My husband and I slept in one day last week. Bill likes to have a cup of coffee before our run, so we didn’t get out the door until after 9:00, much later than we usually go.
We had a nice run, then came home to hot showers and a leisurely brunch.
I couldn’t help thinking about all those years when I set my alarm for 4:40, rose, ran (or swam), and showered before daylight so I could get to school by 6:45.
Living on our own schedule now is a luxury.
The first year as a retiree, worried that I wouldn’t be able to occupy my time while Bill was still working, I tried my hand at several different volunteer positions. Some of them I still enjoy and some have fallen by the wayside.
None of the volunteer jobs I tried were more unlikely than preparing and filing free income tax returns for filers who earn less than a specified income.
I had never even filled out my own tax return. That was a chore first performed for me by my father, then my husband, then a professional tax preparer.
Math was never my strong suit.
I went through intensive training, however, passed the test to receive my certification, and was officially accepted as a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) preparer, under the auspices of the United Way.
I will never forget my first client, a mother with two little girls in tow.
This family had already been waiting for their turn for 30 minutes and, as you can imagine, that was not the preferred way for a two-year-old and her four-year-old sister to spend the afternoon. The natives were restless.
The mother, a single mom, was tired and frustrated, worn out from trying to control her charges in the income tax office and embarrassed by the noise and antics of her daughters.
I tried to project a reassuring air and promised her taxes would be done in no time. The older sister was placated when I gave her some scrap paper and pencils to draw with. The younger sat on her mother’s lap and fidgeted.
As I went through the tax preparation steps I was taught in training, I felt less than confident in my ability to quickly complete the task than I projected.
The minutes ticked by. The girls became more and more restless in direct proportion to the increase in the mother’s anxiety level. I was torn between finishing the tax forms as quickly as possible and making sure each T was crossed and I dotted.
Finally, the older girl wailed, “I’m hungry!“
That was an issue I could do something about.
“May I give them some food?” I asked the mother, pulling granola bars and little bags of pretzels out of my bag.
She looked at me as if I was offering her a sack of gold and agreed to allow me to dispense the snacks.
The two little girls happily sat on the floor of the office and had a picnic while I finished the taxes. I got the return checked by a veteran tax preparer, who determined they were correctly filled out, and secured a large refund for the young mother.
Giving out some treats was no big deal, but it does go against my first instinct, which is to mind my own business.
Here is the thing about minding one’s own business, though – it’s not a good way to live your life.
Minding your own business is safe, it’s convenient, but it numbs you to the discomfort and suffering of those around you.
Minding my own business may increase my own comfort level, but it does so at the expense of others.
When I decide to not mind my own business, I open my eyes to the injustice, sorrow, and despair that exists in the world. Then I have no choice but to attempt to affect change.
God, apparently, has entrusted the construction of His kingdom here on earth to, um, to us, as unsettling as that may be. As told to us by Luke, “behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.“
Yes, for some inscrutable reason, God has charged you and me with fighting injustice, lifting up the poor, taking care of the sick, and just generally reflecting His love.
I don’t know about you, but I feel even less prepared to help build God’s kingdom than I did to prepare tax returns.
I am sometimes cynical, often impatient, I can be self-righteous, and I…well, let’s just say I have control issues as in, I like to be in control.
At all times.
We may think it would be more efficient if He would just do the whole project himself, but that is not the plan, and it never was.
The plan is for us to get off our phones, unhook from social media, and pay attention. To stop minding our own business and start getting involved in the project. To share God’s love and grace with an attitude of humility and service.
Even if it’s just one granola bar at a time.
You can find the places I link up here.