There are days, I must admit, when I feel I’ve reached the pinnacle of my wisdom.
Mind you, my pinnacle may be much shorter than those around me, but there are times I feel I’ve absorbed as much common sense as my fiber is capable of soaking up, and that my opinions are set in stone. Articles I read, church services I attend, conversations I have, seem to magnify my essence, confirm my leanings, and provide me points of agreement or of resistance. But rarely, anymore, do I feel myself changing.
Confidence in one’s self is a good feeling.
But then, there are moments that remind me that I, much like my kids, am a work in progress. These moments refresh, they reveal, and they serve up a dose of humility. And at those moments, I realize that growth is hard, it takes work, but it’s also a good feeling that transcends self-confidence.
On Christmas Eve, our family attended a service at Johnson’s Farm, south of Kansas City. The service was Lutheran (I don’t identify as Lutheran), but it appealed to me because it took place in a barn with farm animals, and that sounded fun.
We loaded up, and drove south to the nursery/pumpkin farm turned church for a day.
The pastor spoke, in a message that seemed geared to kids, of God’s love, and the message of love sent through the Christmas story. I found myself nodding in agreement as she pointed out that God sent his message through an unwed mother, a group of foreigners (the wise men), and some poor people (the shepherds.) She pointed out that sometimes we’re afraid of foreign people. Sometimes we look down on, or don’t care for, poor people.
The message confirmed my feelings of social justice. My desire for my kids to look at others as individuals that we’re called to show kindness and reach out to. That we’re told not to judge. I agreed, and I felt I’d heard it all.
Yet, on the way home, I learned there was another message in that sermon. One just for me, designed to make me grow.
We passed an older woman pushing a cart piled high with stuff, and pulling another, piled just as high, possibly with all of her belongings. She struggled along a sidewalk.
“She looks like she could use some help,” my son said.
“That’s exactly what I was thinking,” my daughter said.
We had food to cook, people to see, presents to deliver. The woman was a good mile from anywhere that could have been a destination. Helping her did not seem like a quick little thing. We kept driving.
And I suddenly understood just how much lip service I give, and how hard it is to take action. Sure, if it’s convenient, I’d do a little. If I can plan and fit it into my schedule. But to abandon my busy holiday schedule to help a woman push a cart — that just didn’t fit into my schedule that day.
I stewed, guilty of giving only lip service. Knowing I might know the message, but wasn’t living it. Knowing that words are useless without action.
Reach Overland Park mom Emily Parnell at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter:@emilyJparnell.