This weekend while avoiding a big box store during college move-in week, I ran into an long-loved friend as he picked up birthday cards for his wife.
He’s the sort of person who listens.
He loves his family – they do not doubt his love – and he loves people – friends, fellow worshipers and strangers in the land.
He is a thoughtful man – a man of many “thoughts” – and lives out his life earnestly and imperfectly (as he will tell you.) No McMansion or fancy car, he is one of the richest men I know because each encounter with him relates the same message, “I’m listening. I love my family. You matter.”
And though he hangs no gilt-lined diploma on his walls, people listen to him. He commands respect. He pays attention to what matters.
I want to be like this man. He, like my old pal, C.S. Lewis, offers wisdom, invites accountability and acts on what he says he believes.
He doesn’t always get it right on the first swing…or season, maybe. But he keeps practicing. He keeps swinging and without fanfare or “hey-look-at-me-ness,” he hits it out of the park more than most.
People seek him out because he keeps what matters in mind.
Family. Community. Spirit. Follow-through.
His wife is a full-on bottle-rocket of love, too. Only her’s is packaged in a strong-hugging, high-energy semi-conductor of fierce love and genuine care.
On several occasions, I’ve watched her leave a jam-packed holy meeting during a long stretch of conversation, and return with fresh water for the speaker. When I think of bringing fresh water to a thirsty land, I think of her so often seeing a need and responding to it in love when several hundred other folks pretend they don’t hear the rasping, coughing, dry-throated voice of the speaker.
This couple makes a dynamic launch pad for each of their four sons: firm foundation + fuel to reach escape velocity and break from the gravities of their Midwestern lives.
They make a hell of a team and most of us who know them will readily bear their witness.
They know what matters.
They focus on what’s important to them in their lives.
Fortunately for most of us, they view people as important. People and purpose.
After leaving him at the birthday card aisle, I’ve circled back to wrestling with the amount of time I’ve invested in social media, audio books and other bits. I may not purposely have cable or internet access at home, but I do know how to dink around on my phone. The time that I’ve allowed to dribble out caught up with me Friday afternoon when I drove home at midday nauseous and sniffley (allergies). And done. Over it. Worn out.
It was easy to see how cluttered I’d allowed my head and heart to be. Instead of focusing on home, family, friends, Kansas, Konza, reading, volunteering, running…maybe even studying, I had taken the shortcut through social media to fill too quiet of times.
I paid for it.
No surprise that as an introvert, even the best of recorded books and Trevor Noah videos will soon overload my headspace and render me cranky and tired. In a notebook that lives on my bedspread, I wrote, “↓ social media. ↑↑ quiet & outside. ↑↑ people and boredom. ↓↓ filling ripe quiet places with foolish things.” Just typing this makes my shoulders relax a bit.
Today, I’ve begun turning my phone on airplane mode while working and setting a timer again to improve my janky focus. I’ve texted a bit for work – trying to reconnect with a former student employee for a story and hearing from the one that makes my heart go pitty pat.
It’s working. I’m focusing on what matters today and feeling better about it, my work and myself. Less chatter and good noble distraction, more time for home, Peeps, him and community. More time to wheeze up the first hill of the Konza as the sun sets and the cows moo over the hill to serenade the setting sun. More kayak time, relaxed bill paying time, tidied up home time day-dreaming and letting the occasional boredom do its work of expanding thoughts, uncorking curiosity and seeking out real human or artistic interaction.
More life. I think it is going to be like yoga where we learn a stretchy pose or better breathing and then we invest the rest of our time on the mat in life-long practice. Learning to move the foot this way or drop our shoulders from around the ears or soften this while strengthening that.
I’ll keep moving toward more time for living and less time spectating.
How do you stay focused on what matters most? I am listening.