A few years ago, my dad was in a serious car accident, and broke both his legs. There were frantic phone calls and lots of quick decisions to be made, and everyone jumped into emergency mode.
My sister is a nurse, and exactly the kind of person you want around during a crisis. She stays cool and calm, explains scary medical stuff in just the right way without freaking anyone out, and takes charge very naturally. She went to the hospital to be with my parents, and I sat around, trying to figure out how to be useful. We went to visit my dad, of course, but I felt pretty useless and helpless about the whole thing.
On the day my dad was transferred to a hospital closer to home, my mom called and asked if I could pick up some groceries for her. She sent me a list, and I was happy to have something useful to do. When I got to the store, I made my way through her list quickly, until I got to the oranges. She hadn’t written down what kind of oranges she wanted, and there were a few different choices. I thought about it for a bit, remembered which ones I’d seen at their house most often, and put those in the cart.
When I got to my parents’ house, my mom started unloading the groceries. When she got to the oranges, she was delighted to find I had bought her favourite kind, and I was relieved I had made the right choice. She made a big deal about those oranges, and when I went home later, I kept thinking about it.
I wondered if it showed me anything about my role in times of crisis. I’ve often wished I could be a little more useful (or even reasonable?) during emergencies, and yet all I did this time was pick the right oranges.
It seemed so unimportant, and yet I knew how much my mom likes having her favourite foods around. It was small, but I could do it. And when other people are busy being heroic nurses, we still need someone who has time to buy the oranges.
I haven’t posted on my blog since this quarantine started. I’ve written a bunch of posts, but never finished them, because nothing felt right. I didn’t know what I had to offer, during a time when so many people have been going through so much. My life feels pretty good right now. I’m not experiencing a lot of stress over the coronavirus, and I haven’t been able to figure out what wise, comforting words need to be said.
If you’re needing bold, confident leadership during this time of crisis, I am not your girl. And many other people are filling that role already, so it’s a bit crowded anyway.
But yesterday, I got a text from a lovely lady I haven’t seen in a long time, and she had a question. She wanted to know if there were any books or podcasts I could recommend for learning to love the simple routine of just staying at home.
I lit up inside, because this is one of my favourite topics, and I could send her a whole bunch of great recommendations. It made me think of buying the oranges.
And it made me realize that I have a strong desire to be helpful and useful, and if it’s in my wheelhouse, I am your girl.
But these things feel so small, and yet lots of little things add up over time. And often, isn’t it exactly the little things we really want?
I have this very clear memory of a beautiful spring evening when I was a kid. My younger sister and I were in the backyard playing two-person baseball, which is as complicated as it sounds, and my mom was washing windows. Sometimes she would watch us play for a bit, and one time she came to hit the ball, but most of the time, she was busy washing her windows.
After awhile, she told us she was going around to wash the windows at the front of the house, and even though we didn’t need her for anything, I remember feeling like things were somehow flat and empty without her there. I just liked having her around. It’s interesting how the simple comfort of her presence made such an impression that I can still clearly remember it. Nothing dramatic or exciting happened – I remember it because I felt safe and happy.
I think about that a lot right now, when I’m wanting to do big, significant things. Not everyone is called to that. Sometimes we’re just called to be around. To be available when someone has a question or needs some groceries.
I have not saved any lives during this pandemic, but I have been here. My kids have felt the security of my constant presence. My husband has needed my help sometimes. And as small as that feels, it’s the part that is before me. Doing the small things faithfully can be really important, too.
I like it that Jesus talks about giving someone a drink of water – whatever we do, we do for Him. I think He’d find oranges important, too.
And if ever there was a time for valuing the small things, it’s now. I mean, we live in a world that lost its mind over toilet paper.
So here’s what I’m trying to remember: Be present. Bring oranges. Do the little things as opportunity presents itself. Be thankful for those who are filling bigger roles, but know that every part is important, even the small ones.