We’ve all been there: More than a million things to do, and everything is listed in order of priority and importance. This is the moment. Finally, after having to put it off over and over and over, you’re able to tackle things head on and handle the one project that you’ve actually been looking forward to undertaking.
This is the situation I found myself in last week. Three articles, all due at the same time for different publications, a household that was in need of immediate attention for many reasons, and a vehicle with an overnight flat tire in the driveway. The day was moving forward, and the sands of time were sifting through the hourglass … in fast motion. It was time to put the rubber to the road and get going.
Taking a deep breath, I sat down to address the item that was the top priority on this long laundry list of obligations. I hadn’t been into it for 10 minutes when the phone rang. Glancing at the screen, I saw that the call was coming to the number that our family uses only in times of utmost importance.
So, with images of horrible car crashes and hostage situations racing through my mind, I answered quickly. “Hello?”
“Jeannie, Jeannie? Is that you Jeannie?”
Instantly,I recognized the voice of my neighbor from two houses down the road. An elderly woman of 92, we had given her this number to call in case she needed anything. She had always lived alone, and it was clear to everyone in the neighborhood that there was a reason for that. Her face seemed to be pinched in a perpetual scowl, and although her spine was crooked and bent with age, she still motored around with a stance that was screaming: “Come and get me, I’ll take you on — with one eye closed.”
“Gert,” I said, attempting to use my most pleasant but firmly preoccupied tone. “How’s everything going?” I asked, hoping that I wasn’t opening the door to having to listen to a laundry list of her complaints and problems.
“Oh, about as well as could be expected, I suppose,” she replied. “After all, I am going to be 93 years old next month.”
“That makes you even more remarkable; we will have to celebrate,” I replied. “It was so nice to hear from you on this lovely day, and I hope –“
“I’m not done yet, Jeannie. I called to say something to you.”
My heartbeat quickened. Experience has taught me that when people tell you they have something to say to you, it’s probably not going to be something that’s going to make your day brighter and happier.
“Okay, Gert, I didn’t mean to rush you.” Inside, I was cringing. I just knew it was going to be some sort of a reprimand. Maybe our dog had paid her flower garden another visit. I braced myself, saying: “I’m all ears.”
“I just wanted to thank you for being such a nice neighbor, Jeannie. You’ve always been kind to me and I know that I am not the most popular one in the neighborhood. I am old and crotchety. But you always make me feel special and I just wanted you to know that every time I see you it warms my heart. Are you still there?”
“Yes, I’m here,” I answered, blinking the tears from my eyes and hoping that she didn’t hear me sniffling. “Thank you for your kind words, and for calling.”
“You’re welcome, I’ll let you go now because I’m sure you’re busy. But I didn’t want to let another day go by without saying that to you. It’s important you know how you make others feel.” And with that, Gert hung up.
My prayers to our Almighty Father to forgive me for my intolerance streamed steadily from my heart all afternoon. And my other prayers were ones of profound gratitude to the Holy Spirit that I answered the phone — as well as for the gentle reminder that we are all ‘called’ to love one another.
This is part of the series called “The Human Being Fully Alive” found here.