the weekend I did, because I was able to escape the snow that happened in Dallas on Friday. I don’t like snow in general, but I really don’t like that people in this city act like the world is coming to an end if there’s any frozen precipitation, and traffic becomes an absolute nightmare. Dodged that bullet. I drove through some flurries on the way out west, but it wasn’t too bad.

What was bad was my fatigue.

I was so tired. I usually don’t get enough sleep on weeknights (it’s a horrible reality that I’m trying to work on), so I’m pretty spent on Fridays. During the first almost two hours of the drive, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it without falling asleep at the wheel—there were a few close calls already. But I made a quick pit stop at a high-quality Love’s station to use the restroom and stretch a little, and I was a bit revitalized after that. I put on some tunes for a car concert, so that helped, too.

I knew I was going to have to make one more stop to get gas and because I have a bladder the size of a jelly bean. But the second stop left me in a state of torture. I was on the phone with someone from the government (long story) for way longer than I thought it would take, but I was hoping to wrap things up by the time I finished filling up my car so that I could use the restroom again. (Small bladder and kidney stones magnifying that issue are a bad combination.) I was still waiting in the car for my tank to fill—it was SO cold—and still on the phone, and then I saw a sight I didn’t want to see: a school bus full of kids pull up. Why were they stopping here? It wasn’t a big station, so I’m assuming there was only one stall in the women’s restroom. When the gas was finished, I made a bad decision: I said, “Screw it—I’m leaving.”

And there basically wasn’t anywhere else to stop until I was practically to my cousin’s town.

rodeo_wesley

Family = worth travel time

You know what, though? Somehow I survived, and the entire time in the car getting there was completely worth it. I had such a great weekend with Rachel and her sweet family, and I even took a pretty long nap on Saturday, which I definitely needed. (Rachel even made her two boys stay out of the room where I was so that they wouldn’t wake me. She’s incredible, and she gets it.) She and her husband were so welcoming to me all weekend long, and her two little boys are precious and hilarious—they kept me entertained the entire time.

As I was driving home on Sunday morning, I kept wishing I could snap my fingers like Sabrina the Teenage Witch and be home without having to endure the drive again. But that never happened. I guess that’s just life sometimes—you have to go on journeys that can often be frustrating and painful, but you have to persist through them in order for you to get to where you ultimately want or need to be. Sometimes they take you to new and exciting places, and sometimes they lead you right back home. Sometimes you have people with you, and sometimes you ride solo. Either way, you grow and change along the way and learn things that help you become the person you’re supposed to be.

We’re all going to face challenges in life. There are certainly no guarantees that everything is going to be easy. In fact, it seems like most of the things that are so great and wonderful either take a lot of effort or a lot of patience—or both. But when we last through those journeys, we might just realize that everything we went through was worth every second of the tough times.

And we might also realize that love is strong enough to make you forget about all of that, anyway.

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Living in the moment, not the year

The start of a new year is a lot like the release of a new Star Wars movie.

It gets way more hype than it should.

I’ve never been big on making resolutions for each new year. I feel like there’s so much pressure, and oftentimes we end up setting goals that are loftier than they should be, resulting in us not sticking to them—I guess that’s why there are so many jokes out there about how crowded gyms are at the beginning of January and then not so much anymore as the year continues to progress.

I do believe in setting goals, though, and I think it’s something that can be done at any point in the year—it doesn’t solely have to be something that takes place when we have the transition from one year to the next. If I want to start something new and stick to it on May 13, then I can. It doesn’t have to be at the beginning of a year or month or week or whatever. It honestly can be at any single moment when I want to make a change.

But I do see the significance in the “fresh start” that a new year brings. I mean, think about when you have a bad day. You might tell yourself that surely tomorrow will be better and then focus on having a better attitude or outcome the following day. There’s something about newness and fresh beginnings that appeal to people. I guess it makes sense. It’s not necessarily that you’re getting to start over completely, but in a way, you sort of are. It’s kind of like when you run a race or play a game—whether you run your best or worst or somewhere in the middle or win or lose, you get a clean slate the next time you step on the starting line, field or court. You get to go in there with a completely new mindset that good things are going to happen.

And sometimes you need that in order to move past what was a race or game or day or month or semester or year that you simply really want to forget.

peace-out-2016

This was our way of saying, “Peace out, 2016.”

I think it’s a natural human tendency to want to reflect upon a year that’s drawing to a close and classify it as good or bad, successful or not so successful, difficult or wonderful, and a number of other adjectives that won’t be completely accurate depictions of every aspect of your entire year. I know I could think of a lot of things to say about the challenges and hurt I faced in 2016, but they wouldn’t highlight those precious memories that I want to hold in my heart forever.

So maybe each year really isn’t necessarily a new beginning—rather, it’s a continuation of the stories we’re living out. It’s an opportunity for us to grow and learn more about ourselves and those around us. It’s a period of time to love and make differences as often as we can. It’s a collection of moments full of chances and setbacks, wins and losses, hopes fulfilled and hearts broken, courage and fear, laughter and tears, joy and sorrow, and a number of other ups and downs.

For a good chunk of December, I spent a lot of time waiting for 2016 to end. But, honestly, the turning of a page in the calendar doesn’t magically change things. Sure, there’s the mentality of that “fresh start” notion, but I think life should be lived by moments, not by years. Everything can change so quickly, and we have no clue how long we’re going to be here, so I feel like it makes sense to try to make every single moment matter. I’d like that to be my life resolution. I guarantee I’m going to fail probably more times than I’d like to think about, but hopefully I’ll also do well more often than not.

On the first day of this new year, I sat at a dinner table with a family that has become so dear to me over the years I’ve known them that I consider them family of my own. So much has changed in all of our lives since I met them, and it’s been so wonderful to be part of their journeys and to have them as part of mine, too. We shared stories and jokes and even belted out Plus One’s “Written on My Heart” at one point. (I mean, if you’re not singing cheesy Christian boy band songs after dinner, what are you really doing in life?) It was a refreshing reminder that I’ve been given so many incredible people who have impacted me in big ways—moment by moment.

A lot of things happened in 2016—some good, some bad. Regardless, they happened, and the individual events that happened in each of our lives likely helped mold us even more into the people we are now. Rather than looking at the entire year, I’m going to try to focus more on the moments. I know people often talk about looking more at the big picture, but I think there are times when we need to look at the smaller pictures within the big pictures, instead. After all, sometimes one line in a song can stick with you more than the entire song itself.

And no matter what the year ahead holds for you, there’s a new opportunity in every moment you’re given—and you don’t have to wait 365 days to make those moments count.

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An unexpected gift from a Target employee

I’ve always known that Target is full of goodness, but that became even more apparent on what turned into a day I’ll always remember.

Even though it started out as a day I wanted to forget.

I’ve been studying for this test called the Series 7 for months now. It’s a six-hour test, so I had been kind of dreading it. I’ve never taken a test that long before, and I didn’t feel like I was ever going to feel 100-percent ready for it. But Tuesday was test day, so I had to be as prepared as I could be.

When I woke up Tuesday morning, I passed one of the six kidney stones that were just chillin’ inside of me. The antibiotics I’ve been taking (combined with the pain meds) made it not as awful as it could have been, but I’ll still say that it wasn’t the most pleasant experience. The last thing I wanted to do was go answer 260 complicated multiple choice questions, but I didn’t think it was a good idea to skip or try to cancel it.

mom-pep-talk

She really does give great pep talks, especially if you’re taking a difficult test or freezing in the woods.

That was the hardest freaking test I’ve ever taken in my entire life—and that fact has nothing to do with the kidney stones. After the first 130 questions, you’re required to take at least a 30-minute break (and you’re allowed a full hour) before completing the second half of the exam. During my break, I sat on a chair in the waiting area and ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and Wheat Thins and thought about how much I did not want to go back to computer 9 in that testing room. I called my mom and got a little pep talk (she’s really good at those), and before I knew it, 30 minutes had gone
by—and it was back to the dungeon I went.

I wish I should share with you some miraculous tale about how I entered this industry I didn’t know and passed this beast of a test that not everyone passes on the first attempt. But I can’t. I failed. I really wanted to cry for so many reasons—the test failure being the cherry on top—but I held back my tears and tried to get out of that testing center as quickly as I could.

And I drove to the one place I thought could cheer me up: Target.

I needed to finish up my Christmas shopping, and I figured focusing on getting things for other people would help me not feel sorry for myself. I mentally started calculating what my total would be once I had all of my items, and I realized it was easily going to be more than $50. I had a coupon I’d gotten from Target in the mail (it treats its frequent customers well) for $10 off any purchase of $50 or more. Then I remembered the coupon was sitting on my kitchen counter.

Of course it was.

I went through the self-checkout lane, and when it was time to pay, I called the gal manning the area over to explain my situation. She seemed new and like she didn’t know what to do, so she said she would ask about it. Then she called over Joe. Joe was not a manager, but he appeared to have a bit more tenure. I re-explained my situation to him, and he said, “Oh, I’ll have to ask my manager about that, but I’m not sure we can honor it.”

At that point, I could no longer hold back my tears, and the floodgates opened up.

It was bad. I usually bottle up tears, so when I finally cry, I’m making up for all of the times I wanted to cry but didn’t. Poor Joe. He had to suffer through the following exchange.

Joe: “Oh, please don’t cry. We’ll try to get it sorted out.”
Me: “I’m not crying about this. You don’t understand, Joe. It’s been a really tough few months. First, a guy broke my heart, and then I got kidney stones and still have them and had to miss a race I’d been training for, and then I failed this really big test I was hoping to pass this morning. I just want to go home.”
Joe: “Don’t you worry—I’ll get this taken care of for you.”

Joe then got on his walkie talkie and told his manager about the coupon mishap. I heard him say, “I really need to do this.” The next thing I knew, Joe suspended my transaction and walked me over to an empty register so he could take off the $10. I was still sobbing like a psycho, and I said I was sorry for crying and making him uncomfortable. Then he said something I wasn’t expecting: “You know what? I’m gonna give you an extra $5. This is on me.” I thanked him a million times and promised I would go home and rip up the coupon I had forgotten (which I did).

It’s not every day that strangers care about your problems. I’m sure Joe has troubles of his own he’s dealing with in his life, and they might be a lot bigger than mine. But he saw a hurting heart in front of him that needed a reminder of what it means to show genuine love to others. He easily could have told me that he understood I was upset and that it was unfortunate I forgot the coupon but that there was nothing he could do about it. But he didn’t—because there was something he could do about it. And he did it.

We’re given multiple opportunities throughout our lives to help others when they truly need it. I know I don’t always take advantage of those chances, but I’m going to try to be more aware of them, thanks in large part to Joe. He reminded me what it means to see what’s right in front of you in each moment you’re handed rather than letting yourself be distracted by what’s next on your agenda.

He also reminded me that, even though we are bombarded daily with all of the horrible things there are in this world, there still is a lot of good out there. Everywhere. It’s in our homes. It’s at our work places. It’s in our relationships. It’s on the roads. It’s in the midst of chaos. It’s in sports. It’s at Target.

On Tuesday morning, I passed a kidney stone. On Tuesday afternoon, I failed a test. And on that same Tuesday, I encountered kindness so powerful that it overshadowed both of those negative experiences and gave me hope that there truly are better days to come.

It’s further proof that love always wins.

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Holding on tightly

It’s not uncommon for me to learn things from people who are younger than I am.

Even if one of those people is barely four months old.

pinky-hold

Iron grip

I hung out with my niece Saturday night while my brother and sister-in-law went to their company Christmas party. After a week filled with kidney stones (which were responsible for that back pain I was having last week) and frustrations, I was excited to have a fun night of hanging out with the most adorable human alive (not an exaggeration). I got there early enough so that I could watch Olivia while Chris and Katie got ready for the party, and we sat on the couch and watched the end of some movie with Goofy in it and then a little bit of the show Paw Patrol. We also talked about life, as we usually do—she’s such a great listener. At one point, she gripped my pinky and wouldn’t let go. She just kept holding it tightly as she continued in her fascination with the colors and animations on the screen.

MY HEART MELTED.

Later that night, the sweet little one started wailing when it was roughly time for her to eat. I was trying to get her to calm down while I got the formula ready for her, so I began singing (and clearly I have the voice of an angel). At first, I sang a random song about everything that popped into my head—it included references to the cold weather and the fact that jelly beans will never taste good, no matter how hard they try to be as wonderful as gummy bears. When I ran out of material, I resorted to LeAnn Rimes’ “The Light in Your Eyes,” which I’ve mentioned holds a special place in the hearts of my sister and me. (I’m not trying to be boastful, but there were ZERO TEARS the entire time I was singing. Just saying.)

When it was time for her to go to sleep, I took her to her new throne (I think it’s actually called a co-sleeper or something along those lines), and I laid there beside her to make sure she fell asleep. But then I ended up staying there the whole time because 1) I was super tired, and 2) she has a slight cold and raspy breathing because of it, and that made me super nervous, so I wanted to make sure she kept breathing while she was asleep.

olivia

We’re best friends.

While I was lying there, I thought about how easy it is for Olivia to trust me. Whether it is holding my finger during TV time, listening to my voice as I made her formula or knowing I was right beside her as she dozed off, she believes that she is safe in my care. She made it seem so simple: When someone cares for you, you let that person care for you.

I think we could all learn a lot from babies.

I know you can argue that it’s pretty easy to have faith that everything will be alright for you when you really have no choice. But those babies eventually become little kids who still trust that their parents and teachers and coaches and other people who care about them will do just that—truly care about them.

And then we grow up.

There are a lot of not-so-great aspects about being an adult—you know, like paying taxes and bills, working lots of hours on lots of days, and having to act like a grown up when you really want to go eat snow cones and sit on a hammock, instead—but it makes me sad that many adults won’t let any childlike tendencies into their lives. I still like to climb trees and dream things that probably aren’t likely and make homemade cards with crayons and markers and use stickers as often as possible.

But, like many other grownups, I struggle with that whole trust thing sometimes, too.

It’s hard to believe that others will come through for you when you’ve been let down so many times. It’s hard to believe that you’ll see the sunshine soon when the rain is constantly pouring down. It’s hard to believe that everything will be OK when it feels like there’s no hand to grasp. It’s hard to believe that the songs you’re hearing are from the heart.

And that’s why we need that faith like a child.

Life certainly isn’t always going to be easy. There will be tears. There will be pain. There will be confusion. There will be fears and frustrations and temptations and letdowns. There will be so many things that make us want to cry like babies who have no other way of letting others know they’re in need.

But there will also be beauty.

There’s actually a lot of good in this world—sometimes it’s really obvious, and other times we have to look for it a little bit. But it’s there. I’ll admit that it’s challenging to trust God and whatever it is He’s doing in our lives all of the time. I have to believe His plan is right, though. I look at the things around me, and I see so much He’s done in so many different lives and situations—even if I do often feel like I’m gripping his finger as tightly as possible just to remember He’s there.

But I know He is, and He’s even using a precious girl who’s only been around for four months to show me that. And I want to show that love and care to the people He’s placed in my life and be thankful for those who show me the same love and kindness in return.

Because, as Olivia has taught me, when someone cares for you, you let that person care for you.

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That time I had a dating app for about 12 hours

There are many times in life when I should stick with my initial gut instinct.

Like when it comes to avoiding dating apps.

Even though many people have often encouraged me to do so, I’ve never wanted to join online dating sites or apps. I realize it works for some people and has even resulted in long-term relationships and marriages, but I just don’t have a desire to do it.

Which explains zilch about my actions last Wednesday.

I was standing with my friend Amanda, waiting for a work meeting to begin, and for some reason I don’t know, I turned to her and said I was thinking about downloading a dating app. She said I should and then help me set it up and showed me how to use it.

Before the day ended, I deleted it.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not really even seeking anyone. Do I eventually want to find the person I love who loves me back and forgets everyone else when I walk into a room? Sure. But I don’t want to force it. Maybe I was just feeling emotional or frustrated that day—I’m not exactly sure what made me make that temporary rash decision, because I knew as I was downloading it that it wasn’t really what I wanted to do.

It could be that I was looking for something to help me get over the heartache I’ve been going through, because absolutely nothing seems to be working. I don’t like this type of pain—it’s so much more difficult to ignore than physical pain is. It hurts a lot when someone plays with your heart and emotions for months and then decides to show you that he doesn’t actually care about you at all and really doesn’t even care about the friendship you had, either. So maybe I downloaded the app to try to forget about that.

Shocker: It didn’t work.

tree

Sometimes sitting in trees makes me feel better.

I’d rather meet someone by getting hit with a frisbee at a park or by making some comment that he finds endearing on a random encounter (yes, I know I watch too many romantic comedies). I usually don’t like surprises, but in this case, I want it to be something that takes me by surprise. And I want it to be something that makes me forget about the past broken hearts—not because I tried but because that’s simply how naturally powerful it is.

When I was a freshman in high school, I went to the local YMCA with my sister, and I told her to lie about her age (she was one year too young) so we could get in and go play basketball without our parents there. She got yelled at by a lady who worked there, and we had to leave. She cried the whole walk home and wouldn’t talk to me. Our mom saw us as she was driving home and picked us up, and then my sister wouldn’t talk to me in the car, either. She went straight into her room, shut the door and continued not to talk to me. I’m well aware that I had been a horrible older sister that day and deserved it. But this was my baby sister, and I needed to make her feel better.

Cue LeAnn Rimes.

I took our family boombox (ah, the glory days) into her bed room and sang “The Light in Your Eyes” to her. I apologized, she forgave me, and that song has held a special place in our hearts ever since.

So I wasn’t surprised when she called me on Sunday morning when I was very upset, and she busted out some of the lyrics. I had been training for months for a half marathon I was supposed to race that day, but recent kidney issues and some new back pain prevented me from being able to run without pain for the past few days. I woke up Sunday in enough pain to know that 13.1 miles would only make things a lot worse. I texted my sister later that morning to see if she was awake, and she immediately called me. I told her that I felt like the rain just wasn’t stopping, and she told me that there was only one thing she needed to remind me of in that moment.

Life can take your dreams and turn them upside down
Friends will talk about you when you’re not around
Reality can really cut you down to size
But don’t ever lose that light in your eyes

Keep on shining
Keep on smiling
Don’t lose faith, and don’t lose heart
When you’re crying
Just keep trying to remind yourself
You’re a shining star
Yes, you are

It was exactly what I needed to hear.

I know that broken hearts don’t last forever. They might last longer than we want them to, but the wounds will heal. It’s often difficult to remember that during the tough times, but it’s good to have people like my sister around to sing to you to remind you.

Things won’t always go the way we want them to, but it’s OK to hope that they will. That’s why I’m going to continue to avoid the online stuff and dating apps—because I want to believe that maybe one day I really will be taken by surprise when I least expect it.

But even if I do stay single forever, I’ll still let the song remind me: Don’t ever lose that light in your eyes.

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What a toy drive and a bartender taught me

Sometimes when I’m calculating totals or percentages that I could likely do in my head, I open the calculator app on my phone and use that, instead.

Because math is hard.

In many situations in life, it’s easy to walk away from the situations that are scary or uncomfortable or unfamiliar or that might get in way of the plans we already have in place. It’s easy to do only the things we want to do or only the things that are most convenient for us.

But the easy route isn’t the best way to go when people’s hearts are involved.

Every year for the past 11 years, rather than celebrating herself, my friend Lucy has turned her birthday into an event that helps people who need it more than we’ll ever really know. There’s no party; there’s no cake with her name written on it; there’s no huge group singing to her; there’s no indication of any kind that it’s her birthday. Instead, there’s a toy drive full of presents that are later delivered to children who have to spend Christmas in the hospital rather than in the comforts of their own homes with all of their family members. While toys won’t necessarily change their circumstances, the love that’s behind those gifts can put a little joy in their hearts.

And love is certainly a powerful thing.

I look forward to this event every year, and I did again this year, but I was also slightly nervous because of the weather: The forecast all week said a high in the 40s with a 100-percent chance of rain. To me, that translates as “blizzard.”

Normally there’s a fun run that goes along with the event, but wet near-freezing conditions (I’m from Texas, so this is an accurate statement) don’t exactly define “fun” for most people. So the normal spot of the event became a drop-off place for the toys, and Lucy and her husband, Matt, had canopies set up to keep the toys and all of the people who came sheltered from the rain. Such weather—especially on a Saturday—usually makes most people want to stay indoors, curled up in comfy clothes on their sofas for as much of the day as possible. That would certainly be the easy thing to do.

But that wasn’t the case for Lucy and her people.

td5k2016

Photo by Matt, who was supposed to Photoshop himself in the pic

It was so wonderful to see how many people faithfully showed up—and stayed for a good amount of time—to her event. They didn’t let the rain and windy, cold weather keep them at home. They didn’t let the thought that being outside in the chilly rain would not be comfortable stop them from showing up.

Because when people genuinely care, they might surprise you.

A few weeks ago, I was at a restaurant with a friend and had a rather insightful conversation with a bartender. We were talking about important life stuff, and he made me realize some critical truths by reminding me that the people who care about you most will make at least some effort to commit time and effort to you. And the ones who don’t won’t. We were obviously talking more in terms of personal relationships and whatnot, and it made me think about whether or not I put enough time and energy in investing in others.

I want to be better about showing people I care more—I know how it feels when you realize you aren’t as important to someone as you want to be. I really admire Lucy because she’s consistently that type of caring and dependable person to everyone. When she says she’s going to do something, she follows through with it. And it was no different at this year’s toy drive. She easily could have canceled it and opted to avoid a long drive and stay inside her house by a warm fire. But that’s not who she is. She knows how meaningful it is to bring smiles to those children’s faces, and Lucy is in the business of making hearts happy.

When I was in the first grade, I invited my teacher to come watch my soccer game, which was on a weeknight. I will never forget how I felt when I looked over on the sidelines right before the game started and saw her standing there, waving and cheering for me. I played one of my best games that night and made sure to score a goal just for her. I used to be a teacher, so I know it wasn’t the most convenient thing for her to do. She lived pretty far away, and I’m sure she had a million other things she could have and should have been doing that evening. But she didn’t worry about those. She showed up because she genuinely cared—and she knew that the heart of a little girl who deeply looked up to her was at stake. And it obviously meant a lot and left an impact, because I remember it so vividly all of these years later.

Life happens, and we can’t always be everywhere for everyone. And there are times we really aren’t supposed to be. But sometimes people really need us more than they can even explain. When hearts are on the line like that, it’s best to think with your own heart rather than your head.

Because people are worth it.

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