Tuesday's Attention #11
You experience a profound grace when you’re in need and are in a position to receive care. I missed out on that kind of grace for a long time as I resisted it out of fear of being a burden. Those same fears creep in often in this season of life where I’ve needed people more than before. I felt it heavily this very week as an appointment quickly shifted and I needed a ride, almost 2 hours away, to an all day infusion with one days notice. There is no way for that to not be an inconvenience for someone. Plans have to shift. Work or classes have to be missed. As my fears of being the cause of inconveniencing someone rises, I’m reminded of what a dear friend Mr. Ray used to tell me. He’d share that caring for others, when we have other tasks to do in our day, is a holy inconvenience. I believe that when I’m able to step into caring for someone else, but forgot to believe it for myself. I’m sure I’m not alone in that.
As I laid in bed, after a very long day of receiving a lot of medicine in my body, there was a sort of unexpected holiness to the day. Don’t get me wrong, the day was hard and every bit exhausting. However, the holiness existed alongside the hard because of the grace received from the care of people in my life. One roommate allowed her day to be disrupted to drive me and to spend the day in Alpharetta. The other cleaned my room, my bathroom, the house, and got us all of our groceries. While another friend sent snacks to our house and others checked in throughout the day. Nurses checked on me every 30 minutes. And my mom worked tirelessly the weeks before to ensure my infusion would be possible, despite many insurance hoops to jump through. I could spend hours in my mind worried about the inconveniences people had to be within to care for me. Or, I could sit in the mystery of grace. I’m working hard to choose the latter.
If we’ve been friends for a while, then you’ve heard me talk about Mr. Ray. He was the kind of man who relished in the joy of care. He lived to make others feel seen, cared for, and valued. As a retired pastor of 70 years, he would volunteer his time as a chaplain at the hospital. He lived in a nursing home and every holiday he decorated his walking chair to bring everyone a smile. Every day he wore a button down and a tie. On a special day, his tie had a theme and was worn to invoke joy. Behind his nursing home was an assisted living facility for men and women who had Alzheimer's. He spent every Sunday reading a Psalm with them and each Sunday he shared how he watched them come alive. Any night that he could, he walked over to the hill a few blocks from his nursing home and watched the sunset at his walker. This is where we became friends. He carried with him a simple camera to capture the sky and each week he’d walk to Walgreens to get the pictures printed. These would become his postcards to others. If he found an old screw on the ground, he picked it up and put it in his walker chair because he knew the screw had a story. Perhaps one of my favorite things about Mr. Ray is that, for his 90th birthday, he had lollipops made with his picture on it and he handed them out to any and everyone and gave them a party necklace. I kept the necklace hanging in my car for over 5 years, as a reminder to celebrate. He knew how to give and yet, he also knew how to receive. He didn’t resist the care of those around him in his final years here on earth. Instead, he chose to care for them too. It didn’t have to be complex. It didn’t have to be a grand gesture. For him, it was a willingness to see being inconvenienced as an invitation to love. It was being attentive to how all can be grace and a gift— how even a magnolia seed was lovely and so why not tie a ribbon around it and hand it to someone and tell them that they are loved.
I think of him today as I speak on the phone with the receptionist at the Athens’ Vocational Rehabilitation office. Her name was Melissa and although all our phone call needed to entail was her writing down my general information, we laughed together and were able to connect. After she took my information she said, “So, Bailey, what are you wanting to study with going back to school?” As I shared, she said, “Tell me more!” To her, I was no inconvenience and I was not a box to check off. There was no rush, just simple care— an acknowledgement of one another’s humanity. At the end of our call we both expressed the joy that it was talking to one another and we laughed about me maybe one day working at their office as a counselor. We could have missed out on that simple sweetness.
When we grow too busy, we grow too worn or distracted to see the gifts of care in front of us. When we grow too in our heads and fearful, we miss out on the gifts of receiving care. I have often existed on both ends of the spectrum. Sometimes even at the same time. It has taken a very challenging life circumstance, that has taken the busy out of my life and the ability for me to resist care, due to my great need, for me to learn to fight for seeing and receiving the holy inconveniences versus seeing myself or others as an inconvenience.
Words that have been sticking with me:
As many of you know, I have been reading the Harry Potter series for the first time. Contrary to most readers, I am a very slow fantasy reader. However, I am in the middle of the 3rd book and find myself a bit more entrenched in the story. As many of you also know, every few months or so I create a prompt that I share and ask people to write on. I then ask people to share their writing pieces for a compilation that I later share on my website. This month’s prompt is on the words fear and flourish. People can write on one word or both! This week, I have been thinking a lot about the word fear. As I have been thinking about that word, a scene in Harry Potter, connected ton the word fear, really struck me.
Harry was having a conversation with Professor Lupin about why he was not chosen during the Defense of the Dark Arts class to defend up against a boggart. A boggart is a creature that transforms into whatever you fear the most in front of you. Harry thought that he was not chosen because the professor didn’t think he would be able to defeat the creature. All week long he felt shame about that. As he talked with Professor Lupin, he learned otherwise as he said,
“Well,” said Lupin, frowning slightly, “I assumed that if the boggart faced you, it would assume the shape of Lord Voldemort…. Clearly I was wrong,” said Lupin, still frowning at Harry. “But I didn’t think it a good idea for Lord Voldemort to materialize in the staffroom. I imagined that people would panic.”
“I did think of Voldemort first,” said Harry honestly. “But then I— I remembered those dementors.”
“I see,” said Lupin thoughtfully. “Well, well . . . I’m impressed.” he smiled slightly at the look of surprise on Harry’s face. That suggests that what you fear most of all is— fear. Very wise, Harry.”
I’ve been thinking about how what most of us may fear most of all is, like Harry, fear itself. I do not have many expanded thoughts there, but it has been one of the lines in the book that has struck me the most and is something I am going to continue to think on
If you have any words that have been sticking with you lately, I’d love for you to send them my way! I’d love to start incorporating them in this section!
List of Attention:
The lighting in Hi-Lo at the table by the window
The beauty of how each of us have our own creative process
How beautiful it is to sit and listen to someone share about their own art
How restful laughter can be
How different the afternoon light becomes with the green leaves
The wonder of the Botanical gardens!!
How much I love a good bakery
The joy of Athens becoming a small town in this stage of life, while also learning more about the city and the people within it
At the end of every newsletter, I want to leave you all with some questions/prompts to think on. My hope is that these can encourage you in some form or fashion. Whether it is through just taking some time to think through them, to write about that, or to talk through them with a loved one. If you ever want a friend to hear your thoughts, feel free to share them back with me! I always love to read and to listen.
If you get the chance, discuss your thoughts on these questions with a friend!
Who is a Mr. Ray in your life? In other words, who is someone that helps you see the beauty and richness in life and in caring for others? Write about them. Maybe write about a specific story about them or what you learn from them.
Creative Prompts/Celebration Tasks:
Over the next two weeks, pay attention to the holy inconveniences in your days. Allow yourself to be interrupted— invite it in and see what comes of that. Then, write about it. Write about the conversations you have or what you notice in that space of interruption from the busy.
One Word Prompts:
convenience / inconvenience
Write a letter to someone who has reminded you, through their actions and words, that you are not a burden to care for, even if you can feel that way. Let them know how their care has impacted you.
Caring for you is not an inconvenience. You are worthy of care. Take your friends at their word. As my counselor once said, “if only we all actually knew how loved we are.” You, my friend, are far more valuable than you even see. This week though, I pray that you see it and that you feel it deeply. And, in return, I pray that you can be a part of someone else seeing how valued they are.
Invite interruption. Pay attention to the holy inconveniences. And allow yourself to receive care too.
As you carry on into this week, may your days ahead be filled with words that encourage you, laughter that heals you, and moments of beauty that pull your attention in and bring you to slow down.
May you know that you, yourself, are worth paying attention to.
If you enjoy these newsletters, pass them along to a friend! ! You can also join my Patreon community to get access to more of my writing content.
Thank you all for continuing to read my words. It is a joy to share this space with you all.