As I’m writing this I’m sitting in a doctor’s office, in the middle of a loud argument.
The argument is with myself.
Nobody can hear a sound because all the yelling is going on inside my head.
It started when I got a phone call from a church buddy asking if I could drive someone to a doctor’s appointment. The individual couldn’t drive himself, and since I’m occasionally available during the day my name came up as someone who could help.
So here I am. And naturally it’s going to take awhile. Two hours, maybe more.
I’m happy to be helping someone I’ve never met. Mostly. But all the stuff I planned to do today is banging around in my head like tennis shoes in the drier.
Let the argument begin. Yes, I know I’m doing the right thing. I’m helping someone who, today at least, can’t help himself. That’s why we’re here on Earth, to be of some use to others. I know all that. What’s more, I believe it, and I’ve occasionally, maybe often, demonstrated my belief by my actions.
And sure, I understand that helping others is rarely convenient. Faucets don’t break on schedule. Germs don’t arrive by appointment.
Further, I know that there have been times when I needed help with one situation or another, and helpers arrived without reluctance or complaint.
But here’s the truth—at least today’s truth: I’m glad to help someone, except for the part of me that’s quietly, invisibly, irritated to be snatched out of my carefully crafted vision for the day.
Maybe I’m not the nice guy I think I am.
“Maybe that’s right, but the fact is you’re here, when you could have said no. That counts for something.”
“Maybe. I don’t know.”
“Sure it does. You’re not perfect, but at least you’re trying.”
“But what if my hearts not in it?”
“It happens. Sometimes you just have to fake it ‘til you make it. Y’know?”
“Not sure I’m ever going to make it. If I haven’t made it by now…”
“What—now that you’re…old?”
“Well, yeah. If I don’t have it figured out by now, I’m never going to get myself right.”
“And yet here you are—doing the right thing.”
“But maybe doing the right thing isn’t always what I want to do. Sometimes it’s—okay I’ll admit it. Sometimes it’s annoying. In fact, sometimes it’s a real drag.”
“You agree with me?”
“Dumb not to. Sometimes doing the right thing is a drag.”
“Great. So what happens now?”
“What happens? You drive your new friend home when he comes back to the waiting room. Then you get on with what’s left of your day.”
“What do you want—trumpeting angels?”
“Besides, is helping this guy out really so bad?”
“Well, no, it’s just that—”
“Nothing. I guess it’s not really all that bad.”
“Because even though I’m grumpy, it feels good to be helping someone who needs it.”
“You believe that?”
“Yeah, I do. I really do. Except for when I don’t.”
And so it goes. The fact is that even though I usually know better, I can still occasionally lose sight of what’s important in life. We spend so much time building up walls around ourselves that we’re bothered when someone else’s walls break down, however temporarily. Maybe the vulnerability of others reminds us too closely how easily it could happen to us—we the invulnerable ones.
Except that we’re not invulnerable. We’re all fragile as egg shells, just waiting in line for the next piano to drop on our heads.
Linus, with his blanket firmly in hand, once said “You know, Charlie Brown, I love mankind. It’s just people I can’t stand.”
The fact that sometimes I feel like Linus shows me why I still have so much yet to learn. And why today I’m grateful beyond words for the opportunity to drive someone I’ve never met to a doctor’s appointment. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll finally learn.