Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Finding Lessons Hidden in Cologne Clouds

As I said earlier, I have found myself hurrying a lot lately. I hurry to get my son to school in the morning. We hurry to get through the store so we can hurry and get home before we hurry and eat lunch so that we can hurry and get back to the school car line to pick up my son; then we hurry back home for the baby's nap.

It's exhausting.

For the past few weeks I have been trying to train myself to see and think differently. I like to go fast—it doesn't come naturally for me to slow down and be aware of the truly important things going on around me, so I am learning to stop in the moment and really evaluate what's going on.

Last week I dropped my son off at school, then I took the little ones into our lovely local Wal-mart with a long list of necessities to buy. As we rounded the corner of the bubble bath aisle we almost crashed into a man who was covering himself with a strong-smelling “men's body spray.” While we started choking in a cloud of cheap cologne, the man nervously kept spraying himself. He gave us a huge grin and asked me how old my kids were. He began telling a story about when his kids were young.

He continued spraying.

He also continued talking to us—he barely stopped to let me respond and he barely stopped talking to breathe. He would talk, then squirt himself several times with cologne. I purposely stopped myself in the rush of it all; I reminded myself that there was no need for me to walk away from this man other than the crazy body-spray smell that would inevitably permeate us for the rest of the day.

Then he began sharing with me about how much his woman loved the perfume and couldn't get enough of it. I was thinking about telling him it might be too much of a good thing when he suddenly pulled up his sleeve to show me where he'd had dialysis earlier that morning. As he continued spraying cologne everywhere he went on to tell me about previous treatments and how he was recovering and things were looking up. He was upbeat and positive, he quickly talked about the important things in life as though he'd had plenty of time to really think about it; he wished his kids were still young and living at home. He would do things differently.

I looked over at my kids in the cart, who were staring at the stranger and his cologne-spraying trigger finger, and in the moment I realized I had found a practical teacher in the Wal-mart bubble-bath aisle. So, these are the big times in my life, not the times I should be wishing away? We hear this all the time, but do we do anything to change our thinking or our actions?

I hurry my hours and errands and outings and days and months, and soon there will be nobody left to sit in my lap or push in a cart or sing silly songs or ask me for a snack. How do we discipline ourselves to make moments? How can I stop to focus on the truly important stuff?

The stinky stranger returned the nearly empty bottle of cologne to the shelf—I'd like to think he eventually went back and bought it; we continued filling the squeaky cart with boxes and bags—precious little necessities.

Smelly with cheap body spray and a head full of morning thoughts, we pushed through aisles of crackers and cereal and cheese. Life with kids is loud and it's fast; it's squeaky and stinky. Can we all push our carts a little slower, can we listen to the little questions and the not-so-little questions with open ears?  I can think of many worthwhile things I can do while calmly and patiently strolling the aisles instead of rushing around with blinders on.  Sometimes our to-do list and our true priority list need to be shuffled around a little, and sometimes the most important thing we can do at Wal-mart is listen.

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. (Eph. 5:15-17)

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