Photo: Bernardo Ricci Armani
You don’t realize how fast life is moving until you slow down. This thought came to me on a morning jog as I crossed a freeway overpass, where vehicles rushed past beneath me.
When you’re in one of those vehicles on the freeway, it doesn’t feel like you’re going all that fast. You’re just keeping up with traffic. But if you get a flat tire and have to pull off to the shoulder, you definitely notice the speed of the vehicles whizzing by.
I found the same to be true when I got stuck on a little island while tubing down a river once. The rope tying a water jug to my tube snagged a branch, stopping my tube cold. Water rushed through the tube and around my ankles as I struggled to free my jug. When I failed at that, I worked to untie the jug from my tube and left the jug clinging to the branch. Fighting the current wore me out. I had to get free.
Ironically, while going with the flow in that situation, I felt relaxed. It was only when I stood still and fought the current that it affected me. In that instance, going with the current was a good thing.
I’m not convinced, though, that the busyness of life is a good thing. Sometimes I need a break from it.
My husband has always been a big proponent of taking an annual vacation. He knows the importance of slowing down. Earlier this year, we had the privilege of taking a transatlantic cruise that afforded us six consecutive days at sea, disconnected from the internet. It was a time of unwinding. We experienced things out of the ordinary and freed our minds. Disengaging from social media and other distractions made us focus on other things.
After that trip, it took us a good two days or more to get back up to speed with our normal busy lives. Today, we’re back with the flow, but we have renewed energy and fresh perspectives, thanks to the time away.
Occasionally slowing down can be very beneficial to your psyche. Initiating such an endeavor can be difficult, but I haven’t met anyone who regretted doing so.
Photo: Barbora Hrda
In any type of organization, it’s critical that each person do his or her own job to make up the collective whole. A great example of this is on a cruise ship, where you find housekeeping stewards, restaurant wait staff, entertainment crew, human resources personnel, maintenance operators, navigational crew, engineers, and many others.
Each of these jobs is super important, yet none is more significant than another. Sure, the captain of the ship is held in highest regard, but his engineering staff is just as vital to the successful operation of the vessel.
The people in the various positions could think of themselves as more crucial than other roles, but that doesn’t make it true. In fact, that mindset only detracts from that person’s role because it’s the servant attitude that makes each worker successful on a cruise ship.
You Have a Role to Play
It’s often easy to feel overlooked or unimportant when someone in another position is recognized more often or seemingly in higher regard than you — especially if you don’t really understand the responsibility of that particular job or if you work largely behind the scenes. In reality, however, that other role is probably just as important as yours. And you should celebrate with that person in the same way you would want him or her to celebrate with you if you were recognized instead.
One place this is rather obvious is in a singing group. More often than not, the lead singer gets all of the praise, glory, and recognition for the group. But the truth is the lead singer would be nothing without his backup guitarist, drummer, and keyboardist. Just because the lead singer is the face of the music group doesn’t mean the other musicians aren’t important. Quite the contrary. And those other musicians know it.
The lead singer also relies on a sound technician for a successful performance, but no one thinks about the sound tech unless a problem occurs. That means the best compliment a sound tech can get is to go unnoticed. His is a thankless yet vital job.
It takes each person doing his or her part to create a symphony. Even if a certain musician in an orchestra has a lot of rests before it’s time to sound her instrument, that instrument adds something special to the complete sound of the piece being played.
So the next time you find yourself feeling overlooked and insignificant, I hope you keep these truths in mind. What you do is important. You are essential and have a crucial role to play.
Photo: Dave Wilcock
A seemingly monumental task stood before me. I had dreaded it for months. But today was the day. I had to tackle cleaning our barbecue smoker/grill so I could put it up for sale. I knew it would be worth more clean than dirty.
It had taken my sister-in-law three hours to clean her grill, so I expected to invest at least that much time into the effort.
I gathered the tools I thought I’d need and set to work. My husband, who had cleaned the contraption the previous time, suggested I wear an apron and gloves. “I don’t think I’ll get that dirty,” I responded but then complied. (Later, I had to admit he was right … again. The apron and gloves saved me from getting any messier than I did.)
The beginning of the job wasn’t too difficult: brushing off dust and emptying ashes out of the smoker portion of the unit. But after that, it got more complicated.
Sticky soot clung to the grates and the bottom of the cooking barrel from months of use. How would I get rid of that? I found another brush and started scrubbing away, layer by layer, piece by piece, minute by minute, hour by hour until I could see the steel that had been concealed.
As I cleaned, my mind wandered. I realized that just as I had seen value in that smoker, that’s how God sees each of us: valuable. Yet sometimes our worth is hidden beneath caked-on dirt and soot. And God ever so patiently chips away at it, layer by layer, piece by piece, making us clean and shiny. It’s a lengthy process that doesn’t happen overnight. And sometimes it’s painful. But in the end, it’s well worth it.
It took me four hours to complete the smoker/grill-cleaning job. But at the end of that time, I had a valuable unit worthy of selling/buying.
You, my friend, are a work in progress. A masterpiece. And you are priceless. Don’t ever forget that.
Photo: Joydeep Sengupta
While crossing the Atlantic Ocean on a wonderfully relaxing cruise, my husband and I spent six straight days “off the grid,” disconnected from the internet and our normal digital life. We were free from our worries and cares and social media, whisked away to a seeming utopia. We didn’t have to cook, clean, or be responsible for much of anything. Our toughest decisions each day were how to spend our time and selecting which food options to indulge in.
And you know what I found? I didn’t miss my digital life. Well, I did some. At times, I wanted to do a quick Google search for on-the-spot research. And as soon as I could get back on the internet, I did, to see what had transpired in my time away.
What I found was that the problems and stressors I had had before going off the grid were still there when I returned. Just because I had run away, so to speak, didn’t make those issues vanish. They were still waiting for me, waiting to be addressed.
I fought the urge to go back into hiding and avoid the drama altogether. The effort would have been futile. The only way I could truly evade the issues was not to evade them at all but to face them head-on. And so that’s what I did. I stared them in the eyes and dealt with each one. And in doing so, I found freedom.
In a similar way, our internal battles can hold us captive. We can try to cover them up with other things, such as emotional eating. But it doesn’t truly take them away. No, it’s not until we face our issues squarely and work through them that we truly overcome and can put them behind us.
It’s good to get away and take a break from our problems. It can provide a fresh perspective. But they still have to be addressed. So whatever hardship you’re dealing with, here’s a tip: You’ll get through it faster if you face it head-on rather than trying to skirt your way around it.
Christian, wife, mother of 5, breast cancer survivor, marathon finisher, writer and editor, author of "Help! I'm a Science Project"